USA/Florida: Swimming with Manatees at Crystal River

Swimming with manatees – another bucketlist item! Florida manatees are large aquatic mammals (relatives of dugongs and more distantly elephants). They are know as “sea cows”, as these massive slow moving mammals float slowly underwater feeding on sea grasses, occasionally coming for air. Despite their fat appearance, they have very little body fat, and when the ocean waters drop below 68F/20C, they come en masse into the warm water of Crystal River in Florida (fed by hot springs). Hundreds and sometimes thousands of manatees can be see here – the colder the weather the more manatees you can see on a swim. Naturally, I picked the coldest day – the air was 33F/0.5C – and getting into water was brutal. Once in the warm water and in sight of manatees – you forget the cold. Manatees are extremely playful and they swim to you and with you and under you. They turn and roll and actually enjoy being petted and rubbed. They come face to face with you and even head butt you gently. There were over a hundred of them, especially near the hot springs.