Paddling With the Manatees – Crystal River, FL

Even in Florida’s coldest weather, there is something to do and see. Florida has so many advantages due to the constant sunshine year around. One thing you should always take advantage of in the cold is seeing manatee’s floating around the coast, in search for warmer water.

Many manatee’s are spotted off the coast of Crystal River, so there are many tours for manatee’s siting in that area. Although there are many places to launch throughout the city to find the majestic creatures, I personally launched off from the Hunter Springs Park. Below is a google map that shows where I launched from. There is no fee to launch your own kayak, paddle board or canoe, but there is a fee for parking with limited parking spaces.

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From the launching site, there is a small play ground for children, a shaded pavilion, picnic areas, grills, restrooms, and even a sectioned off swim area. Some of the people that launched from the site brought their own equipment, yet a majority of the people in the water were tourist going on boat rides and in the hunt for good time with warm weather. Many people used kayaks in search of manatee’s since it was the quickest and most efficient way to get across the water, if you don’t have a boat. I used a canoe to venture out, but would have much preferred a kayak.

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It was about a thirty minute paddle out to the marked off spot for the safety of the manatee’s. There was quite a bit of traffic on the water between boats, paddlers and swimmers so, the water was pretty crowded. Something that I really enjoyed was how clear the water was in the spring and out in the bay area. Crystal River gets it’s name from how clearly you can see the bottom of the ocean floor which is great for anyone on the hunt for Manatees. 

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Once we got out into King’s bay, the water was mighty cold for an average Floridian, however the colder it is, the higher the chance you have to see manatees in their natural habitat. I would recommend a wet suit if you have one to help keep in the body heat. Snorkel gear is also something to consider to bring because it can help you see in the water better. Patience is also something else that is necessary on this journey. If you stay calm and limit your movements, you can eliminate the risk of scaring them away. 

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I was happy to say that I got to experience a manatee up close and personal. Having these animals so close helped me appreciate the gentle giants more. It is one thing to see them out of the water, but up close helps me appreciate them in a different light. After seeing just one manatee, I was extremely ecstatic. I felt accomplished and wanted to see as many as I could. Going out to King’s Bay was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone. Don’t let the cold be a damper on your mindset and your adventure. 

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