Underwater photograph of manatee from a manatee swim tour

Crystal River – Home of the Manatee!

Have you ever heard of Crystal River, Florida? If you have, then you probably know it as the “Home of the Manatee.

If you haven’t, then you need to KEEP READING!

Crystal River is located in Citrus County, which is about an hour north of Tampa and an hour and a half west of Orlando. Citrus County is revered as the manatee capital of the world, and rightfully so! Only in the waters of Citrus County, are you able to legally swim with manatee in their natural habitat! That’s right!! Swimming with manatees is a privilege that is uniquely ours.

Nowhere else in the world are you able to come face to face with the Florida Manatee.

Manatee huddled in a winter sanctuary outside of Three Sisters Springs. 

In the coldest months of winter, you are guaranteed to encounter these majestic beasts in all Citrus County waterways. Nowhere else in Florida will you encounter more manatees than in the spring-fed waters of Crystal River, Homosassa and Chassahowitzka.

Why, you ask? Manatee have a low metabolic rate which limits their ability to keep warm in colder waters. The temperature of our Florida Springs stays a constants 72 degrees year round. Because of this, these springs are the perfect winter home for manatee to escape the cold.  Pretty cool, right? (No pun intended).

Crystal River is a year round home for the manatee!

But, this isn’t what makes Crystal River so special. Crystal River didn’t earn its designation as “Home Of The Manatee” from the ones that visit in the winter. That’s right! Crystal River is uniquely the only place in Florida that has a consistent year round population of manatee that decided to become permanent residents. No matter the day of the year, you are almost guaranteed to see manatee in the Crystal River National Wildlife refuge!!

While you won’t count as many manatee in the summer, there is a nice size resident population of manatee that thrive in Crystal River, Florida all year. Over the years, our resident population of Manatee has grown in numbers, and each year we see more manatee sticking around for the summer.  They enjoy our cool fresh water, lush eel grass beds, and idle speed zones. We can’t blame them though, because WE wouldn’t want to spend our summers elsewhere either!!!!

4 manatee eating eelgrass in crystal river
three manatee swimming through eelgrass

Why do manatee love Crystal River?

The life of a manatee is pretty consistent.. they sleep, eat, and repeat!! Because of this, our eco system just perfect for them. For instance, we have lots of quiet secluded back country for these solitary animals to rest, plenty of fresh water for them to drink, and plenty of food here to feed their humongous appetite.

Manatee are always on the search for food. Manatee graze about 8 – 10 hours a day, consuming about 10 percent of their body weight daily. Weighing in at about 1500 pounds, your average manatee consumes about 150 pounds of grass a day!! That’s what we call a HEALTHY appetite!

In the summer months our aquatic vegetation is in full bloom and our manatee love it! Because they can stick around our waterways, they don’t have to work too hard to feast on their favorite foods. Thanks to a recent restoration project (look for that in our next blog) our grass beds are healthier than they have ever been. Not to mention, just off our coastline in the Gulf of Mexico, lies one of the most fertile grass beds left on the Florida Coastline.

Collectively, these conditions provide our manatee with a great summer home! Tourists and locals of Crystal River also benefit from the prime manatee viewing in Florida! Having a steady year round manatee population truly sets Crystal River apart from other places to see manatee in Florida.

The opportunity for the best manatee viewing is in Crystal River. This is truly a unique privilege, and ranks Crystal River as most deserving of its title as “Manatee Capital of the world.” Looking to meet a manatee? Book a manatee swim tour with Explorida today! 

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