CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. (Nov. 1, 2022) – As water temperatures drop in the Gulf of Mexico, hundreds of West Indian Manatees will make their way to the warmer waters in and around Crystal River, Florida. Known as Manatee Season (Nov. 15 - March 31, 2023), this annual influx of Florida’s beloved state marine mammal makes the pristine, spring fed waters of Crystal River and Homosassa, Florida the perfect place to learn about these curious creatures in their natural habitat. Widely considered the Manatee Capital of the World, the Crystal River region makes it easy to observe manatees in the wild from easily accessed boardwalks at Three Sisters Springs and the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, or by kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding throughout Kings Bay or the Homosassa River. It is also one of the few places in North America to legally observe manatees while swimming alongside them in their natural habitat, accompanied by knowledgeable local guides who ensure this threatened species is treated with the utmost care and respect. One local manatee tour operator even made TripAdvisor’s 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards as one of the “Top Bucket List Experiences in the World.”
“Crystal River and Homosassa are the only places in the U.S. where you can legally swim with manatees,” said John Pricher, director of Discover Crystal River Florida. “The chance to safely encounter these lovable creatures in their own natural habitat is truly a ‘bucket list’ experience. You can see manatees here all year long, but Manatee Season is a great reason to visit Crystal River this winter.”
Crystal River is home to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the only refuge in the United States specifically created to protect critical habitats for the manatee. Between November and March, hundreds of the slow-moving mammals leave the nearby Gulf of Mexico for the constant 72°F (23°C) spring waters of Kings Bay and the Homosassa River. Seven manatee sanctuaries within the refuge are off limits to human activity during Manatee Season, giving manatees protected “safe zones.” Refuge managers also have the authority to expand sanctuary areas when manatee activity is high due to cold waters in the Gulf, which can ebb and flow daily. Swimmers and paddlers are not permitted to cross into these protected areas, but can still observe from a distance or from various boardwalks.
Tour operators offer semi-private and private manatee tours, ensuring visitors have the most rewarding encounter possible. The trained tour guides are proud stewards of the manatees, making sure swimmers, paddlers and boaters adhere to the rules and avoid designated sanctuary areas.
To learn more about visiting Crystal River, including King’s Bay and Three Sisters Springs, visit DiscoverCrystalRiverFL.com. For daily updates on the status of the expanded sanctuaries, visit the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page. Look like an expert by learning your Manatee Manners online prior to visiting.
About Crystal River Florida
Widely known as the Manatee Capital of the World, Crystal River, Florida, is the only place in the United States to legally experience the up-close encounter of swimming with these gentle giants. Located in Central Florida’s Gulf Coast, Crystal River and the surrounding cities of Old Homosassa, Inverness and Floral City are an authentic showcase of outdoor adventure and scenic beauty. Within tens of thousands of acres of protected state parks, forests and wildlife refuges, visitors can explore miles of bicycling, walking, birding, horseback riding and hiking trails to unlock a wild and wonderful world of natural, recreational and archaeological treasures. Pristine swimmable springs and a shimmering network of rivers, lakes, marshlands and mangroves make Crystal River perfect for kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, boating, fishing and floating. Feeding the fun is a creative collection of restaurants, pubs, bistros and bars serving up freshly caught seafood and other seasonal favorites all year long – from summer scallop season, to fall blue crab season, to manatee season and a year-round fishing season. Begin your adventure at DiscoverCrystalRiverFL.com or call (352) 794-5506.