The manatees are back in Crystal River, Florida, offering a treat for anyone cruising on the Gulf Coast. The peak season is from now through February when as may as 600 manatees migrate there for the warm water, and Crystal River has more than 45 permitted guides who can help you enjoy them there. Crystal River, which calls itself the manatee capital of the world, is the only place in Florida where it’s legal to swim with the gentle sea cows.
Crystal River is about 70 miles north of Tampa, on a seven-mile long waterway that connects Kings Bay with the Gulf of Mexico; it has more than 30 underground hot springs. Just a bit south, Homosassa is an old Florida fishing town, with its own springs. Together, the two spots hold the largest gathering of manatees in North America.
The manatees are attracted to the springs, where the water is about 72 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the winter when the waters in the Gulf get colder.
Adult manatees weigh from 800 to 1,200 pounds and are about ten feet long. They swim just below the surface, at speeds from 3 to 5 mph, although they can hit 20 mph for a (very) brief period of time. They prefer shallow water where they an eat seagrass, mangrove leaves and algae, and they eat up to ten percent of their body weight every day.
They have to surface every three to five minutes to breath, and about every 15 minutes when they’re sleeping. They can live to be 50 or 60 years old.
The closest living relatives to elephants, manatees have no natural predators, but they are very prone to boat collisions. Indeed, more than 100 are killed by boats a year. The manatee population now stands at 7,520 in Florida.
If you’re going to Crystal River or Homosassa for the manatees, you’ll find much more to do, including fishing, paddle boarding, diving and general water sports. In Homosassa, you can descend underwater in a fishbowl-type observatory, for example, or go hiking in a local state park, where you can encounter Florida panthers, black bears, red wolves, alligators and flamingos.
Read more at http://discovercrystalriverfl.com and see the video below: