I can cross another one off of my bucket list! I’ve wanted to snorkel with the manatees for a long time now and I finally did it. My husband and I were staying in the Clearwater, Florida area for the week, so we drove up to Crystal River for the day. We made our reservations with Crystal Lodge Dive Center. They were the first in the area to offer manatee snorkeling tours. They are located behind the Best Western Motel in Crystal River. They are right on the river, so once you get your gear, you just walk to the boat and you are ready to go.
We arrived at the dive shop to check in and get fitted with our wetsuits. The dive shop will rent the wetsuit, mask, fins and snorkel for your tour for a minimal charge. Even though the water temperature feels warm at 72 degrees, you still need some protection in case you are in the water a while. There was a family of four on our tour with us, so we headed out to look for some manatees.
We got to an area and my husband spotted a manatee. Since we were doing this in the summer, I was really worried that we wouldn’t see any manatees, so I was ready to get into the water. We went near the area where the manatee was spotted and all slipped into the water. Since it was summer, the visibility is poor due to algae blooms. We snorkeled around for a little bit and didn’t see any manatees, they must’ve left the area.
The dive master took us touring through the river and then he spotted some bubbles on the surface of the water. He took us over there and my husband and I got into the water. The other family stayed on the boat since they could spot them better above the water. The father and one daughter from the family got in the water and we were all snorkeling around, hoping for a sighting. The people still on the boat told us the manatees were coming right to us! Then they were going underneath us and yet we were so blind because of the visibility. After a while of hanging out in this area, a manatee came to the daughter. We were all pretty close together, so my husband and I turned around, and there was a huge manatee right in front of us! It was spinning in the water, so we could just pet its stomach and then its back. One manatee was even biting and tugging on my husband’s fins! They would swim right up in front of our faces, inches away. They are very curious and playful. A few were over by the boat playing with the anchor rope. They would go under the boat from one side to the other.
We took pictures and hung out with them for a while. It was really a unique experience, and I can’t wait to do it again. I would like to try it in the winter when the visibility would be better, and there would be more manatees.