Adventure #2, Swimming with Manatees 

While my family was discussing what we wanted to do for our 22 adventures in 2022, we decided we wanted to do new and exciting things that took us out of our comfort zone. Experiences with wildlife came up often, as we all really love animals and nature. We thought we would start our first few journeys closer to home and do something we’ve always wanted to do. That’s when we came up with the great idea to go swimming with manatees in Florida!

We often see manatee on our travels in Florida, but rarely get a chance to see them up close. They are such wonderful and amazing creatures that do so much good for our waterways and ecosystem. They are one of our girls’ favorite marine mammals and this experience is going to have them loving them even more. Follow along in the post and watch our Instagram reel here, as we share our experience and show you how to go swimming with manatees in Florida.

Snorkel Gear for Swim with manatees

The Plantation on Crystal River 

The Plantation on Crystal River is a full service resort located right on the water. The resort is full of southern charm and hospitality. It offers such amenities as a heated lagoon-style pool (we loved this after our cold river swim earlier in the day), golf, a full spa, and some of the most delicious restaurants the area has to offer. 

The resort offers small basic queen style rooms, and family friendly suites as well. The price for a night’s stay can range from $100-$300, depending on the day of the week and time of year you are staying. 

As welcoming and beautiful as The Plantation was, the stay at this great hotel wasn’t the highlight of our trip. We had the experience of a lifetime while visiting here and an awesome start to our 22 Adventures.

Swimming with the Manatees 

I have always wanted to swim with manatees, though I have also been quite scared at the same time. Something about being in the water with these majestic creatures has appealed to me for some time now. When the opportunity arose to allow my girls to experience this, I knew we had to jump in (into cold water with really cold outside temperatures).

Preparing for our swim with the Manatees

The day started bright and early, when we headed to the plantation adventure center. There we got into our wetsuits, which were included in the price, and watched a short safety video. It was very cold that morning, which is the best weather for swimming with manatees. Manatees migrate to the warmer water in the winter, and because Crystal River stays around 72 degrees year round (still feels like ice when the outside temps are below 50 degrees) they love to spend time there.

We were finally swimming with manatees, I can’t believe it! 

On the boat ride over, everyone was so excited and ready to jump in and swim. Once we got there, the girls were singing a different tune and became a little apprehensive. Even when Mom and Dad jumped right in and showed them that there was nothing to fear, they were unsure of the situation. The water was a bit murky that day, because there was a storm the day before. Also, as nice and gentle as the manatees are, even the smaller ones are huge and can be a bit intimidating. 

After a few tears and some rides on our backs, all 3 girls were in the water. I was so proud of them for overcoming their fears and choosing to try something new and scary. Once we were all in the water, the manatee observing began and we were not disappointed. There were dozens of manatee, some feeding on the bottom, some floating atop the water, and some rolling around and playing.

Up close swim with a manatee

Practice Passive Observation

The safety video said to practice passive observation, which we certainly did. I couldn’t say the same thing about the manatees though, they were not one bit scared of us and came very close on multiple occasions. It seemed the more still and quiet you were, the more they approached you. You had to be very aware of your surroundings, especially when there were ones feeding below you. If they decided to come up for air, they would just take you right up with them!

Celebrate our Success with the Manatees

Overall, we all had such a great time that day. After the initial shock of the water and the fears of swimming amongst the giants, everyone found some joy in the magic of the moment. There were some great close up encounters that each girl got to experience, one even got a kiss on the cheek by a smaller manatee. Once we were back in the boat, we all celebrated our accomplishment and raised a Styrofoam cup of hot cocoa to the adventure that we pushed ourselves to take.

Watch the full TikTok video of our experience HERE.

Family excited to Swim with Manatees

Tips for you before you Swim with Manatees

I do have a few tips for you to make you more prepared for this incredible experience. 

  • There is no minimum age requirement for activity. But I suggest your kids are comfortable swimming, and they are comfortable wearing goggles and a snorkel. 
  • Wearing a wetsuit is required. But if your child is smaller than a size 6, you will probably need to bring your own. 
  • It is so convenient to stay on the property at the Plantation on Crystal River. The walk over to the boats in the morning was super easy. It was also so nice to take a dip in their heated pool and hot tub after getting out of the cold water. 
  • Bring lots of layers for when you get out of the water, including socks.
  • Bring cash to tip the guides and donate to the manatee preservation and other wildlife foundations.

Our best adventure yet

Our whole experience lasted about 3 hours from start to finish, and we had the best adventure yet. Being able to give our girls this amazing experience was such a gift. It isn’t something many people will get to do, but we hope more people will take the opportunity after hearing our story. Please be sure to share this post with anyone that you think would enjoy swimming with manatees or even just observing them up close. 

Swimming with Manatee Mural

Thank you to the Guides

I want to give a huge thank-you to our guides, as they made this such a phenomenal experience. Not only were they very knowledgeable about the river and the manatees, they had hot coffee and cocoa waiting for us when we got out of the water. That’s an A+ in my book, especially on that cold day! Be sure to reach out to us about specific tours and guides when you’re ready to book your trip to Crystal River.

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

Were you apprehensive when I told you what we were going to do? Did I change your mind about this whole thing? It really changed mind for sure. I hope that you will take your family to experience the joy of swimming with the amazing manatees. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity that your kids will remember forever.

I have no idea how we are going to top this, but we are going to try! Off to our next Adventure…Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Tiktok and see just where we’re at with our 22 adventures in 2022.

If you liked this one, here are a few similar posts that you may enjoy:

Visiting Discovery Cove Orlando

Visiting Costa Rica with Family

Visiting New Orleans with Kids