Every visit to Three Sisters Springs offers new experiences. These manatees were hanging out today. It was fun seeing a baby manatee, called a calf, flip over and lay on his back for this photo opportunity.
When the cold weather reaches Florida, the water temperatures of the Gulf of Mexico cools down. Manatees need to be in water that is no colder than 68 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent hypothermia. Florida has now had a few cold fronts come through. These cold fronts are bringing the manatees into Three Sisters Springs where the manatees will winter. Hundreds come in to enjoy the water of the springs which is a constant 73.3 degrees Fahrenheit. These photos were taken on December 5th, 2020.
Wildlife photos can be viewed and purchased at https://wisconsinfloridaadventurers.picfair.com/
Crystal River, FL, is a cute little coastal city that sits about 75 miles north of Tampa Bay. Crystal River rests along spring-fed Kings Bay. Crystal River is the home of the National Wildlife Refuge. Here manatees are sheltered year round.
In Crystal River you will find Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge. Three Sisters Springs features close up views of manatees via their boardwalk. In the cold winter, hundreds of manatees seek the warm water refuge of the springs. The manatees, the crystal clear water of the springs and the surrounding flora creates an amazing viewing experience.
One of the best ways to experience the area is while on the water. There are a few different ways to get out on the bay and into the springs. We rented kayaks from Hunter Springs Kayaks.
Hunter Springs Kayaks offers a wide variety of rentals. They have clear kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, regular kayaks and hybrids. You have many options to choose from which will make your on water experience one to remember. Parking is limited at Hunter Springs Kayaks, but you can find free public parking just two blocks away at the corner of 1st Avenue and 5th Street. After you park, just walk two blocks south on 1st Avenue and Hunter Springs Kayaks will be on your right. After you book your kayak, your on water experience starts at Hunter Springs Park. Hunter Springs Park is just another four blocks south of Hunter Springs Kayaks. The whole set up is rather convenient.
Once on the water you can enjoy kayaking in Kings Bay and into the Three Sisters Springs area. We took our kayak trip at the end of June when the Gulf and Kings Bay water temperatures were warmer. In the summer you will find a few manatees in the bay area, but most of them are no longer resting in Three Sister Springs. In the winter hundreds of manatees can be found in Three Sister Springs where the water temperature is a constant 73 degrees. In the winter, kayaking into Three Sister Springs may be restricted as to not disturb these gentle mammals.
Before your kayak trip, you are required to watch a video on the proper way to interact with the manatees. You can google various resources which will inform you on proper manatee interaction etiquette. You can also go to https://myfwc.com/education/wildlife/manatee/viewing-guidelines/ for more information on the rules regarding manatees.
On our kayak experience in June, we were lucky to see two different manatees. We saw one by Hunter Springs Park, just after we started our adventure and we saw another one in Kings Bay. The scenery in and around Kings Bay and Three Sister Springs is breathtaking. The people at Hunter Springs Kayaks were friendly and very informative. They will make your first experience on the water a positive one and any return trips equally as exciting.
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Manatees are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows. These creatures, who are closely related to the elephant, are extremely unique. Viewing manatees is fascinating. Swimming with them is exhilarating.
Crystal River is located near Kings Bay. The water temperature in Kings Bay is consistently 72 degrees year-round. The springs in the area are the reason for this stable water temperature. Because of the 72 degree water temperatures, large numbers of manatees migrate to the Kings Bay/Crystal River area during the winter months to escape the cold waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some of them stay in the bay through the summer months. This creates a perfect opportunity for you to get up close and personal with these gentle giants.
There are various vehicles which allow you to view manatees from a close range. You can view them from the shore, you can kayak around the bay or you can swim with them. Yes, you can swim with these amazing creatures and Crystal River is one of the only places in Florida where you’re legally permitted to swim with manatees in their natural habitat. But before you jump in the water, be advised there a specific rules on the do’s and don’ts of interacting with the manatees.
Swimming with Manatees:
River Ventures is the tour we took when we swam with manatees. The bars you see are not cages. At the time we were there, they were in the process of re-establishing the sea grass in the area. The bars are protecting the sea grass restoration process. The manatees were free to come and go.
The tour is about 3 hours from start to finish. Before you leave for the tour, you will be fully briefed on rules surrounding this activity. You will be provided with masks, snorkels and wet suits. A photo package is available at the end of the tour, but you are welcome to take your own videos and photos.
You are brought out to the swim area by a certified Master Captain. While on the tour, you will learn many things about the manatees and the history of manatees in the Crystal River area. In the water you will be snorkeling with pool noodles which will help support you. While in the water you are only allowed to passively interact with the manatees. The pre-tour briefing will explain the do’s and don’ts of passive interaction.
River Ventures claims you will never be the same after meeting the friendly gentle giants of the sea. We can guarantee their claim is true. The experience was exhilarating and yet amazingly calming.
River ventures Tour Center is located at 498 S.E. Kings Bay Drive Crystal River, FL. You can go to http://www.riverventures.com for more information and learn how to contact them for more information, tour schedules, pricing and how to book.
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