If you read the previous articles about Three Sisters Springs or Manatee Season, you already know there is a special opportunity to swim with manatees. This life-changing experience is possible inside King's Bay in Crystal River. Helping to bring this magical experience to life is the Hunter Springs Kayaks & Tours - Manatee Tour & Dive Company.
How To Book Your Tour
To book your tour, you can visit their website. They have manatee, scallop, and sunset cruise tours available. For the manatee and scallop tours, you can choose to join an open group tour or have a private boat tour. Since it is manatee season, we decided to check out that offering. The tour lasts about 2 hours and includes a guide, wet suit, snorkel, and mask.
If you have the Florida Spring Passport booklet, you will receive a discounted rate on your tour!
Hunter Springs Kayaks & Tours
Their building is located just a few streets over from Hunter Springs Park. You can easily spot the building with its beautiful murals. There is a parking lot in front of the building and a small parking area against a fence across the street. You will check in on the opposite side of the building from the parking lot and the mural. They suggest checking in 1 hour before your tour, giving everyone time to get the gear they need and watch a safety and awareness video. They have plenty of colorful picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, and porch swings to hang out while you wait. There is a restroom available inside the gift shop, and near the fence where you receive your wetsuit are four changing stalls.
Once suited up, you will head inside the gift shop to watch a video to learn about the manatees of how to be a proper house guest. The most important takeaway from this video is to practice passive observation. Let the manatee do its manatee thing and just float along enjoying the view. A reminder you are not to touch the manatees, but the manatee can touch you. Sometimes they get a little curious, and they know you are there. Fun fact from the tour, manatees can sense heartbeats up to 6 feet away!
After watching the video, you will take a little jaunt down to the dock to get on the boat. If there is anything you don’t want to get wet, it is best to leave it in the car. Our boat captain for the excursion was Bryan, and our guide was Alex. Both are incredibly knowledgeable of the area and the Florida manatee. Bryan seamlessly guided us through the windy waters to the calm neighborhood waterways that lead to Three Sisters Spring. As we glided through the water avenues, we began to see manatees heading out of the spring toward the ocean for some lunchtime snackage.
Swimming with the Manatee's
We tied off just outside the spring. On one side of the boat, we saw a manatee just chilling, and on the other side we saw one nibbling on some sea grass. Everyone got to squirt some defog in their mask and received a pool noodle to help them float. A reminder that the spring water remains a consistent 72 degrees year-round. Depending on the air temperature, this can make the water seem cooler or warmer, but it stays a consistent temperature year-round. When entering the water and while in the water, you want to remain calm and easygoing. Any splashing around or loud noises will spook the manatee.
Now with your mask on, dip your head down and take in the sight of a manatee swimming right under you! Alex, our guide, was superb at spotting and communicating where the manatees were swimming. She was fantastic at finding the sweet spots with lots of manatee action and not as many people from other tour groups. And she took some amazing pictures! You are able to purchase the pictures from your tour.
We saw so many manatees! It is crazy how if you watch them swim, you can see how a sailor may have thought, for a second, he saw a mermaid. A cool fact that Alex always enjoys sharing is the animal closest related to the manatee is the elephant. Both the manatee and the elephant have similar nails and lips. We also discussed how the mother manatee shows her calf during the first three years of its life where the food is, where the warm water is to visit in the winter, and other important life hacks. This is also a similar practice among elephants.
We were so distracted with having the best time with our new manatee friends that the two hours flew by! It was time to get back on the boat and head back to land. Once we were all loaded onto the boat, Bryan and Alex began distributing hot chocolate. A delightfully warm treat to enjoy as you dry off and warm up. It is helpful, in being able to warm up quicker, to take off your wetsuit and put on something dry.
After docking the boat, we headed back to the building. If you rented a wetsuit, you will put it in a bin so it can be cleaned. There are three changing stalls you can utilize to change into dry clothes. If you would like the pictures the guide took on your tour, be sure to leave your email so they can send you a link. It is $40 for the picture package.
Any chance to spend the day at a Florida spring is a great day. A chance to enjoy the spring with manatee friends is something unforgettable! The staff of Manatee Tour & Guide are so friendly and put together a tour that will have you leaving with amazing memories.