We took a trip to Crystal River Springs, Florida. I thought it would be fun to do something different to celebrate my 200th dive. A quick look on the internet and we found American Pro Divers, who offer a manatee encounter and a morning dive. So we booked ourselves in.
The morning dive would be my 200th dive, my 100th pleasure dive, and my first fresh water dive.
We were staying in Orlando so that meant for us to make the 7am check-in time we had to get up at 4.30am and drive the hour and a half to Crystal River. We made good time and arrived just before check-in. We rented our kit which was mainly Mares, and then watched an informative video about the do’s and don’ts.
Here is a quick run down of the rules taken from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.
Look, but don’t touch manatees. Also, don’t feed manatees or give them water. If manatees become accustomed to being around people, they can alter their behavior in the wild, perhaps causing them to lose their natural fear of boats and humans, which may make them more susceptible to harm. Passive observation is the best way to interact with manatees and all wildlife.
Do not pursue or chase a manatee if you see one while you are swimming, snorkeling, diving or operating a boat.
Never poke, prod or stab a manatee with your hands, feet or any object.
If a manatee avoids you, you should avoid it.
Give manatees space to move. Don’t isolate or single out an individual manatee from its group, and don’t separate a cow and her calf.
Keep hands and objects to yourself. Don’t attempt to snag, hook, hold, grab, pinch or ride a manatee.
Avoid excessive noise and splashing if a manatee appears in your swimming area.
Use snorkel gear when attempting to watch manatees. The sound of bubbles from SCUBA gear may cause manatees to leave the area.
Float at the surface of the water to passively observe the manatees. Remember, look, but don’t touch.
- Do not enter areas designated as “NO ENTRY-MANATEE REFUGE” These areas have been identified by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as crucial for manatee survival.
I think it is important to minimise the disruption that you may cause with your interaction with them. Animals can easily become distressed by our presence and we should be sensitive to their needs. One other rule that was stressed to us, was that if a manatee is resting we should leave it alone. Don’t wake a sleeping manatee. This isn’t because it is dangerous to us, but it can cause stress to the manatee and ultimately result in them leaving the safety of their preferred habitat.
It was a fantastic experience snorkelling with manatees and I think that I may do it again one day. Visibility at Crystal River can be hit and miss. For us our maximum visibility was about 3 feet, at other times it can be as the name suggests.
Manatees are beautiful creatures and we should do our best to protect them. As we came out of the cavern from our dive there was this plaque reminding us the importance of our actions and how they affect the manatees.
Here is a fantastic video on manatees. It is definitely worth a watch – much better visibility that day.