5. Crystal River: Private Manatee Cruise
On this unique cruise through Florida's coastal wetlands, enjoy the special opportunity to experience swimming with manatees. Float along the Indian River and admire the local flora and fauna. At King's Bay, hop in the water and marvel at the gentle, playful manatees. Begin your tour at the marina of Crystal River, where you'll be fitted for wetsuits and swimming gear. Before you set out, watch a short video about "Manatee Manners" to ensure you interact respectfully with these magnificent creatures. Then, meet your captain and guide to get started. Set out from Crystal River's marina and begin the cruise down the Indian River. Along the way, you'll pass the Archaeological Park, Indian mounds, and St. Martin's Aquatic Preserve. Above you, keep an eye out for local birds, including egrets, herons, ospreys, and even golden eagles. Continue your tour along the Indian River as you watch for animal life on the riverbank and in the water. While you cruise, you may encounter river otters, wild pigs, deer, alligators, and dolphins as you near King's Bay. Here, watch the water's surface for manatees coming up for air. Next, once your captain and guide have selected a safe area near the manatees for you to swim, don your swimming gear and enter the water. In accordance with conservation standards, passive observation is encouraged. As you float, watch the manatees swimming, resting, and playing. While in the water, marvel at the manatees' large size, the nails on their flippers, and their prehensile lips as they eat. Some manatees may continue sleeping or eating; others may leave. Curious manatees may approach you for a closer encounter. After you've watched the manatees, head over to the clear, warm waters of Jurassic, House, or the Three Sisters Springs and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Once you're finished swimming, change into a dry set of clothes for the return journey on the river and keep an eye out for more wildlife.