A half-day trip in Crystal River, Florida, is a wonderful adventure. Crystal River has historic attractions that will fascinate you, such as the remains of an old sugar mill, wild beaches, theme parks and an extraordinary printing museum. And with its blend of fresh and salt water, it hosts a wide range of wildlife. At the National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River the water is amazingly blue and there are plenty of creatures to see. Working with a well-qualified outfitter such as Captain Mike’s, you can make your way to the main area and enjoy a relatively unique and lovely Florida experience in the wild. A manatee tour is a great opportunity to unwind and get connected with the natural world up close.

Gearing up for the trip

Crystal River is the only location in Florida where snorkeling with manatees is meticulously monitored, permitted and legal. You get in the same water with the sea cows, not touching or approaching them in any way unless they approach you first themselves. But before getting into the water, you are fitted with snorkels and wetsuits to equip you for the experience. The suits are 5 millimeters or so thick to ensure you are warm in the chilly water and enjoy an extra level of buoyancy, which allows for a safe, quiet and pleasant interaction with manatees.

Before you depart, you watch a video about how to correctly observe and interact with the manatees in the wild. You learn that it is illegal to touch, give water, feed, approach or pursue manatees. You can float gently in the water, staying as still as possible when you encounter an oncoming manatee until the animal passes. You don’t want to startle or spook the manatee. After the orientation, you get into a pontoon boat and enjoy a serene trip through the National Wildlife Refuge, guided by an experienced and knowledgeable captain.

Observing wildlife

If you begin your trip early, you will have plenty of time to observe wildlife at every animal exhibit. You will be amazed at all the lively activity. For instance, you will see the foxes rushing back and forth, taking breaks to drink water. Egrets can be seen trapping their prey right before you, crocodiles and alligators roaming around and fast-moving Mediterranean geckos — the cousin of toads and frogs — fleeing as you approach. You also most likely will encounter the red cockaded woodpeckers busy pecking at trees infected with the red heart fungus, creating holes along the tree trunks to make it impossible for climbing snakes to get into their nests. If you are lucky you will see the rare and endangered whooping cranes — a non-migratory Florida bird whose numbers have been reduced to just about 400 birds.

Great wildlife adventure

Crystal River is migration point for several birds and animals that find it difficult to survive in the harsh winter climate of the Northeast. The system of boardwalks around the National Wildlife Refuge provides an amazing view of Three Sisters Springs and canals in the immediate vicinity. So you will get the opportunity to view the beautiful springs and the hundreds of manatees enjoying themselves in the warm waters. During your trip you most likely will see green sea turtles, black bears, white-tailed deer, wood storks, bald eagles, swallowtail kites, otters and over 200 other species of birds.

A manatee tour at Crystal River, Fl., is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. At Captain Mike’s, we want to make your manatee tour as delightful and remarkable as possible by providing you with all the information you need and offering to be your trusted outfitter. For more information on manatees and manatee tours, visit the Captain Mike’s Kayak Rentals website.

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