To kayak with manatees in Florida can be the experience of a lifetime. Manatees, also known as water cows, are super cute water animals. Much like dolphins, manatees are friendly and intelligent creatures. Despite their size, they are graceful herbivores who can be very loveable and gentle.
So do you want to kayak with the manatees? Kayaking in Florida offers a lot of fantastic spots to do just that. Keep reading to find out more..
Kayak with Manatees in Florida: The Do's and Don'ts
Before we dive into all the places available to kayak in Florida with Manatees, let us first look at the etiquette these beautiful creatures should be honored with.
When kayaking with manatees, don’t go too near them or try to pat them. It’s not good for them to become accustomed to human touch and lose their sense of fear. The latter is necessary to keep them safe from boats, boat propellers, and any other harmful man made objects.
Manatees are protected by Florida state law under the Endangered Species Act so there are a many things that you are forbidden to do around them.
- Feed the manatees
- Pet them
- Touch them
- Molest or harm them in any way
- Pursue them
- Sneak up on them
- Initiate contact
- Try to ride them or put a child on them (seems like an obvious one but you’d be surprised to know how many people have tried just that!)
These are some rules set for the protection of the manatees. We must follow them for their benefit and help them enjoy a safe and secure living space while simultaneously enjoying their lovely company.
Do not kayak directly over the top of a manatee because the boat or the paddle can end up hurting it. Instead, paddle away slightly so as not to disturb them.
Observe the manatees quietly and calmly from a distance. Keep your speed slow, there is no rush. Calm waters are far better for observing too. Being friendly creatures, one might even come up and approach you itself! Consider yourself very lucky if that happens.
If you see a manatee while swimming or paddling, remain calm. Don’t yell, scream, or splash the water at the manatee because you may end up scaring it away.
Keep the spring you’re kayaking in clean. It should go without saying, don’t leave any litter in the area behind. Remember that you are visiting the manatees home.
Swimming or kayaking with manatees is a unique pleasurable experience, one that we definitely recommend. Make sure you follow the above-mentioned guidelines so that it remains a pleasurable experience for the manatees too.
7 Best Locations to Kayak with Manatees in Florida
Now that we are familiar with the dos and don’ts of kayaking with manatees, let us explore the seven best places to kayak in Florida with the manatees.
1. Kayaking with Manatees at Silver Springs
Silver Springs is an ideal spot for kayaking with the manatees. You will have the company of manatees in the waters, and monkeys in the trees around you!
Silver Springs is the only place you can kayak with both monkeys and manatees. The clear waters make it very easy to observe the graceful manatees. What’s better, there are five miles of waterways that are protected. This means it will not get crowded during peak seasons and will have room to accommodate more guests.
You will get to see a lot of manatees, especially in the winter months when they like the warmth that the springs offer. They are more likely to swim out in the open waters in the warmer months, but you will still be able to spot quite a few.
Get Up and Go Kayaking offers glass-bottomed kayaks for rent. These will give you better access to the waters and you can observe the Silver Spring manatees much easier.
2. Kayaking with Manatees at Crystal River
The refreshing clear turquoise waters of the Crystal River coupled with the jade trees all around are a treat for the eyes. The crystal clear water here means you will have a first-rate view of the manatees. Not only will you be able to observe them better, but kayaking with manatees will be a lot easier as well.
The springs of Crystal River are crowded with manatees, especially in winters when they migrate to the warm waters of the springs. At times, if there are too many manatees in the water space, the area may get closed off. In that case, always find out beforehand if the area is open for kayaking or not.
However, during peak months, kayaking is completely halted in the springs to maintain the safety of the manatees.
Since Crystal River has 60+ springs, it can become the host to as many as 800 manatees! It is also one of the few places where you can go swimming with the manatees.
All in all, Crystal River has a lot to offer. If you are looking for a peaceful, pleasurable experience of kayaking with manatees with crystal clear water and breath taking scenery, this is the place to go!
There are many Crystal River kayaking tours available. We recommend the ones with clear kayaks.
3. Kayaking at Manatee Park in Fort Myers
The Manatee Park in Fort Myers is great for both; the manatees themselves and people who want to go see them. The warm waters give refuge to manatees during the colder months when the open water of the seas is brutal.
What is unique about this place is that the park does not have naturally warm springs. Rather, the water is discharged by a nearby power plant.
The water here is not as clear as spring waters, so spotting a manatee can sometimes be difficult. The best time to visit this to observe manatees or kayak with them is during the colder, winter months from November to February. You could still find some at other times of the year.
Not just a place to kayak in Florida, Fort Myers has a lot of other interesting activities too. Educational exhibits, butterfly gardens, nature trails, ethnobotany trails, playgrounds, etc. There are informational videos about manatees as well as sessions by manatee experts. The best thing? The park is completely free to enter!
As for kayaks, you can rent one from Manatee Park Kayak Rentals. They have single or tandem kayaks for $41 – $62 for 2-3 hours. You could even bring your own kayak.
4. Kayaking at Blue Springs
The clear water of Blue Springs, north of Orlando, makes it very easy for you to spot a manatee. The warm waters are inviting for the manatees who prefer these springs especially when it is cold. It is estimated that as many as 500 manatees stop by the springs.
In the summer months, the manatees are known to frequent the area to give birth and nurse their calves which means you may get to see them during the off-season too.
Other than enjoying kayaking with a manatee, Blue Springs also has beautiful wildlife to see such as the fish, alligators, water birds, wild turkeys, bald eagles, and even alligators.
5. Kayaking in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Manatees love the warm waters of Weeki Wachee Springs, which can get as warm as 72F. So you can expect a lot of manatees when kayaking Weeki Wachee Springs.
This place is a favorite amongst manatees who love the deep freshwater caves. Be careful when kayaking in the dark, there’s sure to be a manatee hiding somewhere among the underground springs!
Although manatees are everywhere at Weeki Wachee Springs, you are most likely to find them upstream. This spot has become quite popular for kayaking, so be prepared for a crowd.
If you’re looking for something a little different from kayaking why not have a look at the Weeki Wachee Mermaid show. See the world-famous Mermaids as they perform their version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid live in a submerged 400-seat auditorium.
6. Kayaking at Ichetucknee Springs
The Ichetucknee Springs State Park has one of the best spots for kayaking. The clear aquamarine waters and the gentleness of the river are a treat in themselves.
Though it is fed by nine springs, the river is quite calm and proves itself as a good spot for kayaking.
The number of manatees at this site is less compared to all the other spots to kayak with the manatees in Florida. During summers, the number dwindles to one or two manatees, if you are lucky. In winter you stand a better chance of encountering a manatee at the Ichetucknee Springs State Park.
A stones throw away you will find Ichetucknee Family Canoe & Cabins who have a camping ground with overnight cabins and kayak/canoe hire.
7. Kayaking with Manatees at Manatee Springs State Park
The Manatee Springs State Park has a lot to offer in addition to kayaking. Manatees adore the warm water of the springs so they will be very easy to spot. If you don’t want to go kayaking, you can easily observe the manatees from the 800-foot boardwalk. Since it’s huge, it has room for a lot of people, so you don’t need to worry about it getting crowded. Costing around $6 per vehicle to enter, the State Park also offers a picnic area with grills and tables.
Another interesting activity to do here is to go scuba diving. There are underwater caves in the springs that make them a favorite amongst divers. There are also miles of nature trails to explore.
Anderson’s Outdoors Adventures nearby, offers a choice of single kayaks, tandem kayaks or canoes with the boats conveniently located on the launch. All day hire will cost $45 for the single kayak, and $75 for a tandem kayak or canoe.
What are the life jacket laws in Florida?
The life jacket laws for kayaking in Florida states that all people onboard a board should wear life jackets.
Water vessels that are 16 ft. or above in length must have one USCG-approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) on board that can be used immediately in the event that someone falls into the water.
Is it safe to kayak with manatees with children onboard?
Manatees are ultra-gentle creatures. Their sizes may be intimidating but they are gentle and do not hurt or harm people. It is also a rule to not hurt, harm, or touch manatees. So it is completely safe to kayak with manatees with children onboard.
What should I wear when kayaking in Florida?
What you should wear depends on the season in which you kayak. If it is the colder part of the year, you may choose to wear a wetsuit that covers all of you. If you go kayaking in the warmer months, wear light long-sleeved shirts (we don’t want to get all sunburned!) and pants you are comfortable with getting wet.
What should I bring kayaking with manatees in Florida?
A dry bag, sunscreen, waterproof case for phones and cameras, hat or cap, snacks, and plenty of water.
Wrapping it up
There are many good spots to kayak with the manatees. Florida has its set of hot water springs that the manatees love to stay in. You can kayak with the manatees for an experience of a lifetime, or even swim with them (if the place allows it).
However, remember to be kind to them, treat them well and follow all the rules.