Ever since we started visiting Anna Maria Island I have wanted to swim with manatees. Finally I got around to it this December and it was such a wonderful experience!
During the winter months, the gulf waters get too cold for the manatees and they spend their time inland where they can find warmer water. About 2.5 hours drive north of AMI are the most known areas, Crystal River and Homosassa Springs.
I drove up to Crystal River and did a boat trip to the Three Sisters Springs. After receiving wetsuit and gear, we looked at a video with information about what one may do and not do. (No approaching the manatees, only passive interaction from us, the manatees have to be actively seeking contact)
It was with great anticipation that I entered the water. My body felt the cold water (the springs are 72F), but the wetsuit soon made it ok to be in the water, floating with a yellow sausage.
Then I saw them, these gentle giants that were resting and feeding in the area outside the confined springs.
They are so big and when you have three of them swimming under you at low tide, it’s kind of intimidating and wonderful at the same time!
Unfortunately there are many that get hurt by propellers and you can tell in my movie that the calf’s mother had a nasty encounter with one, by the large scar on her back.
I was really fascinated and got out of the water as the last one of the group. Boy was I cold by then! Luckily the captain had warm chocolate and I had brought warm clothes, socks and a fleece throw, so it didn’t take too long to warm up again.
My trip with captain Casey was excellent and Manatee Tour and Dive was very close to the springs. We did appreciate that when we went back, being so cold after 1.5 hours in the water. I bought my ticket via Groupon and got a good deal that way.