If there is one thing I learned about myself in the last 6 months, it’s that my perspective has completely changed about what “travel” is to me. If you had asked me 5 years ago what there was to do in Florida my answer would have been greatly limited. Since coming back to Florida as a travel blogger, I found that the state offers a tremendous amount. Slow travel, eco-tourism, and alternative travel is something I want to embrace more of this year. I want to see places that are not overrun by or caters to tourism and leaving the London perspective has been healthy for me. When I was searching for Florida travel guides, I found lots of incredible eco-touristic opportunities and one of them included swimming with manatees. Swimming with manatees in Florida is a unique experience that not many Floridians even get to do. It’s a very precise time of the year and happens only in one little part of the state. When Plantation on Crystal River reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in swimming with manatees, I couldn’t pass up the chance!
If you’ve not been to Crystal River, Florida then it is worth noting that it is one of those quintessential American towns where people know each other and the love of local life runs deep. Plantation on Crystal River is a 50-year-old and 232-acre eco-friendly resort surrounded by the natural springs of Kings Bay. It is the perfect holiday for a family, couple, or even if you’re older and looking for an escape. There are plenty of activities onsite including golf, spa, tours and recreational bits scattered about.
Our room overlooked the water and it was the perfect sanctuary for a little rest and adventure. If you’re anything like myself who loves a good experience, then I can’t suggest swimming with manatees with the Plantation on Crystal River Adventure Center more! You can book the experience directly from the site, along with your accommodation, dinner plans, and even spa treatments. It’s your home away from home plus more!
The bay in Crystal River includes gorgeous springs that live by its name! The water is crisp, clean, clear and well taken care of for the sake of the manatees! It is the largest aquifer in the state and home to more than 400 West Indian manatees that migrate each winter from the Gulf for the warmth provided by the springs. Though there are plenty of tours that offer snorkeling with the manatees, I found Plantation on Crystal River provided the best package and the best accommodation for people who both may or may not be staying the night! If you prefer to try swimming with manatees in Florida in a day, then this is the perfect day trip from Orlando!
Swimming with Manatees Tips
- You can swim with manatees primarily between the months of November and March. The colder it is in the Gulf, the more of a chance you’ll have seeing the manatees!
- You don’t need to be too strong of a swimmer. Plantation on Crystal River provides wet suits that are 5mm thick, which keep you buoyant making it almost impossible to drown. Plus most of the springs are in shallow waters.
- Pack a bathing suit to wear under the wet suit!
- Swimming with manatees is something so rare, so be sure to have a waterproof camera to capture the moments!
- Don’t bring anything you’re worried will get wet on board. The boat fills with ballast water at times, so you’ll inevitably get wet along with any belongings.
- There are shower facilities at the Adventure Center, but I ended up just changing into some clothes instead and showered properly later.
- You can join the boat as a rider if you don’t want to go swimming with manatees. There are also viewing centers of the springs that I suggest locating as well.
- Stay hydrated on the boat even though King’s Bay is all freshwater. You’re out for a long time and it’s easy to forget to drink water when you’re out n the water!
- Snorkeling can put pressure on your neck and head, so breathe mindfully and stretch your neck and shoulders when you’re on the boat.
If you plan on doing a day trip from Orlando or any other surrounding cities to experience swimming with manatees in Florida, then here are some of the restaurants in Crystal River I suggest that are not too far from Plantation on Crystal River.
- Taverna Manos is perfect for those who want something full of flavor and caters to vegetarians! I was incredibly impressed by the freshness of the food and highly suggest the falafels and calamari as starters, their Greek salad to have alongside one of their amazing eggplant dishes!
- Grannie’s is your typical American diner that whips up some true comfort food! If you signed up for the afternoon tours then try to get into Crystal River early to have breakfast at Grannie’s. I loved their pancakes and biscuits and gravy!
- Dan Clam Stand is the thing you’ll crave after the 3 hours of snorkeling! I went for a bowl of clam chowder with hushpuppies on the side.
- The Freezer is your neighborhood tiki bar that serves up cold beer, plates of shrimp and stone crab, along with outdoor seating on the marina.
Some Resources for your Florida Trip
- Book flights using Skyscanner for price comparison and the best rates.
- Stay in an Airbnb and use this Airbnb coupon code to help keep lodging cost low, live like a local, and self-cater simple meals.
- Rent a car with Sixt car rental for price and car variety.
- The Chase Unlimited Freedom card is the best travel credit card with zero annual fee and rewards of 5% back on travel and dining.
- Book Golden Tours for multi-location bus tours or Viator for sightseeing guides.
What’s something adventurous you’ve done? Would you try out swimming with manatees in Crystal River, Florida?