Driving half way across the country takes a lot of time, but the benefit is you get to see things along the way that you would normally just fly right over.
Crystal River was one of those places. It’s pretty much smack in the middle of the state, far from any airport, so it’s not even a day trip. But it’s worth it.
Because you get to swim with manatees.
Yes, this entire trip was centered around either education, or wildlife (or both). So?
Manatees swarm the Crystal River area, and the entire town has totally accepted this. You see Manatee Bowling, Manatee Laundry, Manatee Diner, etc. But it is amazingly inexpensive to go swim with the Manatees, and it’s perfectly legal, and not at all frowned upon (see previous post). In this instance, I would do this over and over again, with no hesitation (except maybe if I didn’t have a thick wetsuit. That water was COLD!)
The viewing of manatees is regulated by the US Fish and Wildlife Department, because they are a Federally Listed Endangered Species. So for example, you are allowed to touch them if they come up to you, but if it is on the river bottom you are not allowed to go down to it. That is considered harassment.
The money brought in to see them in the wild goes towards conservation of the species, and it educates people about them, so it’s pretty much a win-win!
The group we used was great, too. They let us swim as much as we wanted, and even when we were about to leave the boat captain saw another manatee and a baby, and let us jump back into the water! It was such a great experience for us, that we even suggested it to my sister and her husband on their trip to Florida that they took a few months ago, and they had a great time, too!
This was a really great way to end our Florida Adventure, but all it ever really does is make us want to go back again that much sooner!