Posts Tagged ‘kayak with manatees’

One of the stops we were most looking forward to on Leg 3 of our Year Long Adventure was in Crystal River, Florida – the chance to canoe with manatees.  Crystal River is home to many manatees, especially in the months between November and March, due to the 72 degree temperature of the water. Manatees do not like the colder Gulf waters and move up into the river for the winter months.  There are many different tour operators in the area where you can either swim/snorkle with the manatees or canoe/kayak with the manatees.  As we discovered, “with the manatees” is a relative term.

We chose to go with the canoe instead of swimming since we felt it would be more difficult to swim for a long time in the river with our 4 year old.  We rented canoes from Crystal River Kayak Company in Crystal River.  It was very convenient because we launched in the canal that was right behind their shop.  We began with a 2 hour rental with the option to continue to the 4 hour mark depending on how things were going.  Mom and Allison manned the first canoe, and Dad was at the helm of the second canoe with his helpers Andrew and Audrey.

It took a few minutes to get the hang of maneuvering the boats, but we were soon on our way.

It was about a ten minute paddle to the Three Sisters Springs where we had our first manatee sighting.  The pools and springs where many of the manatees hang out are protected by buoys beyond which  swimmers and boaters are not allowed.  Since we were there on President’s Day Weekend (poor planning), we were on the river with HUNDREDS of other manatee fans snorkling or watching from large pontoon boats, speedboats, paddleboards, sailboats, canoes, and kayaks.  It was difficult to watch for underwater manatees while trying to avoid all the other things in the water.  Most of the manatees wisely remained in the protected area, so we had to admire them from a distance.

We paddled on to the next spring where we hoped to find a better human-to-manatee ratio.  There we had better luck, and even had a manatee swim directly under one of our canoes.  Unfortunately, those manatees are much faster than Mom and the camera, so you’ll have to take our word for it.

After more paddling up the river and out into the bay, we beached our canoes on a small island to stretch our legs.

In total, we spent about three hours on the water and between the two canoes, we had close encounters with about ten manatees.  It was a beautiful setting and we could not have asked for better weather.  It was 80 degrees in the third week in February!

If you are thinking of coming to meet the manatees, be sure to make a reservation.  Our suggestion would be to avoid weekends if possible.  There was a LOT of traffic on the water with all of the tour boats and private boats, and would have been a much better experience without all of the people.  A second bit of advice would be to hit the rowing machine at the local gym before taking the trip.  It wore us out to paddle for three hours.  Despite the people and the muscle fatigue, we all loved it and would do it again tomorrow….as long as we can find some substitute paddlers.


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