Manatees. Sea cows. Water pugs. I feel as though no trip to Florida is complete without an experience with the Florida manatee, and since these beautiful creatures populate the rivers around central Florida, when I was in Orlando with Clare & Scott we couldn’t resist driving across to the Kings Bay area to see some up close!
Unlike experiences like swimming with dolphins at water parks, swimming with manatees is completely undisruptive. It’s so undisruptive in fact, that a lot of times you can go out on the water and not see any manatees at all! This is because they actually populate Kings Bay between the winter months, so when people like me show up in the middle of June – there’s only a manatee or two in the water because the rest had gone to warmer rivers elsewhere!
The experience lasted around 3 hours in total, we donned wet suits and snorkles and were taken out on a boat to see if we could find anything hanging out in the water! Our captain was suuuuper cautious to make sure he didn’t disturb any of the marine life around, so we found ourselves going across the water at a pretty steady pace, and sure enough we found a few manatees hanging around!
Clare and I had the most incredible time with a mama manatee, who actually hung around with us for 5-10 minutes! I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but when you’re actually in the water and a manatee is letting you rub it’s belly and following you around, then 5-10 minutes was ample!
(See the photo above – which was taken on one of those underwater disposable cameras that we practically completely forgot to take in the water with us because the moment a manatee appeared we all got extreme tunnel vision – ha ha! The mama is obviously the grey being under Clare & me, and the reason we’re floating on the water like that is because you’re advised when swimming with or near manatees not to splash around or make any sudden movements because you don’t want to scare them! So you just lie in the water and let yourself float with the current. It’s so relaxing but also pretty scary to just let go! Ha ha!)
It was an absolutely fantastic day and I honestly can’t recommend it enough to anyone.
Next time we’re in Florida I won’t be hesitating to book another trip down to Crystal River to see the incredible Florida manatee in their natural habitats!