2017 Discover Crystal River Visitors Guide

"Swimming with Manatees"

by Lori Sorrentino, Travlinmad

The early December morning in central Florida is downright chilly at 46 degrees (8c).  I’m excited to be going out to see manatees but I’m not at all thrilled to be climbing into a wetsuit and the cold dark water before the sun is even up.
The water is smooth as glass as our pontoon boat glides along into the middle of Kings Bay. One by one we follow our Captain, Mike Dunn, slipping quietly into the water. The 5mm wetsuit is surprisingly toasty - even barefoot - as I adjust my mask and ease my breathing through the snorkel.  I peer down into the murky water.  I can’t see a thing.
"Lori, behind you!" I hear Captain Mike call from above the water.  I paddle my hands around trying not to kick my feet, as instructed, for fear of hitting something.  Suddenly I’m face to face with a manatee--two of them, then a baby!  Giant floating gray torpedoes and whiskers float  toward me. Holy sea cow!   There are manatees everywhere.  It’s incredible.
After a while, Mike brings us back on board. Our next stop comes at Spring Run, with its gorgeous live oak trees on the water’s edge dripping with Spanish moss.   A dozen or more playful manatees chase each other around, twirling among us near the boat ladder. The juveniles are so curious, approaching each of us one by one and staring at us square in the face. My favorite encounter comes near the end when a huge manatee swims up behind me then right underneath, gently lifting me out of the water as he surfaces.
There are just a few manatees in Three Sisters Springs this day since the coldest winter temperatures have not yet arrived, but the underwater scenery is incredible - aqua blue and crystal clear. I snap a few pictures then let the strong current carry me back out of the spring as if sledding a downhill run.
It’s a day I’ll always remember, interacting with these "gentle giants". I’ve traveled all over the world and yet with all the epic adventures I’ve enjoyed, swimming with manatees is one of the highlights of them all.
Lori Sorrentino travels the world and shares her incredible experiences for www.travlinmad.com
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