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On the second visit the water was clearer and warmer but there were fewer manatees.
Photo Credit: guyonthego

Crystal River Refuge Manatee Tour

1502 S.E. Kings Bay Drive Crystal River, FL 34429
Tours generally at 6:15am and 11:00am. Refuge = daylight hours.
352-563-2088 Half day
February 2012 Winter
$20-49 Crystal River Florida
Website Tours Animal Tours
First review
The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge comprises islands and fresh water springs in the Crystal River Estuary. The snorkeling tour goes to the springs to interact with manatees. A tour typically includes two hours in the water with the manatees. Most tours offer pictures for a fee.

Manatees are herbivorous sea mammals that range from the Gulf of Mexico to South America and Africa. They can’t tolerate cold water for a long time, so they seek warmer fresh water springs during colder weather. Manatees are intelligent, curious, docile animals and also slow-moving, which makes them ideal for human interactions.

Manatees frequent a few locations at Crystal River and tour operators do as well. As a result, it is wise to go early in the day to avoid throngs of people. Best viewing conditions are in cold weather, so January and February are favorable times. However, if it’s extremely cold, the manatees may cluster in large numbers and stir up a lot of muck, making visibility difficult. Picking a good day involves some luck. The Three Sisters Springs is one of the best locations, and a viewing platform is planned for the future but only for viewing manatees, not for swimming with them. The Bird’s Underwater Tour was well-run. It left and returned on time. The staff was courteous, and the snorkeling equipment was in good condition. Bird’s also is conveniently located right on the river. A minor criticism is there was little discussion of the manatees while in the water. Another tour operator, River Ventures, provided more of this interpretation, so if you want a better learning experience, consider River Ventures. The manatees were delightful, especially young ones and the tour was enjoyable overall. Note that this tour requires some "prep" time to put on a wetsuit and watch an orientation video so factor that into your plans. Here is a link to the Bird's Underwater website:
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