Wild Manatees in Florida

Florida manatee with snorkeler taking video, green sea grass and clear blue spring water
Smile Mr Manatee!

Learn about the wild manatee in Florida.

Did you know that there are 3 types of manatees on planet earth, and they are all considered endangered species. The West Indian manatee, which is a wild manatee in Florida, the Caribbean, and parts of Central and South America, is the most well-known and most studied of the three species. It is estimated that there are approximately 6,500 West Indian manatees in the wild, and their populations are threatened by several factors, including habitat loss, boat strikes, and entanglement in fishing gear. Climate change is also a growing concern, as it may lead to habitat loss and other negative impacts on manatees and their environment.

Florida is considered the most important habitat for the West Indian Manatee. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, the is a estimated population of around 6,500 wild manatees in Florida, which is the largest known population of West Indian manatees in the World.  They believe the majority west Indian manatees make home or visit Florida at some point in their lives!! So, heads up to everyone reading this post, be like a manatee make sure you visit Florida!

If you are looking to see wild manatees in Florida during your visit, no area is more important than Crystal River, it has the highest number of manatee sightings in the country.  In fact, the area even has a year-round manatee population, and guests looking to view manatees can see them throughout the year there.  However, wintertime is special due to the numbers of them, but why is this…. 

The natural springs in the area maintain a constant temperature of around 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius), which is warmer than the surrounding waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This makes the area a suitable habitat for manatees to survive in during the winter, as they cannot tolerate prolonged exposure to cold water.

In addition, the seagrass beds in the region provide an abundant food source for manatees. Manatees are herbivores and need to consume large quantities of seagrass every day to meet their nutritional needs. The seagrass beds in Crystal River provide a reliable source of food for manatees, making it an ideal location for them to congregate. 

Furthermore, the shallow waters and slow-moving currents in Crystal River make it a relatively safe place for manatees to swim and rest. The area is also protected by state and federal laws, which help to ensure that manatees are not harmed by human activities, such as boating.

All these factors combine to make Crystal River, Florida an important and valuable habitat for manatees, particularly during the winter months.

As the weather begins to slightly warm up in Florida, the waters surrounding our state are still not warm enough to attract manatees back downstream, and we still have many manatees in the springs.

Learn more about snorkeling with the manatees

Now is the time to come on a manatee tour, it is ideal!  It is just starting to warm up enough that we humans are not super cold on the boat rides, and the manatees are staying nice and warm in the Florida waters.

Manatee looking up-close to the camera underwater
Manatees up-close

Whilst there are many boat rides available in Crystal River if you have a car, for guests staying in the Orlando area Gray Line offers a great value way to get to the river and view the wild manatees in Florida.  For just $99 you can have transport from International Drive, Disney, Universal or Kissimmee and visit Citrus County, home to the wild manatees in Florida! 

After arriving at the river, the guide will assist guests with mask, snorkel and fins; wetsuits can be hired from the dive shop, and then participants will board a boat ride down the river to see the manatees.  When the dive captain locates them, they will assist guests into the water to snorkel and swim with manatees, these amazing animals – it literally takes peoples breath away when you are so close to them and understand their size next to you in the water.

Back on dry land the tour visits the Homosassa State Park which is a refuge to many state animals that have been injured.  From Florida Black bears, to Eagles, Florida Panthers, Alligators and even a Hippo that has been given honorary Florida Resident status – there are lots of animals to see.  Of course, it’s also home to the manatee sanctuary where they have an underwater viewing chamber. From there guests can see the help they are providing to manatee residents that have been injured, they try to treat and release the animals back to the wild.

Side view of manatee swimming in the springs
Manatee image captured on snorkel tour

So, if you are planning on visiting Florida for Spring break or Easter it is a perfect time to come and Snorkel with the Manatees, but any time of year is great to be in Florida and to come out to Crystal River with Gray Line Orlando. Follow along with Gray Line Orlando on our socials, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for more information.

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