Tours and Tickets
Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour
5
LIKELY TO SELL OUT*

Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour

By River Ventures
Recommended by 99% of travelers
This number is based on the percentage of all Tripadvisor reviews for this product that have a bubble rating of 4 or higher
On this quintessential Florida adventure, you'll observe the endangered West Indian Manatee in Florida’s Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Cruise the Crystal River in a luxury pontoon boat that is fully enclosed and heated during winter (the best time to see the manatees). This small-group experience is designed to view the animals without disturbing them. Plus, if manatees are spotted, you'll slip on your fins and snorkel and swim alongside them. 
from
$101.38
per adult
from
$101.38
per adult

Lowest price guaranteeReserve now & pay laterFree cancellation

Ages 3-99, max of 6 per group
Duration:
3h
Start time: Check availability
Ticket type:
Mobile
English

Highlights
  • See and swim with manatees if they're spotted
  • Ride in a luxury pontoon boat that's heated in winter 
  • Fully narrated tour reveals little-known info 
  • A small group ensures personalized attention

  • Use of equipment (mask, snorkel gear and wet suit)
  • Beverages (bottled water, coffee, hot chocolate, tea and adult)
  • Professional guide
  • Introductory/instructional video offered in English, French, German, Japanese, or Spanish
What's not included
  • Gratuities
  • Food and beverages (unless otherwise specified)
  • Photo DVD (available to purchase)
  • Towel and swimsuit

Make your own way to a designated meeting point,  where your Coast Guard Certified Master Captain will share the itinerary and go over rules for snorkeling with the manatees. Slip on a wetsuit and board a covered pontoon boat (in the winter, it’s fully enclosed and heated). As you slowly enter into the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, keep an eye out for birds, fish, and other wildlife who call the area home. If manatees are spotted, you can slip into the water with them, staying at a respectful distance all the while. The best time to see the manatees is in the winter when they cluster in the warmer upstream waters of the reserve. An underwater photographer snaps shots throughout the day, and you can purchase photos or DVDs of your experience once back at the Manatee Center.

Departure details
  • 498 SE Kings Bay Dr, Crystal River, FL 34429, USA
Return details
  • Returns to original departure point

  • Not wheelchair accessible
If you have questions about accessibility, we’d be happy to help. Just call the number below and reference the product code: 7336P13

  • Confirmation will be received at time of booking
  • Adult pricing applies to all travelers
  • Children must be accompanied by an adult
  • Wetsuits are available in sizes from toddlers (2 years old and up) to adults up to 5X
  • It is advised that you have your swimsuit on underneath your clothes for a quicker check-in
  • Please bring a towel and a plastic bag to hold your belongings
  • No heart problems or other serious medical conditions
  • Children Under 3 years old are not allowed on this tour. Please call for other options.
  • Most travelers can participate
  • Post COVID-19 Policy- We are mindful to thoroughly clean water vehicles between visitors.
  • This experience requires good weather. If it’s canceled due to poor weather, you’ll be offered a different date or a full refund
  • This experience requires a minimum number of travelers. If it’s canceled because the minimum isn’t met, you’ll be offered a different date/experience or a full refund
  • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 6 travelers

  • For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience.

What you can expect during your visit
  • Regularly sanitized high-traffic areas
  • Guides required to regularly wash hands
  • Hand sanitizer available to travelers and staff
  • Transportation vehicles regularly sanitized
  • Gear/equipment sanitized between use
  • Social distancing enforced throughout experience
  • Safety precautions are provided by the property and are not checked by Tripadvisor for accuracy.

How much is Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour?
Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour price starts from $101.38. Discover and book Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour on Tripadvisor
What is the Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour cancellation policy?
Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour cancellation policy: For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience. Discover and book Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour on Tripadvisor
Which company provides Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour?
Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour is hosted by River Ventures. Read reviews, discover additonal experiences or contact River Ventures on Tripadvisor. Discover and book Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour on Tripadvisor
How much time do I need for Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour?
On average, this experience will take approximately 3h. Discover and book Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour on Tripadvisor

If you have questions about this tour or need help making your booking, we’d be happy to help. Just call the number below and reference the product code: 7336P13

About the operator

Don’t take it from us – here’s what people have to say about this operator.

absolut_thomas
absolut_thomas
00
Best experience possible!
Great Tour! The crew (Marissa & Irish Dave) were fantastic. Very friendly, knowledgeable and have managed to find u
Getaway68574756871
Getaway68574756871
00
1000/10 recommend booking!!!
We did a private manatee tour for a bachelorette activity. It was awesome 1000/10 experience! We got to see four ma
Jay1980
Jay1980
00
Simply exquisite
Simply put, go with these guys! The moment you walk in you get looked after! All the staff are so friendly and chat
H2886MPsusanj
H2886MPsusanj
00
Worth every penny
The crew was amazing. It started to rain all other tour boats went in. We headed in and sat for a bit to see if it
tammyaZ8897PS
tammyaZ8897PS
00
Scallop and Manatee tour
We had Irish Dave and Ryan as our guides. They were awesome and very knowledgeable. The scallops were not plentiful
sairajayn
sairajayn
00
Incredible experience with Shanna and Tanner!
My family and I came from England to swim with manatees. We had Captain Tanner and tour guide Shanna. Despite the r
mabelschenk
mabelschenk
00
Great
We had the best time with captain Wade and tour guide Sara!!! Would recommend to everyone! We got an upgrate to the
750janesj
750janesj
00
Floaty potato tour
We participated in this tour not during manatee season but we still managed to see 5-6 manatees. Courtney made ever
E4879LQmarys
E4879LQmarys
00
Fun with Manatees!
Sara and Emerson where fantastic!! They truly are the best and this tour is a must if you are in the area!! They
sharoncK5643TK
sharoncK5643TK
00
Once in a lifetime experience
Our swim with the manatees was just breathtaking and awesome. Our Captain was Kelly and our swim guide was Shana. T
Sherpa307986
Sherpa307986
00
Floaty potatoes
Sara and Emerson were awesome. Sara was very knowledgeable about the Manatees and shared some interesting and amusi
undersiegeenterprise
undersiegeenterprise
00
An absolutley amazing experience!
I had an absolutely wonderful experience on the manatee tour. We had Captain Emerson and Guide JoJo. The whole ex
Vinsonbar
Vinsonbar
00
A life long dream come true.
Although not "manatee season" the crew was very persistent on finding manatees for us to see. The first one swam a
H8885ELsusannes
H8885ELsusannes
00
Fantastic experience
We took the 10am tour in August, not manatee season, but we hoped to see some anyway and we were not disappointed!
Brent K
Brent K
00
Father-Daughter experience " Dad, I loved this way more than the theme parks!" :)
We couldn't have asked for more! We went on a father-daughter (12 yrs old) trip in August of '22. Smiles for days!
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
Popular mentions

5.0
543 reviews
Excellent
533
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5
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Lesley49022
Charlotte, NC103 contributions
Do not hesitate to book this excursion! The cost difference between the regular Pontoon and the "Pontoon of Luxury" is minimal and the experience so much greater. (limit to 6 snorkelers, heated boat, snacks and drinks) Captain Troy & Paige are THE BEST. Troy has so much experience and brought us to the right places at the right time in order to view as many Manatees as we could. Paige is amazing - she is committed to making sure everyone has a great time and gets as much out of the experience as possible. I was very unsure about snorkeling and the shallow water, but Paige gently encouraged me and I did it! So thankful. The pictures were amazing, as was the entire experience on Benny the Pontoon. We will be back with Capt. Troy & Paige on Benny the next time we are in Crystal River. :-)
Written February 24, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Bro Jack
Tucson, AZ1 contribution
We had an excellent day swimming with the manatees with our guide Courtney, our boat captain Troy and were accompanied by Jaylynn who was escaping from the office. This is the second time we have gone out with this company and both times the trips have been excellent and totally different experiences. The first time we went about three years ago, the weather was cold and we saw a lot of manatees grouped up at the warmer springs. Today, the weather was warm so the manatees were not together and harder to fine. Our captain, Troy, was able to spot manatees well and was able to put us in the water right next to grazing manatees in two different spots. We were lucky that one of the spots had a mom and baby grazing together. Our guide Courtney (with a bonus of Jaylynn) were very helpful in keeping us in prime swimming spots to be able to see the manatees as well as other life like fish and crabs. A great day, great crew and great experience! Thanks!
Written February 24, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Happy Traveler
Spring Hill, FL1 contribution
We had the most AMAZING experience with this tour group! They are extremely professional and nice. We enjoyed the educational part before moving onto the tour. All of the employees really know the business and love these wild animals! They were helpful from the booking of the tour, the fitting of our wet suits, right down to how to get in and out of the boat!

Our tour guide Paige and our boat captain Peter knew exactly where to go and spotted manatee almost immediately out of the dock. We were lucky enough to see a manatee nursing her baby very first thing! Next we came upon a group of about 15 manatee(very rare for summer time). We got out and swam there with them for more than 30mins. Paige guided us and helped us be calm when the manatee touched us. You as a human are not supposed to touch them so we were REALLY nervous when they nudge us as they swam by.

During the tour Capt. Peter educated us about the natural species of algae that had over grown and how the community is changing this to help the wildlife to grow more eel grass . We then went to Jurassic spring. That was the clearest water we have ever snorkeled in! Even better than Hawaii! There we encounter another mother nursing her baby and a few other fish!

It was definitely the experience of a lifetime!!! It is worth it! I would have paid triple for this tour knowing what I know now! You can’t go wrong this this company!
Written June 14, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Rodger M
Utila37 contributions
This was our second visit with River Ventures and our 2nd VIP Tour. We rated our 1st experience as a 5 star event and I am being generous to rate this experience a 2.

First off, we had specifically requested the same captain and guide as we had last October. Had the company let us know they would not be available we would have tried to find them and gone out with whatever company they worked for.

We requested 5 ml wet suits (we used them on our October tour) and our guide gave us 3 ml suits and said they would be fine: They weren't. We KNOW they had 5 ml suits and her refusal to give them to us ruined our experience. My wife was only able to remain in the water about 10 minutes and I was only able to make it less than 20 minutes. We are currently living in South Florida and 12 years before that in the Caribbean and have very thin blood and even though the water was 72 degrees that is quite cold for us. This alone ruined our experience.

We paid extra for an enclosed boat with a heated interior. The Captain only lit the heater when we got out of the water. Air temp was 31 F. The heater should have been on before we even got on the boat to insure even a semi-warm interior upon returning from the water.

My wife and I are experienced Whale Shark Tour Guides and fully agree with the Rules and Regulations with regards to wild animal tours put forth by the Fish and Game Department and the video which we watched before going on both tours.

On this, our 2nd trip, the Tour Guide broke several rules and encouraged guests to do likewise. We were horrified! What a terrible example! That did NOT happen on our first tour our we would never have returned to this company for a second trip.

The worse thing for us was that we had invited another couple to join us this time and it was worse than embarrassing.

On a positive note, the boat captain was very professional and handled all other functions perectly.

I am quite sure if I sent the pictures we purchased of this trip to the Florida Dept of Fish and Game the Guide would be sited for violations.

Most people probably wouldn't care but as Conservationists, especially worries about our oceans and all the creatures that live there, this greatly saddens us.
Written January 25, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Hey Rodger, I'm sorry you were disappointed with your tour and the experience you had on your second visit. I believe you went out with Troy and Paige and did request them, they were both on the schedule and they both called out sick. Per your request note, "We are requesting that we have Troy and Paige as our "Team". We just had a really fun time with them. If they are not available we certainly understand!" we assumed you'd be happy with another team, our apologies for not communicating this to you ahead of time. We attempt to fulfill every request, but sometimes it's just not doable. Our apologies on the heater, it's always tough on the coldest days of the year. I will make sure all captains start the heater earlier. In regards to the violations, I did review the photos and do not see any obvious violations. But, I would like to discuss this further with you as I am not on the water every tour. We are conservations, and always want to ensure we're sharing these magical animals in a way thats safe for them. Please email me at erin@riverventures.com or call 352-564-8687 Wed-Sunday and request to speak to Erin to discuss further so we can use this as a learning experience.
Written January 25, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

auggiesmom
Winston Salem, NC122 contributions
We enjoyed a semi private pontoon boat manatee snorkeling tour with River Ventures. Our tour started at 6:45 am. We had a short orientation and then were given wetsuits to change into. These did not include water socks or shoes and I will I had remembered to bring water shoes as my feet got quite cold. The air temp was a brisk 45 degrees, but the water temp is a constant 74 degrees. There were 5 people on our boat plus the captain and tour guide. Our captain was Emerson and our tour guide was Gloria. They did an excellent job providing much interesting information about the manatees and the Crystal River. Gloria was very accommodating to our needs as two of our group got cold and needed to return to the boat but the rest of us were allowed to stay and enjoy the manatees. The water was very murky as there were many other boats and snorkelers in the area but that is not anything that River Ventures could control. Emerson took us to 3 different areas to snorkel and we enjoyed seeing manatees at 2 of the 3 areas. The pontoon boat is indeed enclosed with plastic that helps to protect you from the wind but I strongly advise you take a heavy jacket or sweatshirt and a beach towel for when you get out of the water if you go during the colder months. I highly recommend River Venture tours as a company for snorkeling with the manatees and I would ask for Emerson and Gloria as my crew!
Written February 3, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

3dcajun
1 contribution
It was peaceful & enjoyable experience floating alongside those gentle Manatees. Even my wife, who has always been extremely nervous about being in the water with anything bigger than a 1 inch minnow had a great time. She was able to totally relax and enjoy the experience in the water with those gentle giants! When my wife first got in, she firmly gripped the side of the boat & told Lindsey Ray that she couldn't do this. However Linsey stayed right next to her while calmly & slowly encouraging her till she found herself floating with a Mommy manatee and her calf! It was wonderful to see my wife overcome her fear!
Written July 26, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

eliz322
New Orleans, LA42 contributions
I would highly recommend going on this tour w/ River Ventures! Our guides (Sky & Chip) were awesome! They took us to a spot with lots of manatees and they took tons of photos/videos. You can purchase all of the photos/videos for about $30. They were very knowledgeable about the area and local wildlife and very friendly. I would definitely book them again! I would recommend the early (6:45am) trip as they said it gets crowded later in the day. We had no problems with crowds on the early tour.
Written February 2, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Sharondelvuk
Vilano Beach, FL148 contributions
What a wonderful experience! Though August is not the ideal time of year to see manatee, we did! From the initial phone call to make reservations, to ordering the photos taken on the trip and everything in between, the staff was delightful. The instructional video was very informative, coached people/parents/kids of what to expect and how to behave in the water. The changing rooms to get into wetsuits were clean, they offered to keep keys safely at the shop so they didn’t get wet. Roomy van to transport you on a very short drive to the marina to board the pontoon boat. Our trip was scheduled for 06:30, pretty early for vacation, but so worth waking up early! Captain Mike and guide JJ were so gracious and informative. Coffee, hot chocolate ( mixed half and half for a Mike u ccino), soft drinks, water, beer, wine and snacks. Masks and snorkels are provided, we brought our own, no fins needed. Manatee were spotted right away, a female with some younger males hanging around. Such quiet, gentle animals; felt so privileged to be floating next to them. We also went to Jurassic Springs and then back in Kings Bay to swim with the Tarpon and manatee again. I would highly recommend the little extra money to be in a smaller group on the VIP tour, we were a group of six. Quick in and out of the water between locations, didn’t feel like you were crowding each other or the manatee. Such FUN!
Written August 21, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you so much for this glowing feedback! So many good points here that others can glean great info from! Sounds like you had a super day (probably a little luck involved) but having awesome crew like Mike and JJ can make a huge difference! Come see us again if you get the chance, until then we wish you and your family all the best for Peace, Love and Manatees!
Written August 22, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Tyler C
Jacksonville, FL1 contribution
Couples
Troy and Paige were simply the best possible tour guides you could ask for with a trip like this. They were cool to hang out with, and they’re very well informed on secret spots to find manatees. I will be coming back and specifically request the two of them if at all possible. It is worth the few extra bucks to do the semi private small group tour as well. More chances for pictures one on one with manatees, and you really have a more personal experience. I could not be happier with my experience with River Ventures.
Written February 12, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Thorsten L
1 contribution
Family
It was a great experience! We had great respect for the large, peaceful animals, but Marissa and Shellie got us in the right mood and understood that we were enjoying watching the manatees in the water. It was fantastic.
Thank you to everyone who works to protect these rare animals
Written June 8, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour | Crystal River, FL