So, when looking for some new stuff to do on our fourth visit to Florida, it was clear that manatees needed to be a part of it. When searching the web, we came across the manatee tours in Crystal River. It’s about a 2 hour drive from where we were staying in Mystic Dunes.
We booked a tour with Plantation Adventure Center, who took us out on the water after having watched an instruction video, highlighting what we could and couldn’t do around these amazing creatures. Another group of 3 people joined us. Unfortunately, when being in the water we saw other groups (from different tour operators) not adhering to these rules, which is really a shame. Ed and Steve, our guides on this adventure, however did everything they needed to do, so we were glad we had chosen them to take us around.
The views out on the water are wonderful. Pretty soon we saw our first manatee – but not so easy to clearly distinguish from the waves and shadows in the water. A little further Steve saw a mother with a cub who seemed to be ok with us being around. So down into the water we went. We got a wetsuit and snorkel gear, so we were ready to hit it. The water felt cold running down my wetsuit, but it was bearable.
Trying to make as little noise and movement as possible, we approached the two manatees. We were able to go pretty close a few times. Ed took my arm a few times to get me closer in a safe way. It was amazing! They were grazing a lot of the time, but need to get back up for a second or two to get air. That’s when you can take a good look at their faces. Their eyes are so tiny! They don’t see well, so when you act as them, they make come to check you out and snuffle your face. Unfortunately that didn’t happen to us, but we were really close a few times.
They moved around from time to time, heading a bit further and we followed from a distance, trying to disturb them as little as possible. Another adult with a cub joined them a little further. Then another group of snorkelers joined us – a big group – which was less comfortable. So a little later, we got out of the water.
After snorkeling around at the springs, we got onto the boat again and made our way back, while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. It wasn’t too cold once we got the top of our wetsuits down, but hot chocolate always helps.
We had the reservation of 10.30 and we were back at the marina at around 1pm. As the guide takes a GoPro along, you can buy the movies and photos afterwards. It’s about 42 dollars. They show the material on the tv screen inside, so you can check it out before buying. As we had our own GoPro with us, we didn’t buy it. But it ‘s good to know that you have that option.