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“Absolute best way to view the Manatees”

Sunshine River Tours - Crystal River Manatee Tours
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: We conduct manatee swim encounters in the three sisters,kings and and several other springs in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. We also rent pontoon boats and kayaks. We are located on the main spring on the water with plenty of free parking and the best view of Kings Bay.
Summerfield, Florida
Level Contributor
55 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
“Absolute best way to view the Manatees”
Reviewed October 10, 2013

This is the absolute best way to see and touch the manatees. You can even take the kids for an experience they will never forget. All gear is furnished and in excellent condition. You don't even need to know hot to swim. You just float on the surface and breath through a snorkel and look through a mask. You wear a wetsuit to keep you warm in the cold spring fed water. If you just lay still and don't scare them, and if you are really lucky, the manatees will come right up to you and you can actually pet them. They are huge and very friendly. The only thing I regret is that I didn't take an underwater camera, but I'm going back this winter and I will have one. For those of you that don't like the water, you can stay on the boat for awesome views too. You'll never regret this experience.

Visited December 2012
Thank Jerry H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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520 reviews from our community

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Port Republic, MD
Level Contributor
21 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Great Family Fun”
Reviewed September 16, 2013

We took of girls, and had a wonderful time. Saw several manatee, and went in an area to swim and explore plant life. This area was very neat, and good break. The guides did a good job.

Visited October 2012
Thank Jackie3668
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Abuja, Nigeria
Level Contributor
81 reviews
17 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
“Hunting the Wild Scallop Made Easy”
Reviewed September 7, 2013

During August into September, the State of Florida opens a select part of Florida for recreational scalloping. For $75, this company has boat operators take you to the place in Gulf where the little hard shell critters are just waiting to be picked up by YOU! The boats are small, about 4 to 6 customers, they supply the snorkels, fins, water and gatorade. The equipment is all new, and fins are essential to moving efficiently around the water. Most scallops are in about five feet of water. The couple operators that took us out were friendly and helpful, and cleaned the scallops, packing them into little quart bags for my wife and i, which is the legal limit of a pint of cleaned scallops per person. The time started at 9 and we went a bit over, returning about 3:00 PM. Since this is the only way to harvest Florida bay scallops, as commercial fishing is illegal, the number of people on these tours is really quite small, although local folks are everywhere. The Crystal River is the cleanest body of water I have seen anywhere in the world, but is under pressure as a lot of habitats. This is one attraction that should be on you short term must do list.

Visited September 2013
1 Thank Bob W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cedar Key
Level Contributor
150 reviews
32 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 88 helpful votes
“Fun Day Activity and Easy Drive from Cedar Key”
Reviewed September 3, 2013

Great place to really see the Manatees and learn how precious they are. Fun to watch them eat heads of lettuce under the fish bowl. The fish bowl is this awesome underground way to be one with the fish. What an awesome experience for all ages. We chose to take the boat tour and glad we did. A wonderful indoor gift shop and very interesting small indoor museum. A must visit attraction in my book. A great day trip from Cedar Key.

Visited August 2013
Thank FarawayInnCedarKey
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
“Exceeded our every expectation.”
Reviewed September 2, 2013

We booked our Manatee swim / tour with Sunshine River Tours. After reading the reviews which were mostly positive we decided to go for it. In our party were four people, my wife and I and our 17 year old daughter and 14 year old son. Our trip was in the second week in August and we had been told and read that at this time of year we may not see any Manatees but were willing to give it a try. We were staying in Davenport, Orlando so it was a bit of gamble as to make the 07:30 start we had to leave our villa at 5am for 2 hour plus drive to Crystal River. It was a gamble that well and truly paid off.
On arrival we met our captain for the the day, Ned. He was welcoming, polite and extremely knowledgeable. After explaining what we could expect and showing us a short dvd about the manatees and how to interact without scaring or haressing the manatee we changed into our wetsuits and boarded the boat. As the description for the trip stated it was 6 hours long we were expecting a longish boat ride prior to even any potential glimpse of a manatee. How wrong we were when after beng the aboard the boat for about 15 minutes and not even had a chance to start to take in the fantastic and tranquil scenery before Capt Ned stopped the boat and pointed out two manatee and told us to get into the water. The water was quite murky at this location due to it being fairly shallow and to actually swim into a manatee was a bit of a surprise!! Completely amazing but the visibility took the edge off the initial experience. This wasn't a reflection on Capt Ned just the way it was, this wasn't a pool or tank but a natural environment.
After a while we climbed back aboard the boat and at idle speed moved off around the various bays in search of more manatees. As we did this Capt Ned pointed out any thing of interest, any fish, turtles, birds, even houses and land marks. This all added to the experience. As we very slowly motored around Capt Ned spotted a female manatee with a calf swimming near by. After another explanation of the do's and don'ts of manatee interaction we entered the water quietly and slowly and hung in the water nearby the manatees. We were totally blown away when the calf swam right up to our faces and almost kissed each of us whilst we were watching them. It was a truly heart stopping and we spent 30 minutes laying in the water with the manatees swimming up to us and seeming to be as interested in us as we were in them. The young calf was playful and even rolled over on its back to have its stomach rubbed (gently).
When they had had enough and moved away to graze else where we let them go and climbed back aboard the board the boat. Once aboard we realised how lucky we had been and that we'd been very privileged to have such a fantastic encounter with these gentle animals we sat there taking in the scenery and explaining each other experience to ourselves. A truly wonderful experience.
After this Capt Ned suggested we motored over to somewhere called the Three Sisters Springs. This was a twenty or so minute trip during which we watched the sights on the river gently pass us by all whilst Capt Ned continued to engage us in a friendly and informative manner pointing out more wild life, birds etc.
When we arrived at the entrance to the springs which the boat wasn't allowed to enter Capt Ned pointed the way and told us to swim through the gap in the bank up the marked route and deliberately didn't explain what we should expect to see. What met us when we emerged into the spring area was one of the most amazing areas we had ever seen. Three springs in an area of between 200 to 300 metres apart with absolutely crystal clear water, tap clear. This was the natural version of sea worlds Discovery Cove and we were left speechless. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
On our return to the boat capt Ned could tell by the look on our faces that we were amazed. We swapped comments and he explained the history and nature around the area whilst we gently motored back to the pier. Just to top our day off we passed another two manatee on our way back and had a final chance to swim with these wonderful animals again.

Overall the whole day exceeded our wildest expectations, Capt Ned was an excellent host and although during our holiday we swam with dolphins at Discovery Cove, had the Beluga Whale experience at Seaworld this stood out as the highlight of a fantastic visit to Florida. Thank you Sunshine River Tours for a day which we'll remember as a truly fantastic family day out which will stay in our memories for a very long time.

Visited August 2013
Thank Portsmouth_Woods
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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