Swimming with Manatees

Most people have heard about swimming with dolphins, but have you ever heard of swimming with manatees?  This family bucket list item was a result of one daughter's fascination with these docile brackish water mammals and needing to find a meaningful birthday gift for her and her sister.  The result?  Memories that will stick with them for a lifetime!

If you're ever in the Tampa area, you definitely need to check out the many opportunities available to swim with manatees.  This particular excursion was in Crystal River, Florida in August.

The day begins VERY early…if I remember correctly, they had to be at the dock at around 7:30am and the girls were SO excited.  My husband went with them (so I could stay behind with the younger children), but the age requirements were much more generous than the "swim with dolphins" places I'd researched.  Be sure to check with each specific tour/dive company, but I have seen some that allow children under 5 to participate.  You probably won't see any for dolphins like that. 

The day our family went was an especially good day.  They saw a mother and her calf, four that liked to stick around their boat and another larger manatee that my husband ventured over to see.  Apparently seeing that many is not common, so my girls got a special treat.

The company we chose offered snorkel gear for rent, but my husband was able to pick up 3 sets for very little money at a local Aldi grocery store, of all places.  And because the tour guide told us that the underwater disposable cameras don't take great photos, he actually took photos for us and sent them via email, which was a very nice touch.

The whole trip, including snorkel gear, was right around $160 for the 3 of them…an absolute bargain, in my book for memories that will last a lifetime!  And really, at such low prices, it's worth doing again.  (Note:  If you subscribe to Groupon, Living Social or Moolala, there are often discounts available for these types of tours, so if you know you're heading to Tampa, you may want to check on these sites for discounted tickets!)

Have you ever had an encounter with wild animals on a family travel bucket list advenure?  Share you story in the comments!

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4 Responses to “Swimming with Manatees”

  1. Jason Goode Says:

    Before you get too excited about these deals, check the companies Trip Advisor reviews. Most of these manatee tour companies offering Groupons and Living Social are doing so because their business practices are so poor that they are not able to book trips any other way. Most of these companies run uncertified boats limitede to 6 passengers yet they sell thousands of tickets that they cant honor. Expect that the day of your groupon trip you find the boat to be "broken down", See, they have already spent your money becuase groupon already gave them the check..so why take you out. You get what you pay for, they are selling their seats for less than they can afford to take you out. Good Luck! Buyer beware.  

  2. Mom Says:

    You’re right, Jason. ┬áMy husband and kids got lucky as they were the only ones on their morning, making for a great time.

  3. Rose Says:

    As a Manatee swim tour operator we do understand the frustration some have felt by being turned away due to owners selling more tours than they can handle. But please know not all companies work that way. Here at Nature Coast Manatee Tours we run a reputable company we never offer more than we can accomodate, and we pride ourselves on customer satisfaction. We know our limits and put a cap on the number of vouchers we sell. Other operators dont do this maybe its because they think they can handle it or maybe its greed. Whatever the reason its not fair to the customers. We recommend before purchasing any vouchers always contact the company first prior to your purchase to make sure they have the availability that you need. We offer a private houseboat tour for 6 passengers maximum. We have never had to turn someone away because of selling to many vouchers. We hope you will not let one bad company turn yoy away completely. Feel free to check us out and contact us for any information and special rates.

  4. Mom Says:

    Thank you for the clarification Rose and I appreciate the offer for special rates for our readers. :)

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