Swimming with Manatees

Mr Eric’s Underwater Adventures:
Swimming with Manatees

Hello everyone! A late welcome to 2020 to all. I hope the winter break treated everyone well. Further, I hope everyone got to do some adventuring during their time off. I got to visit family in Florida during my break and traveling to Florida means lots of swimming and diving! There was one adventure in particular that I was really looking forward to this trip. Swimming with Manatees!
Well before I get to talking about my particular trip let’s talk about the Florida Manatee first. The Manatee is an herbivorous sea mammal. They average 9.2 to 9.8 feet in length and weigh 880 to 1,210 pounds. Manatees were placed on the endangered species list in 1967 but were downgraded to “threatened” status in March of 2017. They are incredibly passive and use the natural springs in Florida to stay warm during the winter months. Florida springs are 72F all year round while the oceans can get much colder. Due to this migration, they are always at risk of being struck by boats. However, awareness and regulations have been very successful at bringing Manatees back to healthy population numbers.
With this success it is possible to visit these beautiful animals during their stay in Florida during the winter time. For people that had never swam with Manatees before, I strongly recommend going with a tour like I did. Tour guides know all the “good spots” that manatees are more likely to hang out. They also know how to properly interact with manatees so that everyone can have a safe and enjoyable time. For my tour they had everyone watch a video explaining the rules of manatee interaction then we took a short boat ride to several springs in Crystal River. Once we had found a manatee, everyone got in the water with a noodle. We were instructed to swim with only our hands and avoid splashing or touching the ground. A little unusual for me, SCUBA uses only kicks and No arm strokes! Manatees have excellent hearing and we did not want to scare her away with splashes! Standing or touching the ground stirs up the bottom and makes it harder for everyone to see underwater. Everyone had plenty of time to hang out with the manatee. She (yes, the guide said it was a she) came up from the bottom to check us out a few times but was otherwise more interested in resting than any of us. I got lots of good pictures and videos and had a really great time!
The whole time I was having my adventure I couldn’t help but think of how much fun my students would have doing this. The skills needed are super simple. Only the most basic level of swimming is needed. The water is clear, still and shallow. Remember, try not to touch the bottom though! The touring agency I used supplied the noodles so staying on top of the water required zero effort. The water temperature is 72F so a wetsuit is strongly recommended but can easily be rented through the touring agency. The snorkeling gear can also be rented very easily. I was very happy with the touring agency I used and will include a link to their website at the end of this blog. In short this is an excellent adventure that anyone with basic swimming skills can enjoy. So long as you are comfortable floating on your front, breathing through a snorkel, and very basic locomotion then you are good to go! I highly encourage anyone who gets the chance to do this, give it a try! It’s super easy and super fun!

Swim fast. Swim Safe!
Eric Wembacher
Making Waves Swimming Instructor

Resources and Pictures:
The video we watched: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=YP3Erf3Kc2Y&feature=emb_logo

Viewing Guidelines (in text): https://myfwc.com/education/wildlife/manatee/viewing-guidelines/

The Touring Agency / Shop I used: