Many visitors come to Florida to enjoy the theme parks but what do you do when you get fed up with the crowds and want a break? Well, you go fishing or swimming with manatees in the wild, of course!
The small towns of Crystal River and Homosassa are the only U.S. destinations in the world where adventurous swimmers can legally swim with manatees in the wild. Crystal River especially, has long been known as the year round home to the West Indian Manatee and thus is known as the “Manatee capital of the World.”
Manatees, also known as sea cows are slow,inquisitive mammals that are protected under federal law. Florida’s year round boating traffic can cause harm to these slow-moving giants and it’s not uncommon to interact with manatees that have prop scars on their skin from a close encounter with a boats propeller. Because of their protected status interactions with these wild animals is usually kept to a minimum in most places but in Crystal River, there are a variety of encounters that can bring you up close and personal with these gentle giants.
For the most up close and personal experience snorkeling with these gentle giants is an experience of a lifetime. Throughout the year snorkelers can enter many of the protected springs and gently swim in the water, allowing manatees to come up to them for interaction. While the thought of swimming with an animal twice the size of a human may sound intimidating, the experience itself is both tranquil and exhilarating.
FUN MANATEE FACTS:
- When manatees are born, they’re about 4 feet long and weigh 60-70 pounds. Full grown manatees can weigh up to 3,500 pounds and measure up to 13 feet long.
- Manatees can hold their breathe for about 20 minutes, but they regularly come up for air every 2-4 minutes.
- Manatees are herbivores, which means they eat plants only. This means that they do not eat any fish or crustaceans.
- Manatees eat around 100 pounds of food every day!
- Manatees cannot survive in water temperatures below 60 degrees.