selfie with manatee

Swimming With Sea Cows

There aren’t many places in the world you can swim and interact with manatees (not legally anyway) and Crystal River, Florida just happens to be one of those lucky places.

For this adventure we actually dragged ourselves out of bed well before sunrise and at first, we weren’t convinced it was worth the effort.

We’re not typically big on group tours but when we’re venturing into something new…like swimming with an endangered species, we like to know the do’s and don’ts, plus if we’re going to swim around in this frigid water we wanna make sure we see plenty of sea cows!

west indian manatee selfie with manatee

These sea cows are much like the typical RV population, they’re snowbirds and they can’t survive in temps below 60 degrees…which explains why they spend so much time in Florida!

swim with manatee floridasnorkel Florida snorkeling wynns

These cute wrinkly giants can live up to 60 years, average about 10 feet long and weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds.

Best Time to Swim With Manatees

Winter is prime manatee viewing but the season usually runs from Oct.1 – Mar. 31, depending on temperatures.  Also the earlier the better, as the sun comes up, the water temperatures warm and the manatees head out of the springs lookin for food.

The Golden Rules

  • Minimize splash and noise
  • Act with very slow movements
  • If/when you do touch a manatee on the back or stomach, never touch with more than one hand at a time. Two hands are illegal. The Endangered Species Act forbids touching a manatee unless it touches you first, and trust me they will let you know when they’re cool with it.
  • There is absolutely no chasing, riding or harassing the manatees.

Where You Can See Manatees

They like warm water and gravitate towards the springs but there are lots of places to view Manatees throughout Florida.  Here is a map of locations.

I wouldn’t call swimming the the manatees an epic adventure, but I would say it’s a extremely unique experience.  When you have people breaking the rules, like the other boat group that was swimming with us (screaming kids, lots of excessive kicking/swimming, too much touching), its difficult to say how much longer they’ll even let people swim with these gentle giants.  So if Florida is in your plans make sure you swing by to say hi to these guys, trust us, it’s worth every penny and the loss of a few hours of sleeping in (and we don’t make that statement lightly).

A big thanks to our friends at Drive. Dive. Devour. for doing all the research and inviting us to join in on this little manatee excursion.

Want more adventure? Check these out:
Desert Night Dive in Arizona    Exploring Zion National Park

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (23)

  • Julia

    There are park rangers and volunteers that monitor the area…my daughter was one of those volunteers for a year. Usually they monitor the most crowded area, Three Sister Springs.

  • Darrell

    Very cool video…. Just a few miles from home, although I have never done this!
    Now I am seriously considering it!?
    Thanks for sharing and making everyone aware of awesome things to do in beautiful Citrus County!!

  • Adam from Illinois


    We’ve done the same tour and we love Crystal River (other than the sand fleas and mosquitoes), and have spent several winters there. If your still around the area you should definitely go kayaking on the Rainbow River, visit Rainbow Springs State Park, and check out Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

    That’s about all I can think of for now, back to enjoying SoCal without the bugs….Have fun!

  • Bob Pauls

    The propeller induced scar marks are very visible at 4:16 into the video. I last swam with the manatees 24 years ago. One will never forget the experience. Thanks for the great video.

  • Tev

    Aww that was great! Did you notice all the scars on their backs? Sometimes caused by stupid people and their boats. They are such gentle,peaceful creatures who mean no harm to anyone. Glad you braved the time monster and got this to share with all of us. Thanks!

    • Yea, it’s so hard to see the big scars on their backs from boat propellers. We had a wonderful time, so happy we did this.

  • Awesome! Thanks for sharing. One of the things we’ll do when we go full time in 23 months.

  • Tom

    Somebody should try to do something about idiot tourists and tell them what they are doing wrong and then contact whatever government agencies are concerned and inform them, providing pictures if necessary. There’s always have to be damn fools who want to screw it up for everybody else.

    • Yea, it was difficult to see these horrible people swimming at the same time as us, our captain had a talk with their boat captain but who knows.

  • Joy

    Thanks for the great video! Good job! More please.

  • I’d love to do this! We completely missed this when we were in FL a few years back.

    • Nina! How did you miss it? Oh well, next time around…right? Hope we cross paths again, we need a rematch of that pumpkin carving thing 🙂

  • Mary

    They don’t move very fast, do they?

    I have been in that area. There is so much to do! Have fun!

  • jjustj

    thanks, swam with them 25 years ago sure looks pretty commercialized. but fun, none the less

    • yep, they had to put restrictions on a lot of the areas, so going with a tour company is a good option.

  • Debbie from Illinois


  • elizabeth

    Thanks for sharing – looks like great fun – a must do.

  • Tanna

    HOLY SEA COW !!!!!
    I would LOVE to to do that !! Maybe when me and Hubby get down to Florida we will look into that. Great videos ya’ll !!!
    Thanks for sharing !!!
    See YA on the road 😉
    Don & Tanna Ferris

  • Rodney

    Love it! Great idea too. It is an adventure. If you go in the water in the Keys, many of those animals have teeth!


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