People come from all over the world to see the manatees in Citrus County. This is one of, if not the only, place in the country where you can actually get in the water and swim with the manatees. The local City of Crystal River is known throughout the world as a place to see and swim with the manatees. The small city surrounds Kings Bay, the spring-fed headwaters of the Crystal River.
Hundreds of manatees flee the frigid waters of the Gulf of Mexico during the winters months and spend this time in and around the many freshwater springs to keep warm and alive. Manatees feed on aquatic plants. They are very curious and playful by nature. If you’re interested in visiting the area and seeing the manatees, the best way to do it is to book a tour with a local manatee tour operator. They take you to the manatees and provide the masks, snorkels and fins for you to get into the water and swim with them. Contact one of the local manatee tours mentioned on this website or visit the Crystal River Manatee Tours page.
The Florida Manatee is a large marine mammal that lives in the tropical and sub-tropical waters of the southeastern United Sates, particularly springs, rivers and coastal waters of the state of Florida. Manatees are fully aquatic, very gentle and slow moving. They are herbivorous and are know to eat over 60 different species of plants.
The Florida manatee and the Antillean manatee are the two sub-species of the West Indian manatee. Florida manatees are found in the waters of the southeastern United States while the Antillean manatees range from Mexico down to Brazil.
Manatees are well represented in Florida’s fossil record. Their remains date back to prehistoric times and they are one of the more common vertebrate fossils known from ancient marine deposits.
The early colonists were quick to appreciate the intrinsic value of the species and described how the natives once hunted manatees.
In 1893, the state of Florida passed legislation that prohibited killing manatees. The West Indian manatee, including both the Florida and Antillean sub-species, were further protected in 1972 and 1973 with both the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Florida further protected the Florida manatee through state endangered species legislation and eventually through the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act in 1978.