You can kayak with manatees in the crystal clear blue waters of Crystal River, Florida. In fact, kayaking is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to see the gentle giants up close. It is also an excellent way to explore the beautiful sights of the springs.
Why kayak with manatees in Crystal River?
Kayaking in itself is an exciting activity. But paddling with the majestic manatees is more spectacular and memorable. Not only are the manatees cute, they are also curious and social animals.
You’ll like how they stick near your kayak for a closer view. And you’ll treasure how they show off their swimming ability by somersaulting or barrel rolling for fun. Plus, you’ll enjoy seeing them nurse their young ones, and chase one another in their mating herds.
There are two major reasons to go kayaking with the manatees in Crystal River. Firstly, it is the only place in the United States where you can legally swim with the manatees.
Secondly, manatees are literally everywhere in Crystal River, particularly in the winter. That’s because despite their large size, the animals have minimal body fat and need warm water above 68 degrees Fahrenheit to survive. The natural springs of the city stay at 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, which makes them perfect wintering areas for the manatees.
When should you kayak with the manatees in Crystal River?
You can kayak with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida anytime of the year. But the best time is winter, running from mid-November through to early April.
Manatees spend the summer in the Gulf of Mexico and other far-off waters feasting on plentiful summer sea grass. Then when winter arrives and the water becomes colder out there, they migrate to the warm water springs of Crystal River and other fresh water springs around Florida.
Through the summer months, you can kayak in most springs in Crystal River as there are fewer restrictions. The only problem is that there are fewer manatees and you’ll have to search harder to find the sea cows.
In winter, there are hundreds of manatees in the springs and so you’ll only paddle a short distance to find the animals. And hence, even with more restrictions on areas you can access with your kayak in winter, you’ll still have a thrilling paddling tour with the manatees.
Where do you kayak with manatees in Crystal River?
The main kayaking destination in Crystal River is Kings Bay. It has several springs where manatees gather to rest and warm up in winter. The water in Kings Bay is also shallow, calm, and comfortable for paddling.
Three Sisters Springs is the principal spring area in Kings Bay where you can kayak with the manatees. With its remarkably clear and calm water, the spring is one of the easiest and best places to kayak with the manatees.
When kayaking in Kings Bay, there are several places to launch your boat, with Hunter Springs being the most popular place. You can bring your kayak, but there are also many kayak rental shops in Crystal River where you can get your vessel.
After you’ve launched your kayak at Hunter Springs, you paddle towards the Three Sisters Springs, seeing a few manatees along the way. The journey to the Three Sisters Springs takes around 30 minutes and you’ll see more and more manatees swimming in the canals or resting near the banks as you move closer to the spring.
Manatees are quite curious and some will even approach your kayak to say hello. Remember, you’ll not be permitted inside Three Sisters Springs from mid-November to early April (the manatee season) when there are more manatees in there.
What should you keep in mind when kayaking with the manatees?
- Respect their space
Manatees are wild animals, and they deserve to be treated with respect. So observe them from your kayak and do not chase them. Paddle around manatees, don’t paddle over them. Also, don’t be loud or splash around when near them.
- Be aware of currents and tides
Manatees are quite sensitive to changes in water levels. So paddle gently to avoid disturbing their natural habitat.
- It is safe to kayak with manatees
It is safe to be around the manatees as they are not aggressive animals and kayaking is a great way to get close to them without disrupting their everyday lives. But because they are slow movers you need to paddle slowly across their habitat to avoid startling or colliding with them.
- Watch for other boats
You should watch for boats and other kayakers as the waterways can get very busy, especially around the holidays.
At Captain Mike’s swimming with the manatees, we offer guided kayak tours in Crystal River for those interested in encountering these animals up close. Plus, we provide single, tandem and clear bottom kayaks on rental basis for those who would like to go out on their own.
We bring the kayak to the launch area, help you launch it, and provide wetsuits, snorkels and a dry box. For more information on kayaking with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida, visit the site “Captain Mike’s swimming with the Manatees.”