During the cold months in Florida, we are treated with the chance to experience the migration of West Indian Manatees into warmer waters.
There are only a few locations where you can view hundreds of gentle giants gathering to keep warm in our Florida Spring heads. But there is only one place in the world where you can get in the water and swim along side them.
Crystal River Florida National Life Refuge is last unspoiled and undeveloped habitat in Kings Bay, the headwaters of the Crystal River. The springs in the bay, with their constant 72 degree Fahrenheit water, provide essential warm water refuge for the manatees that congregate there in the winter months and is critical part for protection these of the West Indian Manatee.
Here is what you need to know directly from the Crystal River Florida National Life Refuge – ” Crystal River NWR is mostly accessible to visitors by water only. Only the Three Sisters Springs property provides land access between November and March (shuttle service), but no access to water is provided to visitors at this site. The Refuge doesn’t offer any water access facilities for visitors. However, there are a few free City boat ramps and private ramps (fee) available that provide access to Refuge waters.”
My sister and her family visited the Spring via the shuttle service to the viewing boardwalk area. They were able to see the hundreds of Manatees in the Spring head. The kids really enjoyed it. Notice in the background the swimmers & kayaks, that is where we enter the area.
For my birthday adventure, we decided to loaded up our paddle-boards and kayaks for a quick family overnight trip. We wanted to be in the water first thing in the morning, since the Manatees will leave the Spring area as the tide moves out in search of food.
I would highly recommend the Best Western Crystal River – recently renovated, great price, fantastic breakfast, and best of all right on the bay. We launched right from the hotel and was less than a 10 minute paddle to 3 Sisters Spring.
Or consider taking a snorkeling or paddle tour. We needed to rent another paddle board and Manatee Paddle were the perfect resource. They offer paddling (kayak & board) tours.
Enjoy and be inspired by just a few moments my boys captured on their Go-Pro cameras.
This calf hung out with my daughter for around 30 minutes, as she sat on her paddleboard. I loved seeing her giggle and be amazed as he would rise to see her. Perfect birthday gift that I will treasure forever.
SIDE NOTE: Around Mount Dora was launched to write about how I really live, enjoy the businesses, and get to know the people and merchants that we meet. This was not a paid sponsored blog post.