Curious Manatee comes up close for a photo.

Who are The True Friends of Manatees?

Swimming with Manatees has become increasingly popular over the last decade. This bucket list experience has garnered worldwide attention through social media and travel blogs globally.

With the good, comes the bad. We realize that as we increase in popularity, what we do has become controversial. Rather than argue with those that misinform, we instead strive to educate the open minded. This is the perfect opportunity to explain the importance in what we do.

Here are just a few of the things we want you to know about the ‘Manatee Industry’, straight from those of us who know it best.

healthy manatee grazes healthy eelgrass beds in crystal river.
snorkeler passively observes manatee in Crystal Florida.
In Citrus County, swimming with manatees is more than just a bucket-list experience that hundreds of thousands travel for yearly, it is our way of life
people protect what they love.

People who work with Manatees, LOVE Manatees

Local waterways are at the heart of how many local families earn a living, but we could have chosen many different pursuits! We work with manatees because we love them! Seeing them in their natural habitat stirs our souls in a way that we wish to share with the world, and that is why we do what we do. We are able to share our passion through education and life-changing up-close encounters.

Swimming alongside our manatees daily, allows us to monitor them closely. We utilize our one on one relationships with our local USFWS officers to respond to manatees in need. We are usually the first to recognize a sick or injured manatee, and we monitor their health. If they need to be rescued and rehabilitated, it is often us that make the call. When they need strong backs to assist with rescue or release, we are there. We work hard daily to ensure a bright future for these majestic beasts!

Manatees are Dying in Record Numbers, But NOT in Crystal River

This one is very important. We have the world’s healthiest manatee population and one of the best-kept habitats for their survival in the wild. Working with dozens of partners like ‘USFWS’, ‘Friends of Crystal River’, ‘One Rake at a Time‘, and ‘Save Crystal River‘, the Manatee Industry commits itself to improving our waterways for these beloved creatures.

A record number of sea cows died in 2021 (over 1,100) with most of those deaths attributed to habitat loss and lack of food sources in their wintering ranges. With our cooperation and continued efforts, this has not been and will not be a problem in Citrus County anytime in the near future!

Healthy Manatee grazes Healthy Eelgrassbeds in Crystal river. WWW.EXPLORIDA.COM

Guardian Guides: The Presence of Manatee Tour Operators on the Water Creates a Safer Environment for Humans AND Manatees

The presence of entities in Kings Bay that can enforce laws is slim most days and non-existent on others. We strive to fill that gap on one of the busiest, most regulated bodies of water in the entire state of Florida. People from all over the world visit our area to swim with manatees. While our industry captures and educates the better percentage of people entering our waters, the remaining percentage braves our waterways independently. We will never stop the crowds, so we work together to manage them!

We serve as the stewards of the bay, and police of these waterways. Leading by example is just not enough. We educate, correct, and insist that others act with respect towards our manatee population. Without our presence on the waterways, there is little oversight and no proper example of how to passively observe these gentle giants. The ‘Manatee Industry’ is NOT the problem, on the contrary, we pledge to be a part of the solution!

We Strive to Educate and Inspire

Awareness is the key to combating most environmental issues. Manatee Eco-Tourism provides us the platform to educate by connecting with nature. We inform the public in a fun dynamic that encourages an understanding and deep respect for these animals.

We build awareness of the Florida manatee while uncovering its threats, and teach the ways to protect and preserve the population. As we educate our guests through experience, we inspire other communities to model our restoration projects and care more for these delicate habitats. Preserving our natural resources benefits our wildlife and future generations to come!

Like with any Industry There are the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Simply put, we are NOT all created equal. Manatee Eco-Tourism Companies Should be properly permitted by US Fish and Wildlife, the City of Crystal River, and the US Coast Guard. Sure, some businesses fly under the radar, but that’s why it’s important to do your research when choosing a tour. Read customer reviews on Trip Advisor, Yelp or Google. Make a few calls, and never be afraid to ask difficult questions. Any operator that can not answer your inquires with confidence and kindness may not be the right fit.

Most Responsible Operators Strive to Consistently Improve Industry Standards to Ensure the Sustainability of What We Do

Manatees need our protection and we consider being on the front line of this battle a great honor and responsibility. Upon selecting a reputable tour operator, you will leave with an understanding our unusual and passionate way of life. 

Come and see for yourself how an up-close manatee encounter will inspire you, and become a true friend of manatees.

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