Swim with Manatees in the Crystal River
If you are in Central Florida in winter then your plans should include seeing manatees. It is one of our favorite Florida activities, particularly as a way to break up the drive back to the panhandle.
This time we rented kayaks and swimming gear from Paddles Outdoor Rental. They were so flexible and great to work with, we highly recommend you give them a call to plan your outing. After chatting with them about our family, they recommended we rent wet suits and snorkels for the adults and two kayaks to get us all around. Paddles offers everything including guided tours, but we felt comfortable around the manatees and on the water. In the end only Jeff got a wetsuit. I wasn’t in the swimming mood.
At the facility everyone heading out to be with the manatees is required to watch a video about your interactions. There is a separate video for swimming – so plan on some extra time checking off those boxes. It is super important to listen to the instructions, particularly if you are headed out on your own. We wanted to make sure we didn’t startle the manatees and get fined. There are changing facilities there, perfect for getting in and out of your wet clothing.
The company has a van that will drive you the five minutes to the put-in place. There we got life jackets on the kiddos and got everyone into the kayaks and headed out. This area had lots of manatees but was nowhere near as picturesque as when we went to Manatee Springs.
It was overcast but warm with a stiff wind. The wind meant we were being blown all over and didn’t have much chance to stop and take photos. There were lots of people in the water and plenty of manatees swimming all around.
Jeff had a nice view from underwater and we saw plenty from the kayak. We didn’t really have a plan when we headed out and the wind made us nervous to go far away and not be able to easily paddle back. From this put-in point though you can head up the Crystal River for quite a ways.
We had some manatees hanging out by this building hanging over the water. There were also birds taking shelter from the wind under there.
We saw plenty of other wildlife while kayaking around too. We stayed on the water about an hour and a half. It was a perfect way to break up the long drive and enjoy Florida. I’m not sure I’ll ever get tired of manatees!