To see manatees from above the water is pretty cool, especially when they are all grouped together, their backs look like stepping stones in the water. To get a little more up close and personal, we booked a tour in the Three Sisters Springs area (located in Crystal River, Florida). With a year-round water temperature of 72 degrees plus a full wet suit, we were ready to swim with the manatees. The mouth of the Three Sisters Springs run is blocked by concrete posts to prevent boat access; only snorkelers and kayakers can enter the springs. Our boat dropped us off at the opening of the springs and we swam in.
Even without the manatees, it was a great snorkel—clear fresh water and lots of fish. But we saw many, many manatees. Mike had one guy come up a nuzzle his hand. They are so gentle and trusting. These guys are huge—around 500 to 1,000 pounds (also referred to as “sea cows”).
While snorkeling, we were constantly observed by Fish and Wildlife officers and self-appointed “Friends of the Manatees” all following us in kayaks. You are not to swim towards the manatees, if they swim towards you, you are to stop and hold your position. Anything that appears to be harassing the manatees results in a large fine (around $500). I would be surprised if they allow the “swimming with the manatees” much longer with all the concern. We did not make any inappropriate moves and had a wonderful day swimming with the manatees.