Our manatee program provides a unique opportunity to appreciate Florida’s freshwater ecosystem with a focus on one of the world’s most endangered mammals. This 5-day excursion has become one of our most popular trips and here is why: in addition to it being our most economical program, the joy of swimming and interacting with manatees is simply endearing. Over the years we’ve come to believe that the manatees enjoy our company as much as we enjoy theirs!
The world’s premier location for snorkeling with manatees is on the Crystal River where our program is based. Snorkeling with the Manatees offers a unique opportunity to appreciate Florida’s freshwater ecosystem with a focus on one of the world’s most endangered mammals. Besides being our most economical program, the joy of swimming and interacting with these 8-10 feet vegetarian creatures is simply endearing.
Many people consider manatees the most approachable (and adorable!) of all the aquatic mammals and it’s quite possible that this sentiment is mutual! Once while snorkeling Joel was captivated by a young manatee that continually extended its flipper and then pressed his hand against its chest, “insisting” to be scratched. Similar episodes have occurred among our groups on nearly every visit. In all our years of snorkeling, this intimacy of interaction remains unequaled, and we’ve come to believe that the manatees enjoy our company as much as we enjoy theirs.
Manatees are designated as an endangered species. While these docile animals have no natural enemies, boating activities and coastal development pose serious challenges to their population stability. However, the economic, social, political and biological equations surrounding manatees are complicated. To help us better understand these relationships, our first-hand encounters with manatees and Florida’s freshwater ecology are complemented with presentations from local experts whom we have invited to share their knowledge with our group.
While snorkeling with manatees is certainly a highlight of our program, it’s not our only aquatic activity. We will also visit the Florida Aquarium and the Homosassa Springs State Park, where a 45 foot deep natural spring at the headwaters of the beautiful Hommosassa River flows nine miles west into the Gulf of Mexico. Besides manatees, saltwater and freshwater fish are attracted to these natural springs with their constant, year-round temperature of 72°F. A floating underwater observatory inside the springs allows us to view fish and manatees at close range.
We also plan a leisurely drift snorkel down the crystal-clear spring-fed Rainbow River where we often see gar, turtles and waterfowl beneath the water’s surface. It’s a slow, effortless flight over wonderful, shallow terrain carpeted with undulating green grasses. This is the least strenuous and most enjoyable drift snorkel we offer on any of our trips.
Our program begins late morning in Tampa when we join fellow participants at the Florida Aquarium for a splendid introduction to Florida’s freshwater ecology. Lunch is on your own at the Aquarium’s cafeteria, snack shop, or nearby restaurant. We continue after lunch to Crystal River (1.5 hr. drive) and check into the Best Western Crystal River Resort. Snorkeling equipment and wet suit rentals are available at the hotel’s on-site aquatics shop. In the evening we meet for welcome refreshments and a brief program orientation followed by our welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Plan to arrive at the Florida Aquarium no later than 12:00PM for the
group behind-the-scenes tour. D
After breakfast, we visit Homosassa Springs State Park, where park naturalists give informative explanations of Florida’s wetland resources and fauna. The park is easily explored via level, paved walking trails and boardwalks. Lunch is on your own at the Park’s café or a restaurant near our hotel. After lunch, we plan a leisurely and informative harbor cruise of the beautiful Crystal River area. In the evening a lecture on manatee behavior and physiology will be followed by dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
Following breakfast, we plan begin our first snorkeling with the manatees session from our privately-chartered boat at one of the nearby springs. After lunch, we plan a trip to a nearby spring system where crystal clear water seeps from three small shaded pools, a perfect spot to get a close look at other aquatic denizens of Florida’s springs. In the evening we continue our lecture series with a discussion of manatee protection and conservation issues, followed by dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
In the morning we plan another snorkeling opportunity to interact with manatees underwater. After lunch, we enjoy a leisurely drift snorkel down the Rainbow River, a clear spring-fed stream, where we often see gar, turtles, and waterfowl. In the evening we recap our shared experiences and enjoy our farewell dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
After breakfast, we transfer back to the Tampa airport for our afternoon return flights. B
The cost for this travel experience is $TBD per person, based on double occupancy. For those requesting a single room, an additional supplement of $TBD will be added to the tour cost. Single accommodations are limited and subject to availability. If you wish to share a room, we will do our best to find a roommate for you. If, by the time of your final payment, a share cannot be found and space is available, you will be charged a single supplement.
The tour fee includes
All group bus, boat, and van transfers as specified in itinerary, meals as indicated in the itinerary, accommodations in hotels as specified, all snorkeling activities, guided excursions, local taxes, group gratuities to hotel/guide staff, services of the trip leader including any needed snorkeling lessons and lectures on the development, behavior, and conservation issues regarding Manatees and Florida’s wetlands.
The tour fee does not include
International and/or domestic airfare, transfers to and from the airport, other individual transfers, medical immunizations, medical expenses, snorkeling equipment or wetsuit rentals, optional Sea for Yourself staff gratuities, accident/baggage/cancellation insurance, excess baggage charges, meals not specified in the itinerary, dishes and beverages not part of included meals, alcoholic beverages, laundry, telephone, internet or fax charges, room service, and other items of a purely personal nature.
Deposits & payments
A deposit of $TBD, plus a signed, completed reservation form confirms your registration for the trip. You will be notified when your space on the program is confirmed. Final payment, plus single supplement, if applicable, are due 120 days prior to departure.
Snorkeling with Manatees is limited to 24 participants, with a minimum of 10. Due to the limited space available for this tour, reservations for space will be accepted in the order deposits are received. You will be notified when your space is confirmed.
International and/or domestic airfare
Sea for Yourself does not issue airline tickets. Trip participants are responsible for making their own air travel arrangements. Please do not purchase airline tickets until your reservation for the program has been confirmed and you have reviewed your travel schedule with our office.
This program will be enjoyed by all snorkelers, from novice to experienced. Our trip leaders will gladly provide any needed snorkeling instruction, from floating to free-diving. Our snorkeling excursions are in calm, protected fresh waters. This program is especially well-suited for children and families.
Climate and weather
During November, temperatures should range from the 80’s in the daytime to the 60’s at night. However, weather can be unpredictable. Rain and winds are always possible, so please be prepared for any weather conditions. Water temperatures are expected to be a cool 72°-74°Fahrenheit. In the water individuals will best know their own “comfort zones” which can be extended with the use of a lightweight wetsuit which will help conserve body heat, add comfort and buoyancy while in the water and protect against sunburn. We wear wetsuits and recommend that you seriously consider wearing one as well.
After you have reserved space on a trip and the program is confirmed, you will receive information to help you prepare for departure, including airline information to arrange for your international and/or domestic flights, optional supplemental travel insurance information, a complete packing and a reading list and other useful information about our destination.
Sea for Yourself provides participants who are U.S. or Canadian citizens with limited medical, accident and evacuation coverage under our group travel insurance policy. We highly recommend the purchase of optional baggage and trip cancellation insurance; information will be sent to registrants. Exclusions for pre-existing conditions may be waived with the prompt purchase of travel insurance.