After umming and ahing, my partner and I finally decided to go kayaking with Manatees during our Florida road trip. And boy am I glad. It was by far the most breath taking experience of our holiday.
We had stopped in Clear Water and heard that one of the best places to kayak with these beautiful beasts was in Crystal River. Only a two hour drive away. Captain Mike’s seemed to have good reviews and decent hire prices so we hopped in the car and headed North.
What are manatees?
They are aquatic mammals known as sea cows, or the teddy bears of the sea. Cute right! They hang around coastal areas and rivers grazing on sea grass. They can weight up to 85 stone so that is a lot of greenery to keep them fed. It may also explain why they move so slowly. And apparently their closest living relative is the elephant, which totally makes sense.
And have you ever heard of early explorers sighting mermaids? Well, sorry to break your fantasy bubble, but it was more than likely encounters with manatees. They’ve been in Florida for 45 million years, and you will find many of them bathing and grazing in Crystal River.
We found an oasis
Captain Mike’s sits on the edge of Kings Bay, which is fed by over 70 springs. The staff explained where we could explore and annotated a map of the area. We also watched a 7 minute video on how to respect the wildlife and avoid hurting the manatees. Crystal River is the only National Wildlife Refuge in the US that protects one single species – so the video was very useful. Before we knew it we were sitting in the double kayak paddling until our hearts content.
We chose to visit the most famous and furthest spring first, which is Three Sisters. The only word I can use to describe it is an oasis. And that is not an exaggeration. We paddled through the hidden grove and down a small river that opened to a luscious lagoon with crystal clear waters. A wave of calm hit us. We found no manatees here, but we did soak up the beauty and relaxed after a long time paddling. We wished we had wore our costumes for a swim!
So did we kayak with manatees?
We visited in April, so there are less manatees than you would find in the winter. In 2015 over 500 were seen on one day resting in Three Sisters Springs! But we persevered, explored further and then it happened.
It might not look all that impressive, but right there is a female manatee with her calf. We spotted them thanks to their breathe. They create rings of water and bubbles before they peak their snout above the water. They slowly swam right next to us for about ten minutes and I gasped in awe at how close were were to these gentle giants. It was just me, my partner and our new friends drifting in an almost empty bay. Utterly magical.
Kayaking with manatees is a must if you are visiting Florida. It’s such a gorgeous and inspiring experience that took my breath away.
Would you like to go kayaking with manatees? Did you know what they were?
Kayak hire starts from $35 for half a day and you can BOOK HERE.