Only 90 minutes from Orlando is a place called Crystal River. This little town was once a thriving fishing village, many years ago. Now it is known as the “Home of the Florida Manatee”. It’s that time of year when the Gulf of Mexico waters become to cold for manatees to survive. This leads to large numbers of manatees migrating into the river, bay and the fresh water springs of Crystal River.
Manatee tours in Florida are in full swing. Crystal River is a busy little town during the winter. People come from all of the world to swim with manatees. Many of them are vacationing in Orlando and set aside a day with the manatees, while they are here. Even though Crystal River is an easy drive from Orlando, many will spend the night in Crystal River, so they can take their time and be ready for their early morning tour.
Manatees are protected by State and Federal laws. It is illegal to harass a manatee in any way. Manatees have been on the endangered species list for many years, since the list was established in 1967. However, the US Fish & Wildlife agency dropped manatees from the endangered list and reclassified them as threatened species, just last year.
The total population of manatees has increased to between 7,000 and 10,000 manatees, the last two years of data has shown. Sadly though, the number of manatee deaths has risen as well. The manatees greatest enemies are speeding boaters and Red Tide. This year’s Red Tide was unusually brutal and so was it’s affect on the manatees. But overall, the net increase in manatees is a positive sign and hopefully this will continue for years to come.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Orlando, take a short drive to Crystal River and swim with manatees in the wild. It’s an amazing experience. One that you’ll never forget!