Manatee Swim and Paddle Tour - The Manatee Paddle - Crystal River
- Duration: 4 Hours (approx.)
- Location: CRYSTAL RIVER, Florida
- Product code: ManateePaddle
Viewing manatee from a boat is a beautiful thing, but viewing them from your own paddle craft is an awesome experience! For those of you who would like to swim with Manatee's and combine it with paddling, this is the perfect opportunity.
NO PADDLE ACCESS TO 3 SISTERS SPRINGS from Nov. 15th - March 31st.
The idea is to have a boat with an experienced Captain to help you locate the Manatee, instead of having to paddle for hours to possibly find them on your own! The shuttle boat will also be close by, so if you’d like a break from paddling then get on the boat and relax! To begin your adventure, you will arrive at our shop and prepare for the Manatee encounter; gear, wet suit and all you need is included in your tour price. You will be transported from our facility to a shuttle boat where your paddle craft and Captain are waiting. You will explore the refuge in capable hands from a safe environment, and disembark on your own kayak or SUP when you are comfortable. You will have the opportunity to snorkel with manatees if you wish, or stay topside and take it all in as you paddle! This is a unique and fun way to view this ecosystem and get up close with these amazing animals, even in the warm months when they can be tougher to find.
Pick your poison! Would you like to experience the Wildlife Refuge from a Kayak or maybe try a Stand Up Paddle Board? This tour provides a pilot boat driven by a Master Captain that will act as your guide and instructor increasing your chance of finding wildlife and assisting paddlers on the adventure.
· Paddle guide and short training for beginners
· Your choice of Kayak or Paddle Board
· Mask, snorkel, wetsuit, life jacket included
· 4 hour tour in warmer months, 3 hour tour in colder months (Nov 20 - mid March)
· Bottled water, deck bungee· Tour requires moderate physical activity
*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’
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!
What do I 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 and keep on the boat and apply sunscreen. 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 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!
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 the very short drive to the dock, where your Captain and paddlecraft 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!
Are the boats covered? What about bathrooms?
Our manatee boats are all fully covered with clear vinyl enclosures that can be rolled up or down depending on weather conditions. Each boat is also equipped with a flushable porta-potty inside a curtained privacy area that can be used as a changing room for those that wish to put on dry clothing for the short ride back to the dock.
How many people do you take on your manatee paddle tours?
This varies greatly from day to day; however as of now we can not take out more than 6 people on the paddle tours. The group stays together and needs to react to Captain’s instructions quickly in
order to see an animal.
Are there rules we have to follow when we Snorkel with Manatee or paddle near them?
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 paddle to see 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. Keep in mind when you are paddling, it can be physically demanding and require us to cover a lot of ground especially during the warm weather. 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 and perseverance 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! If someone wishes to ride the boat and not paddle the cost is only $54 per person. The price difference can be adjusted on arrival, credited towards another purchase or taken care of over the phone. You must still book for this additional person, as they are a seat on the boat.
Paddle? Swim? Both? How does this work exactly??
So many people have a desire to paddle here on the Refuge waters, they of course almost always hope to see manatee. This tour is designed to keep you close to a highly qualified ‘manatee hunter’ so you have a better chance to find animals from a kayak. When your Captain spots manatee, you will be instructed to QUICKLY AND QUIETLY paddle to the boat, grab your gear and enter the water if you desire to snorkel with the animals. You are always welcome to stay on your paddle craft if you don’t want to get wet! We often refer to this adventure as the ‘Surf and Turf’, because you get a bit of both experiences all in one package! Remember; listen to your Captain to make the most of this experience.
Can I go back to the boat if I get tired?
The paddle is designed to have you in close proximity to the pilot boat at all times. If you get tired, you can tie up your kayak and hop on the boat. After you swim, you may want to ride the boat back to relax and enjoy the enclosed environment in the cooler months. We always ask that you communicate with your Captain because he or she is responsible for you!
Are there age limits?
Children over 5 years of age are allowed on the group paddle tours, but it is recommended for older kids with at least moderate paddling ability. 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 floatation 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. As a paddle tour, weather can be more of an issue and we try to be flexible. For instance, if there are high winds and paddling would be difficult we would offer the entire group an Endangered Encounter instead of a paddle. If all agree, we would refund the difference between the snorkel and the paddle and still get you out there! We do our best to work with our guests as most come a very long way for this adventure!
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 ASAP and we will offer you gift certificates with no expiration date or a chance at another tour time.