Swimming in the middle of the winter when the temperature is at a record low in Florida is typically not the best idea of an adventure. Even with the temperatures sitting at a record low of 30 degrees, it is this time of the year when the height of the magic migration happens for over 400 Florida manatees that migrate to Crystal River to seek refuge from the cold Gulf waters. This is the best time of the year to swim, frolic, and dance with these playful sea cows, and I had the privilege of being part of this enchanting encounter.
We took a 40-minute boat ride with Crystal River Watersports from the dock to Kings Bay where these majestic creatures congregate. These water beings are as playful as a puppy, slow and sweet, with skin as rough and coarse as sandpaper. Their eyes run deep with curiosity and innocence, they are slow-moving, graceful, swimmers, and consume close to 15% of their body weight from the plants grown across the river. They come to the surface to breathe like most water mammals and have no natural predators. From destroyed and ruined habitats to boat collisions, humans have played a massive part in their risk of extinction.
“Crystal River offers the best location to see and interact with the Florida manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, also known as gentle giants. Unlike other areas of Florida, the Federal Government allows for “passive observation” in the water between manatees and people in Kings Bay. This allows face-to-face interaction with manatees.” – Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge,
It was a privilege to swim with these gentle giants and I hope we as humans, do our part in taking care of our land and waters, so we can continue to enjoy the presence of these amazing creatures for generations to come. Please respect these beautiful creatures and their environment, for we are a guest in their home.
Images: Mike Petrone & Flickr