Semi-Private or Private Houseboat Manatee Tour - The Outstanding Odyssey (3hr Heated) - Crystal River
- Duration: 3 Hours (approx.)
- Product code: SemiPVTFancy
- Tour is approximately 3 hours from start to finish
- Wetsuit, snorkel, mask all included
- Snacks and assorted beverages (hot, cold and adult) included
- In-water guide / photographer included!
- Fully enclosed with heated cabin
- Boat seats a maximum of 6 people
- Minimum of 3 people to run tour, if minimum not meant, an alternative solution will be offered
*PLEASE BE ADVISED OF CURRENT TOUR CONDITIONS*
*During warm weather we have a small number of manatee. Your best chance to see animals and avoid CROWDS is to go on the earliest tour possible. There is never a guarantee to see wild manatees and the refuge is very busy by 9am. Even in winter months, if there is a warming trend, manatee numbers will decrease significantly. Please have realistic expectations regarding wildlife.
*THREE SISTERS SPRINGS is managed by US Fish and Wildlife who reserves the right to close the area to swimmers at any time. During cold spells when the animals are thermoregulating in the spring area, it will be closed to avoid harassment and ensure the animals can rest. We MAY OR MAY NOT be able to access this one acre spring (part of the 600 acre refuge area) and that is something we can not predict from day to day. Only parties with an in-water guide will be allowed into both Three Sisters and King Spring.
What to bring
Wear your bathing suit...that way you are ready for a quick change into the wetsuit. Bring a towel, people will bring these along on the boat. Keep season and air temps in mind. If it is cooler, it is a great idea to bring a sweatshirt, jacket or even a full set of loose fitting clothing to slip on after you get out of the water. If you have young children, this is especially important, be prepared with warm clothes....always better safe than sorry! The water here is always 72 degrees, and for some that is quite chilly! Feel free to bring a bag onboard the boat to keep your personal items, but we HIGHLY recommend not bringing anything of value on board the boat. During warmer weather most people will wear their wetsuits back to the shop and change into their clothes when they return from the trip. Bring what you feel you need, but no worries we will take care of the details! As a private tour you are welcome to bring snacks or a cooler. On the houseboat we provide you with snacks, hot beverages, cold beverages and assorted beer and wine, but you are welcome to bring whatever else you would like to bring!
It is very important to have realistic expectations when it comes to a wild animal encounter! Every trip is different and the experience is unique for each
individual. In the cooler weather the animals migrate to this area and congregate here for the protection of the warm water springs; when the weather warms they can move about going wherever they want! These are wild animals and we can not control their migration. Manatee spend their lives searching for food, mates, sleeping and playing....it is hard to predict what state they will be in when we encounter them. The early mornings tend to be the best time to find the animals and best chance of seeing them near the springs where the water tends to be more clear. Remember it is very simple, cold weather = many manatee; warmer weather=lower manatee counts and more time looking for these endangered animals. Even seeing a few manatee is a phenomenal adventure!
Where do we meet?
We meet at our full service Manatee Tour and Educational facility in Crystal River! You will be checked in, and offered complimentary coffee, tea or hot cocoa. Upon tour time, we take you into a classroom type setting where we learn about the animals, the eco-system and watch a short video of rules required by the US Fish and Wildlife. This is a wildlife refuge and it is very important that we fully inform you as to what the rules are and how to behave if you hope to view a manatee up close! We will fit you for a wetsuit, direct you to our climate controlled changing rooms and gather up your group. We take care of transporting you to the dock where your Captain is waiting for you! After your tour, we will drive you back to River Ventures Tour Center. You can help yourself to coffee and cocoa, use the restrooms and changing rooms, check out the gift shop and view the photos from your adventure!
How long is the Manatee Swim Tour?
This houseboat is a 3 hour adventure. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT THAT YOU ARRIVE 15 minutes prior to your tour time for check in. Please do not arrive later than your tour start time, our boats operate on a schedule ....and it can be very difficult to deviate from that for a late party. Don’t miss the boat.....please arrive on time!
Is the boat covered? What about a bathroom?
Our Manatee Fun houseboats are all fully enclosed and heated! There is no bathroom on board, but we are never far from the dock and happy to make emergency stops mid tour if needed.
How Many People do you take on your boats?
The houseboats accommodate 6 passengers with comfort. Keep in mind that even if your group is very small, we can not control the amount of people on the water. We go on a manatee search and all the tour companies go where animals are found......so after 10 am, especially on weekends, Holidays or during manatee season, the waterways can get very crowded with people. Remember this is the last place in Florida where we can share the animal’s natural habitat so getting out early to beat the crowds almost always ensures a better experience! On the early tour you get out while the refuge is at its quietest and the manatee are still in their most relaxed state. We know it’s early....but it tends to be the best experience for our customers so we don’t mind the wake-up call! If you have a larger group we can put you on one of our many larger boats. We can accommodate a small or very large group.
Do you have a wetsuit that will fit me? Do I have to wear a wetsuit?
We have wetsuits for children to adults up to 5x. These are full wetsuits, 3mm that are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized daily with hospital grade. We do require that you wear a wetsuit while on a tour with River Ventures....this helps for many reasons. The wetsuits keep you warm and buoyant we must stay at the surface of the water without diving down towards the animals. We do our best here to ‘float with Manatee’, staying still and calm so we do not stir up the water or scare the animals away. If they are sleeping or eating we must not disturb them during observation and the wetsuits can help us
keep still as to not disturb their natural behavior. If you have your own gear that you would like to use we encourage you to do whatever makes you most comfortable. If you choose to bring your own gear keep in mind that this is a shallow water snorkel, so advanced diving gear is not needed. We no longer use fins, and they will not be allowed around the manatee. Use of fins can stir up the water affecting visibility, and also can give the perception of chasing. We never need to be faster than the manatee, we remain calm and let them approach us!
Do you provide us with an in-water tour guide?
Our US Coast Guard Licensed Master Captain is required to stay on the boat at all times, but we also include an in-water tour guide who will also act as your photographer! We take pride in having the best Captains and guides in the business, they go above and beyond to ensure that your group has a safe, pleasant and educational experience. Our Captains and guides are all Certified Eco-Tour guides through the Manatee Ecotourism Association in conjunction with USFW.....they do not only know how to drive a boat, but they are stewards for these animals and this eco-system, doing their best to stay abreast of all the latest in scientific research. They will ‘model’ the proper behavior to assure that the manatee are treated with the utmost respect......this is their house, we are just the visitors! Your in-water guide will also take photos, from the boat, underwater and all around. These photos are available at the shop after your tour....that way you do not have to worry about your own camera and it’s a great way to take these memories home with you!
Are there rules we have to follow when we Snorkel With Manatee?
Absolutely! Manatees are protected under the Endangered Species Act and it is quite a privilege that we get to have this sort of encounter! Both the State and Federal Government oversee the protection of these animals and the guidelines get stricter every year. These laws are in place to help protect the animals and they will be enforced here in the Wildlife Refuge, people can be ticketed, fined and removed from the water if behavior is deemed inappropriate or illegal. When you arrive at the shop prior to your tour we will cover all the dos and don’ts so you are fully informed before you hit the water!
How long is the boat ride to the manatee?
There is not ‘one spot’ that we go to look for manatee and there is not ‘one area’ that we visit every day, every tour. We go where we can find animals. In the winter time, that may be a short 8 to 12 minute ride to a spring. But in the warmer weather, we may have to look for much longer. In the cold weather we have many in the area and it typically does not take long to find them, but when it gets warm patience is a requirement! With our enclosed houseboat you will be comfortable on even the chilliest winter day!
How many manatee will we see?
Please remember that manatees are an endangered species and seeing even one of these majestic beasts is a great privilege. Our tours are conducted in their natural habitat and they are free to come and go as they please. No two days are ever the same, and no two tour times are the same either Weather, tidal influences and time of the year affect the conditions daily and it can never be predicted just how many manatees you will see. During the colder months we have a large concentration, but if there is a considerable warm spell they will become difficult to find. Because this unique eco-system is a prime manatee habitat, we have a small resident population even in the summer. We never guarantee that you will find or encounter manatee and how many you see is tough for us to predict as well.
Can I Ride the Boat and Not Swim? What if I do not know how to swim?
We always welcome observers and you can often see the manatee from the boat. They sometimes come very close and give you an awesome view! We are only allowed so many passengers on the boats, so an observer does have to pay for that seat. Bring your cameras and binoculars and enjoy the surroundings of the refuge! If you are not a strong swimmer then you must use your own judgment. Are you comfortable in the water with a floatation device? Do you get anxious and upset in the water? We must remain calm and still near the animals, so ‘swimming’ is not as important as being able to relax and float!
Are there age limits?
Children must be at least 3 to go on the group tours, but younger babies are allowed on a private tour. Coast Guard counts infants as a person on the boat, so please include all children in your passenger count when reserving your tour. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, and very young children must understand enough to be calm and quiet in order to not scare the animals away. Children should be comfortable in the water and parents should stay close at all times for safety. We have wetsuits in all sizes and provide snorkel vests and flotation noodles if kids need a bit of assistance staying at the surface without swimming.
What about weather conditions?
Rarely do we ever have to cancel because of weather conditions...a little rain doesn’t stop us! Because we are on the coast, storms will often move
through quite quickly and even if we delay it will not take away from your tour time. Our boats are covered to protect you and your belongings from the elements if you wish to stay dry. If we need to cancel because of inclement weather you will be offered a refund, reschedule or gift certificate.
What is your cancellation policy?
We require (5) days advance notice if you can not make your scheduled tour reservation. We pre-charge all credit cards to guarantee the seats and we do not process cash refunds for short notice cancellations. This is consistent with an airline, hotel and other swim with manatee tour companies. Our Captains are scheduled according to the number of guests we have any given day, and we appreciate your commitment to be on time and honor your reservation. If you do need to cancel last minute, please contact as ASAP and we will offer you gift certificates with no expiration date or a chance at another tour time.