Private Houseboat Manatee Tour - Intimate Encounter (4 hr) - Crystal River
- Duration: 4 Hours (approx.)
- Location: Crystal River, FL
- Product code: Houseboat
Enjoy the unique privilege that is exclusively ours here in Citrus County Florida by swimming with the manatees in the spring-fed King’s Bay Wildlife Refuge! Crystal River is home to the world’s largest population of endangered manatee during the winter season, and even a small population in the warm months. Having the chance to encounter these curious, gentle giants in their natural habitat is an adventure that your family will never forget!
Our private houseboat offers you a personal experience unsurpassed here in the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge to snorkel with the endangered manatee. Enjoy this fully enclosed, heated vessel with the full attention of your very own Master Captain and In Water tour guide.
- 4 hours from start to finish
- Boat seats up to 6 passengers
- Hot cocoa, coffee, water, juice and snacks included
- All gear included
- Walk in bathroom with door
- Photo package available at end of your tour
- Departing from River Ventures - Crystal River
Available 7 days a week, year round
*PLEASE BE ADVISED OF CURRENT TOUR CONDITIONS*
*Remember that once the weather starts to get warm in March, manatee begin their migration away from the springs and become more elusive. It is very important in the warm seasons to have REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS about how many animals you will see, under what conditions and how long it may take to find them. The COLD weather brings them to the area to enjoy our fresh water springs, but once the Gulf temps begin to warm, the manatee become more difficult to find and tend to be located closer to food sources where the water is not always clear. Also, spring brings hundreds of people to the area hoping for a glimpse of these amazing animals…COME EARLY MORNING if you hope to avoid the crowds. We add tours later in the day as capacity demands, but conditions deteriorate as the day goes on. If you are hoping to see dozens of manatee in clear spring water, than a springtime visit may disappoint. If you need more details about what to expect when visiting us in spring or summer, please visit our conditions page or call us anytime! We are always honest about conditions and encourage our visitors to do their research!
*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 during ‘Manatee Season’
What to bring
Wear your bathing suit...that way you are ready for a quick change into the wetsuit. Bring a towel, most 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 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 if desired and bottled water, 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! With our private houseboat, you get 4 hours instead of 3 and this extra hour can make a huge difference. One more hour on the water equals more opportunity to view wildlife and create awesome memories!
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. 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 and guide is waiting for you! After your tour, we will drive you back to River Ventures. 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?
The private houseboat is a 4 hour adventure. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT THAT YOU ARRIVE NO LATER THAN YOUR SCHEDULED TOUR 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 boats are all fully covered with clear vinyl enclosures that can be rolled up or down depending on weather conditions. 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 houseboat accommodates 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. 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.
Do you provide us with an in-water tour guide?
Yes, we provide a US Coast Guard Licensed Master Captain AND an in water Chaperone, tour guide and photographer! We take pride in having the best Captains and guides in the business and they go above and beyond to ensure that your group has a safe, pleasant and educational experience. Our Captains 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 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!
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?
As a private tour all ages are welcome! There are no limitations or requirements; however if children under 18 enter the water they do need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
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.