The large marine mammals known as manatees are one of the most popular attractions around Citrus County. It's almost impossible to go into a gift shop anywhere around here without seeing all different kinds of manatee-themed souvenirs.
Manatees are an endangered species that live in many protected areas throughout the Kings Bay, Crystal River, and Homosassa Springs areas. They are attracted to the warm waters of the area, especially in the winter. From November to April, Kings Bay (about 15 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills) is the home to the largest manatee population in the world.
Swimming With Manatees
The Crystal River and Kings Bay area is the only area in Florida where swimmers are allowed around manatees in a monitored environment, making this opportunity highly accessible for the Villages of Citrus Hills residents.
There are dozens of manatee tour companies nearby that can help make your dream of observing these beautiful sea mammals up-close come true.
But, there are quite a few rules that you should be aware of since manatees are an endangered species.
When first getting into the water, you will want to enter as quietly as possible without splashing. You will get the best results from swimming right at the surface level of the water and staying away from the floor.
To have the best possible experience swimming with manatees, you will need to practice what is referred to as “passive observation.” While you are in the water you will need to remain as still as possible, and you should always allow the manatees to discover and approach you, not the other way around.
You should allow the manatee to control the entire encounter. That means that you should never confront a manatee that is resting. It is also important to avoid any practice that could make the animal feel threatened, such as swimming after it, surrounding it with too many swimmers, or separating it from a group. It also goes without saying that you should never attempt to ride or grab a manatee.
Boating Near Manatees
Because there are so many manatees located in the waters throughout Citrus County, they can often be found in high traffic boating areas. For this reason, it is very important to observe all of the posted seasonal boating speed limits. When boating in any area, you will want to be alert for idle/no-wake zones, minimum wake zones, and 25 mph speed limit zones.
Many of the same rules that apply when swimming with manatees are also relevant to boaters. Always remember that you should be practicing passive observation. That means that you should never attempt to attract a manatee towards your boat, or attempt to give a manatee food or water.
You should also keep an eye out for manatees that may be resting at the bottom of the waterway you are boating on. Be careful to drop anchors slowly and make sure you aren’t running your propellers directly over manatees.
Observing Manatees from Dry Land
If swimming and boating with manatees is a bit much for you, you might want to try observing them from dry land at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. This will give you the opportunity to get close to these popular animals without having to worry about hurting them or getting wet!
Whether you prefer to interact with them from the water, a boat, or dry land, manatees are a beautiful and relaxing experience that is unique to the Citrus County area. There are many different ways to interact with these animals, and all of them can be great experiences as long as the animals are treated with respect!