Hello! I think this is a great adventure article. The season for polo and the manatees is just revving up in Florida. I hope you like it. This is really a wonderful adventure! All the best, Beth
Swimming with the Manatees Florida’s Most Exciting Wildlife Adventure
By late December and early January the polo season begins gaining momentum in Florida. The ponies and trainers are arriving and suddenly by February the mallets are in full swing. This is also the time of year when tourists and snowbirds alike flood the tropical south for the sunshine and tepid, easy weather. It is this same soothing warmth that beckons the wonderfully playful manatee to the small town of Crystal River, Florida.
Crystal River is one of the only places in the United States that people are permitted to actually swim with the manatees. This is a very different proposition than swimming with the dolphins at Sea World or playing with the sea lions at the Atlantis Resort. When you swim with the manatees in Crystal River you are immersing yourself into a natural wildlife sanctuary, and not a
self-contained pool area. You are literally ‘out in the wild.’
The manatees swim freely and are not captive or professionally trained. This means you are swimming in open water and the manatees come and go as they please. Sometimes, patience is in order, but they are plentiful (especially in high season) and it is highly unusual not to see at least a handful. The experience of interacting with genuine wildlife is exciting, as well as,
a bit daunting. The manatee is a large, gray prehistoric-looking “I am so ugly I am beautiful” creature. Their size is imposing; they can be 13 feet long and weigh as much as 1300 lbs. They are sometimes referred to as the Sea Cow. Beware, when you get an initial glimpse of the “gentle giants” a few shivers may run up your spine (and it’s not from cold water – the spring water is a lovely 72 degrees).
Getting in the water with the manatees may not be for the faint-hearted, but once you start interacting with them it is an experience of a lifetime. The manatees are naturally curious and very friendly. If you remain still in the water the manatees will typically come to you. They have been known to come so close to humans that you can actually “kiss the manatee.” Often you’ll see young manatees swimming with their mothers. These smaller manatees are less imposing and extremely playful – like kids. While the mother eats nearby you’ll find these juvenile manatees visiting and revisiting for fun, frolic and a general good time.
This is a wonderful activity for couples and/or families. Children are in awe of these unusual looking beasts, and playing with them at close range is unforgettable and inspires a genuine appreciation of nature. Swimming with the manatee is extremely safe, and wetsuits, goggles, and snorkeling gear are provided by the outfitter. The wetsuit provides extra buoyancy, but if
your swimming skills are a little shaky, you’ll feel extra secure using a life vest.
I highly recommend using River Ventures as your outfitter and ask for Captain Glenn. Not only is Glenn a knowledgeable guide, but he is an entertaining and friendly raconteur. His stories of alligator wrestling are so good you may be tempted not to leave the boat. But the real kick is that he is an excellent photographer and you can get a disk of over 100 professional photographs of your trip for a very nominal charge.
For a change of scenery from the vast green grassy polo fields visit the natural sparkling blue waters of Crystal River. It is one of the best kept secrets in the Florida and I can promise you an unforgettable and heart-stopping adventure. Private tours can be arranged and are available seven days a week. Tell the owner, Chris, and Capt. Glenn, that Adventure Woman sent you,
and send me your feedback.
For more information visit the River Ventures website: www.riverventures.com