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MANATEE - Swimming With the Manatees

Swimming With the Manatees - Crystal River

Florida manatee having a scratch from swimmers at Homosassa Springs, Florida

Crystal River offers several springs and areas to find and encounter the manatees - including a main spring which offers a nice SCUBA dive to the bottom of the 50 foot spring. Crystal River is a fifteen minute drive from Homosassa Springs. Crystal River features several Manatee Sanctuary areas which give the manatees a place to retreat from the boats and people when they want to rest or feed. You cannot enter these sanctuary areas under any circumstance. The newest sanctuary is at Three Sisters Springs. It was established in November 1997. Access to the three springs to swimmers is still provided and I recommend you snorkel back to the springs and enjoy the "lagoon-like" atmosphere.

A wetsuit is recommended. Follow all rules and laws associated with swimming with and boating around the manatees. This area is closely monitored by Fish and Wildlife Officials who will fine you or arrest you for harassing or harming the animals in any way. The best way to find and access this area is with an experienced guide - who will train and supervise you as to proper conduct when swimming around manatees, can provide you with snorkeling equipment, and can help make your experience an enjoyable and memorable one.

For more information on the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge, please visit their website on-line at: http://www.gorp.com/gorp/resource/us_nwr/fl_cryst.htm

Swimming With the Manatees - Homosassa Springs

Just outside the park, beyond the sanctuary markers which provide a buffer zone for wild manatees, is the publicly accessible area of the springs which attracts visitors from all over the world - who want to meet and swim with the gentle giants during the colder winter months.

The warm spring water spills into the much colder tannic water present in the canal - forming a very noticeable thermocline between the two. A wetsuit is recommended. Follow all rules and laws associated with swimming with the manatees. This area is closely monitored by Fish and Wildlife Officials who will fine you or arrest you for harassing or harming the animals in any way.

The best way to find and access this area is with an experienced guide - who will train and supervise you as to proper conduct when swimming around manatees, can provide you with snorkeling equipment, and can help make your experience an enjoyable and memorable one. The best time to visit the spring is in colder winter months, as many manatees gather here to keep warm.

For more information on supporting rescue efforts or adopting a manatee please contact Save The Manatee® - visit their adopt-a-manatee website on-line at: http://www.savethemanatee.com/

Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park

http://www.homosassasprings.org

Homosassa Springs Wildlife park is a refuge where injured or orphaned manatees which have received treatment at a critical care facility are housed, fed, and cared for - until released or for the rest of their lives, depending on whether or not the animal is expected to be able to re-acclimate itself to life in the wild.

The park centers around a large freshwater spring which is the headwater for the Homosassa River - flowing about 2 million gallons of 72-degree spring water every hour. The springs constant temperature attracts manatees during the colder winter months to the springs area. Wild manatees are separated from the parks manatees by a special fence which spans the width of the flow several hundred feet from the main spring.

The park features a floating observatory which enables you to get "up-close" with the swimming manatees - with windows to allow you to see them feeding, playing and cavorting in the warm spring waters. The spring's clear warm water also attracts a number of other native fishes, which gather in large circling schools above the springs outlet - and can easily be seen from the observatory. The manatees at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park are fed a variety of greens and vitamins to simulate their normal diet of sea grasses and vegetation. To feed a single manatee can cost in excess of $1000.00 per month in lettuce and greens. Currently there are 9 manatees at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park.

Besides the main-attraction manatees, the park also showcases other native Florida wildlife - including alligators, crocodiles, native birds, and many other animals - all in a beautiful, natural setting which makes a visit to the park more than a fantastic manatee experience. For more information on the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, please contact them a 352-628-2311 - or - visit their website on-line at: http://www.homosassasprings.org

Call the Wildlife Alert Hotline 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC/#FWC, or use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio if you see an injured, dead, tagged, or orphaned manatee, or if you see a manatee being harassed.
Selected by Science Educators from NSTA Sirenian International
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