Yes, I have a weakness for the idea of swimming with sea animals—I was able to swim with schools of barracuda (terrifying, but fascinating) in the Florida Keys, in clouds made of hundreds of purple jellyfish (even more terrifying, but breathtaking) in Puerto Rico, and with dolphins (a highly orchestrated and disappointing experience) in . . . well, I won’t tell you where. So I hope our readers don’t think that I am advertising. Although I also have misgivings about these “experiences” and know that we should just leave the animals alone (and not feed them, etc.) I was simply taken by the description of the eco-friendly Plantation on Crystal River in Florida, where you can legally swim and interact with manatees.
Description: Described as “a hidden gem along Florida’s Nature Coast,” the Plantation on Crystal River is located 80 miles north of Tampa. Crystal River, Fla. is the only location in North America where you can legally swim and interact in the wild with the endangered West Indian Manatee. Manatee tours are offered year-round, but in the winter time guests are guaranteed to see these gentle giants. [.. .] During prime manatee season, guests will experience the truly unique travel adventure of swimming with up to 350 manatees as they play, eat, and socialize with one another in the year-round 72⁰ F waters of Florida’s second largest spring system – relatively warm considering manatee season is in the winter.
An experienced tour guide provides fun facts about manatees, as well as the history and natural surroundings of Kings Bay and Crystal River. Tours leave directly from the dock at Plantation’s very own Adventure Center. Snorkeling gear and wet suits are provided. The eco-friendly Plantation on Crystal River is surrounded by the natural springs of King’s Bay and pristine lakes and rivers, as well as wildlife refuges and state parks.
Prime manatee viewing season usually runs from October 1 until March 31, but depends on the Gulf and Crystal River water temperatures.