On my way down from Tallahassee tot St. Petersburg I noticed the roadside billboards for swimming with the manatees. I've been travelling to Florida for more than 20 years but never had the luck to spot a manatee in the wild.
We stayed at Waterside at Coquina Key in St. Petersburg and right in front of our condo I spotted a manatee and now I was really triggered to look into the swimming with manatees. Based on the great reviews here I decided to contact Manatees in Paradise and got a very quick mailresponse from capt. Stacy. I was lucky to find two (cancelled) open spots on a semiprivate tour for the day after. She mailed me exact directions, taking into account the roadwork near the pickup location.
We started at 8 AM sharp (after a two hour drive for us) and got teh instant feeling that some friend or relative was taking us on her boat. There were only four people (a young British couple, my son and I) on our tour, so it felt like a private tour.
Capt. Stacy gave us all the background information you can think of and carefully explained the process of finding the manatees. She made the effort to put down the top of the boat so we could go under the low bridge leading to Three Sisters. It was high high tide so most boats weren't able to pass under the brigde. It was very quiet at three sisters and we enjoyed the fantastic clear waters!
On our way to the springs we spotted turtles, a watersnake and our first manatees. The manatees were clearly migrating at moderate speed so capt. Stacy didn't make the stop for swimming. On our way back we got lucky. In the middle of the bay we found 5 manatees who were friendly enough to stay with us. One even rolled under our boat while grabbing the boat with his (or her?) fin. After interacting with them for some time we went to another spot cloaser to the marina were found some more manatees. Quick into the water for some more swimming.
After a last visit to one of the deeper freshwater springs we returned to the marina after almost four (!) hours.
This was absolutely one of the best things I ever did in my life and capt Stacy was absolutely the best guide I can think off. She really cares for the manatees but is still continue working to give you the best experience possible, carefully guiding you while in the water. A 3-hour tour worked out to be 4 hour, just because it turned out that way. As a bonus she's taking pictures all the time and sends you the pictures by mail, absolutely for free!!
I hope to return to Crystal River some day in the winter and will not hesitate to contact capt. Stacy immediately!
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