The Florida manatee, Florida’s state marine mammal and also known as a sea cow, is an aquatic version to the elephant . It doesn’t matter what you call them by, they are wonderful. Over the summer, Marty and I went to a town called Crystal River to swim with the manatees.
Swimming with manatees? We’ve seen manatees in the wild while out on our boat before but never like this. In Citrus county, Florida, you can swim with manatees almost year round. The “high season” is November-March because the water temperatures drop. They will travel to springs around Florida to stay warm throughout the winter. Florida springs have an average year round temperature of 72. Manatees will gather together to also stay warm. This makes for the “high season”. “High” because there will be an abundant amount of manatees then and also because tourists flock to the area to see these wonderful cows.
In the summer, it’s a lot harder to see them. That’s when Marty and I went. We didn’t really do our homework and just loaded up and went. We booked a manatee tour for 6:30 a.m. and were excited to venture into the waters. Unlike the winter months were they all come together in the super clear waters of Three Sisters Springs, they were out swimming in King’s Bay. On our trip we seen many but it wasn’t the whole “picturesque” experience. At one point, we ended up in the middle of a tussle between 2 males, a female, and her baby. The males clearly wanted to mate with her but she wasn’t having it. She moved a lot but finally they left her and the baby to be. When that happened, she came by us and was enjoying her breakfast. As you can see in the video, we finally had her come by us. If you listen closely you can hear her eating. She was just chomping away. It was an experience I won’t forget.
Why is the video murky when all these photos on the internet are clear? Simple- it’s the summer. They are out eating, playing, mating, and enjoying the warm waters. Those clear photos are from the winter months when they are huddled together to stay warm. The water in the springs stays around 72 degrees a year. It gets warmer in rivers and this case, King’s Bay, as the months get warmer. We seen them in the bay (where the water was warmer) versus seeing any in the springs.
Isn’t it illegal to touch them? Yes it is. Manatees are federally protected animals and you are not allowed to touch them with both hands. You cannot grab them, poke, or try to ride on them. If they pass you and you touch them with one hand, it is supposedly okay (according to our guide who has been working with and around them for decades).
Fun Fact: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to remove the West Indian manatee from the endangered species list and reclassify it as “threatened” after “significant improvements” in its population and habitat conditions.” – CNN. When they were first placed on the endangered species list in 1972, there were about 1,276 manatees left in Florida. Today’s numbers have increased drastically. There are more than 6,300 manatees in the Florida area, making it an increase of about 500%.
Check out the video and let me know what you think. If you are interested in making your way to Crystal River, check out Bird’s Underwater Dive Center – website or Bird’s Underwater Diver Center – Facebook. You will not be disappointed with them. Wet suits are included with the tours. We even rented 2 wet suits for another adventure on our getaway. We were very impressed with them and with the entire city.
Video shot with our GoPro Hero+3 Black Edition.
**Feature Photo Courtesy of ThinkStock.