Central Florida is known as the ‘Manatee Capital of the World’ and offers multiple ways to get up close and personal with these beloved marine animals. West Indian manatees are an incredible sight — some are nearly 13 feet long and can weigh up to 1,200 pounds.
From your home base at Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort in Orlando, you can easily set up a day trip to the Gulf Coast or Blue Spring State Park.
To swim with the manatees, head two hours west from Orlando to Florida’s Citrus County along the Gulf of Mexico. In summer months, you’ll likely spot dozens of manatees, while in the colder months their numbers jump into the hundreds. Crystal River and surrounding waters are rich with springs that pump warm water all the time.
Your best bet is to book a trip with a professional guide. Upon arrival, you’ll learn how to interact with manatees, so both you and these marine creatures will be safe. Then you’ll receive a wetsuit and snorkel gear, and maybe a noodle-like floating device, too, before boarding your boat.
Manatees are slow aquatic creatures and fun to observe in the wild. You’ll spot them about an hour north of the Orlando area on rivers, inlets, and other waterways. See clusters at a time in winter months at Blue Spring State Park, where a series of wooden platforms juts over the water to make sightseeing easy. From April through October, swim in the springs or go tubing, canoeing, snorkeling, fishing, and scuba diving. You can also take a narrated nature cruise.
Another way to experience the manatees is via kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Whether on your own or with a guide, grab an oar and work your way through pretty waterways until you reach an “aggregation” — the manatee term for a pod.
If paddling is your priority over manatee-spotting, consider renting your equipment on the scenic Chassahowitzka River or near the St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve with its mangrove islands instead.
The Crystal River area is also a prime spot for catching dinner. In summer, you can go scalloping in shallow Gulf waters or the Homosassa River. You can load up on a bunch of mollusks only 2 or 3 miles from shore, where they reside among the eelgrasses.
If you prefer fins to shells, try angling. There’s freshwater fishing in the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes, while the Homosassa and Crystal rivers are known for saltwater sportfishing.
Repost Courtesy of Vistana.com