Did you know that there are 3 types of manatees on planet earth, and they are all considered endangered species? The West Indian manatee, which is found in Florida, the Caribbean, and parts of Central and South America, is the most well-known and most studied of the three species. It is estimated that there are approximately 6,500 West Indian manatees in the wild, and their populations are threatened by several factors, including habitat loss, boat strikes, and entanglement in fishing gear. Climate change is also a growing concern, as it may lead to habitat loss and other negative impacts on manatees and their environment.
Florida is considered the most important habitat for the West Indian Manatee. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida manatee population is estimated to be around 6,500 individuals, which is the largest known population of West Indian manatees in the World. They believe the majority of west Indian manatees make a home or visit Florida at some point in their lives!! So, heads up to everyone reading this post, be like a manatee and make sure you visit Florida!
If you are looking to see manatees during your visit to Florida, no area is more important than Crystal River, it has the highest number of manatee sightings in the country. In fact, the area even has a year-round manatee population, and guests looking to view manatees can see them throughout the year there. However, wintertime is special due to the number of them, but why is this….
The natural springs in the area maintain a constant temperature of around 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius), which is warmer than the surrounding waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This makes the area a suitable habitat for manatees to survive in during the winter, as they cannot tolerate prolonged exposure to cold water.
In addition, the seagrass beds in the region provide an abundant food source for manatees. Manatees are herbivores and need to consume large quantities of seagrass every day to meet their nutritional needs. The seagrass beds in Crystal River provide a reliable source of food for manatees, making it an ideal location for them to congregate. Furthermore, the shallow waters and slow-moving currents in Crystal River make it a relatively safe place for manatees to swim and rest. The area is also protected by state and federal laws, which help to ensure that manatees are not harmed by human activities, such as boating.
All these factors combine to make Crystal River, Florida an important and valuable habitat for manatees, particularly during the winter months.
As the weather begins to slightly warm up in Florida, the waters surrounding our state are still not warm enough to attract manatees back downstream, and we still have many manatees in the springs.
Now is the time to come on a manatee tour, it is ideal! It is just starting to warm up enough that we humans are not super cold on the boat rides, and the manatees are staying nice and warm in the Florida waters.
Whilst there are many boat rides available in Crystal River if you have a car, for guests staying in the Orlando area Gray Line offers a great value way to get to the river. For just $99 you can have transport from International Drive, Disney, Universal, or Kissimmee and visit Citrus County, home to the manatee! After arriving at the river, they will assist you with masks, snorkels, and fins; wetsuits can be hired from the dive shop, and then you will be off on a boat ride down the river to see the manatees. When the dive captain locates them, they will assist you into the water to snorkel and swim with manatees, these amazing animals – it literally takes your breath away when you are so close to them and understands their size next to you in the water.
Back on dry land, you will visit the Homosassa State Park which is a refuge for many state animals that have been injured. From Florida Black bears to Eagles, Florida Panthers, Alligators, and even a Hippo that has been given honorary Florida Resident status – there are lots of animals to see. Of course, it’s also home to the manatee sanctuary where they have an underwater viewing chamber and you can see the help they are providing to manatee residents that have been injured, they try to treat and release the animals back to the wild.
So, if you are planning on visiting Florida for Spring break or Easter it is a perfect time to come and Snorkel with the Manatees, but any time of year is great to be in Florida and to come out to Crystal River with Gray Line Orlando. Follow along with Gray Line Orlando on our socials, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and for more information click here.