Florida On a Tankful: Getting up close to manatees at Crystal River

By Caitlin Wilson, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, February 16, 2018, 7:44 AM EST

Manatees are amazing creatures, but you can never get too close to them — at least that’s what we thought.

  • Crystal River one of few spots to safely swim w/ manatees
  • Manatee Tour & Dive works alongside Hunter Springs Kayaks
  • Visit ManateeTourAndDive.com for more info

We found a spot in Florida where you can get right up next to manatees and interact with manatees in the wild in this week’s Florida on a Tankful.

Corina Holles' laugh is one of pure joy as she starts the first leg of her solo tour of Florida, celebrating her 50th birthday.

“I think everyone should experience everything once in their life," Holles said.

That’s exactly what she’s doing, ditching her day job for a wet suit and snorkel.

“You’re like in a world of your own down there, because you don’t feel or see anything except the water and the manatees," Holles said.

She took the plunge for a day swim with majestic manatees at Crystal River, one of the only places in Florida you can legally and safely swim with manatees in the wild.

Our tour guides for the day, Manatee Tour and Dive and Hunter Springs Kayak’s took us through the pristine waters of Crystal River. Showcasing the creatures in their nature habitat.

Their tour groups even take it a step further than just fun in the sun, practicing what they call “passive observation,” a technique used to teach conservation and preserve the manatees in the wild.

“If you’re having to reach out for an animal for that interaction verses having that animal come up to you ... and being touched by a manatee both literally and figuratively, you walk away with a different experience," said Perry with Hunter Hunter Springs Kayaks.

This is an experience that will leave you wanting to know more and maybe even get in on the conservation action to help these threatened creatures.

Visitors like Corina said she can agree it was an even more personal and rewarding experience than she expected.

“It was magical," Holles said. "I have to say that for me, I am a midwife, so I got to see a nursing baby manatee on a momma; so for a midwife that’s the most special thing to see ever. It's just something you can't describe."

For a two-hour tour with Manatee Tour and Dive for adults it's $55, and for children 7 and under it’s $45.

They work alongside Hunter Springs Kayaks for tours in the water, with paddle boards, kayaks and snorkel equipment.

For more information on both companies head to their websites, manateetouranddive.com and hunterspringskayak.com.