ATTRACTION: Manatee Tour.
WHERE: Bird’s Underwater—Crystal River, Florida (about a 2 hour drive from Orlando.)
AGE RESTRICTIONS: None, but parents MUST stay with their children at all times and the children must remain quiet. Recommended age is at least 8 years.
PRICE: $35 per person. DVD of snorkel $35. Wetsuit rental £12. Mask, fins and snorkel rental £8
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Tours start at 6:15 a.m. daily & at 11 a.m. by request (& prior reservation)
All boats have changing rooms and toilets. There could be up to 14 people on your boat.
The 11am tours do not have the same chance of finding manatees as the morning tours.
The West Indian Manatee is a large, gray-brown aquatic mammal. Its seal-like body tapers to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. The upper part of its body has two small forelimbs with 3 to 4 nails on each flipper. The head and face are wrinkled, and the snout has whiskers. Adults have been known to reach lengths of over 13 feet and weights of over 3,000 pounds. Calves are 3 to 4 feet long at birth and weigh approximately 60 pounds.
Manatees spend most of their time feeding and resting. They graze for food along rivers, coastal bottoms and the water's surface. Manatees have been known to hold their breaths for as long as 20 minutes, but they usually surface every 5 minutes to breathe. Their minimum population is estimated to be about 1,800; however, the continuing growth of Florida's coastal areas threatens the manatee's survival.
Bird's Underwater Manatee Tours are a truly unique experience which will leave you with great memories for the rest of your life.
When you arrive at the main building you will be shown a video (filmed in cooperation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service) which demonstrates how you should behave when you are interacting with manatees in the water. After viewing the video, you may rent a wetsuit and other gear, or change into the gear you brought with you. Next, you and your coast guard certified captain will proceed to the dock area and board one of the enclosed pontoon boats, where fresh donuts and coffee are available free of charge (hot chocolate and juice are also available).
While you are touring Kings Bay in search of manatees, your captain will answer any questions you have about the local ecosystem. After a good location is found, he or she will drop anchor and everyone will quietly enter the water and snorkel with the manatees. The captain will join you in the water, to supervise your experience and shoot digital quality videos, which you may purchase.
Manatees are wild animals and should not be fed. Close exposure to or dependence on humans can be harmful to them. While swimming or diving, do not approach or chase a manatee. Give a manatee its "personal space". A cow and her calf belong together…..do not separate them. Never poke, prod or stab a manatee with your hands, feet or any object.
** Special thanks to Bird’s Underwater for supplying photographs