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!