There must be dozens of places in Crystal River to take you on a snorkel/scuba tour with the Manatees, but this one really pleased us. For $15 (off season) plus equipment rental as needed, we were out for about three hours with a knowledgeable, friendly guide. They've been around for many years, and their experience and expertise shows.
Each year thousands of visitors flock to the Park to see manatees close up. This park is one of Florida's most treasured destination spots on 180-acres at the headwater of the Homosassa River. The park houses manatees which are unable to return to the wild due to injuries-usually due to motor boat propellers. There have been 2 recent manatee births at the center. You can also see bald eagles, 2 bear cubs, various Florida birds, alligators, a retired showbiz hippo, otters and cougar. There is a beautiful boat ride from the Park office to the park.
this interesting state park is located on the crystal river near the town of crystal springs. the first native americas to visit this site was the deptford culture around 500BC. these people were hunter-gathers and did not have a highly developed social society. around 300AD the deptfords were replaced by the weedon island culture. the weedon culture was replaced by the safety harbor culture around 900AD. this site was abandoned by native americans around 1400AD. the site has seven mounds and two steles. this site is one of the best preserved pre-columbian ceremonial complexes in north america. pictured is temple mound (A). temple mound A is 30 feet high and is constructed of oyster shells around 600AD.
there are three springs along the crystal river. the main spring is located downtown near hunter springs park. sadly the spring is surrounded by condos and apartments so there is no public access. you can reach the spring by boat or you can swim to it from hunter park. also there are tour operators that will take you to the spring. the main spring is a 50 foot dive and you will need lights. i dove the spring a number of years ago and it is a worth while thing to do. also along the river are the smaller king's spring (8 feet) and three sister spring (10 feet).
crystal river preserve state park is located near crystal river archaeological state park just north of the town of crystal river. this sixty one acre park has saved a large section of the crystal river from developement. crystal river reserve offers hiking, fishing, and canoeing. a great place to see florida wildlife.
Crystal River Springs is a town that is not given the attention it deserves. It is a part of Florida that every local should experience. It is a small town with a uniqueness no other state has to offer. Crystal clear water, vast amounts of fish, bright blue private grotto spring that is TEEMING with manatees in the winter months. I did a dive back in March at the head Spring. Make sure to go down into the cavernous entrance! While seemingly intimidating by the darkness, just about 10 feet in will open into a large theater like enclosure with just enough light to make out your way.
Venture to Three Sister Springs, a little up the river and through a residential canal, where you will be taken back into untouched florida forrest and a mirage-like grotto awaits you. Manatees go into the springs in the winter in order to stay warm and away from the frigid gulf waters. Springs stay 73 degrees year round.
Plantation Dive Shop does tours or you can rent your own pontoon boat for an affordable rate.
Just got back from a wonderful visit to my inlaws in Inverness, Florida. There were so many neat and interesting things to do while we were there but the most exciting thing by far was a trip to swim with the Manatees. What a wonderful experience it was to snorkel with these gentle creatures up close. There are several outfitters in town that offer guided tours, we took ours with River Ventures. They are located on NE 1st Avenue in downtown Crystal River. The business is operated by very friendly people. The owners have lived in Crystal River for 30 years and they seemed very knowledgeable about the Manatees. Our tour was 3 hours long which gave us more than enough time to swim with the Manatees and also take a nice tour of Kings Bay. The wildlife was very abundant and we spotted an Eagle and several Osprey while taking our tour. Three Sisters spring was the highlight of the trip. The spring was full of Manatees and the water was crystal clear making the experience second to none.
If you are in Florida or traveling there, a trip to swim with the manatees is a must do, you will never forget it.
What an incredible experience! The first manatee we saw was so friendly. We swam with him for 20-25 minutes. He swam right over to us and was very curious. I took lots of pictures, got to pet him and get an up close look at manatees in the wild.
We also saw a few groups of mothers with their calves and a few others swimming by themselves. The first manatess we saw was the friendliest but the others were also great!
When swimming with the manatees it is best to float or swim quietly. Sudden movements or splashing can scare them. Also, don't swim after the manatees, they will come to you if they are curious. It's also against the law to bother them!
(I am including a separate tip regarding who we did our snorkel tour with)
pictured is a stele at the crystal river state archaeological state park. steles are ceremonial rocks that were placed here about 440AD. this stele has two eyes and a mouth carved into it. a cache of small stones, animal bones, and charcoal was found at it's base.
pictured is burial mound F. this mound is 20 feet high and has a diameter of 70 feet. the dead were buried with their personal possessions such as jewelry, tools, and pottery. copper earrings were found at the site that indicated trade with indians as far away as ohio.
pictured is one of two midden mounds at crystal river archaeological state park. these mounds consisited of oyster shells, fish bones, and pottery shards. these mounds were native american garbage dumps.
the beautiful crystal river is the main tourist attraction in the town of crystal river. the river originates from crystal spring in downtown crystal river and flows into the gulf of mexico. the river is famous for it's excellent fishing.
the coastal heritage museum is located in the old crystal river city hall. the old city hall was built in 1939 and is listed on the national register of historic places. the coastal heritage museum is part of the citrus county historical society based in the old citrus county courthouse in inverness. an interesting place to visit in the crystal river historic district. admission is free.
There are lots and lots of companies offering tours. They pretty much all go to the same place. I literally saw just about every tour parked side by side and you all swim in the same area regardless of how much you paid.
The real differences I can see:
-Homosassa River or Crystal River
-Does the Guide help you spot manatees
-What time does the tour *get in the water*
Crystal River can be quite hard to see anything in with exception of a few places. It is very helpful if the guide will actively point out manatees to you as one can often be just a few feet away without you having any clue. I hear homosassa has better visibility, although I don't know for certain.
Going early or staying later than the other tours increases the chances of an interaction and there will be less mud stirred up. I would opt for going earlier, though I was still seeing manatees after 11 am.
A manatee has a face only Mother Nature could love. Once you meet a manatee, you're totally entranced with them. The official marine mammal of the state of Florida, manatees are nearsighted, slow-moving herbivores that average about 10 feet in length and weigh in at roughly 1,200 pounds and remarkably gentle. They are not territorial and they have no natural enemies - they pretty much just swim, sleep and eat.