What It’s Like to Swim with a Manatee in the Wild

What It's Like to Swim with a Manatee in the Wild

Let the manatees lead

swimming with manateesCourtesy Explorida Adventure Center

"The key to the best possible manatee interaction is one where the manatees remain undisturbed," shares Kimberly Altman of Explorida, a tour company in Crystal River, Florida that specializes in swimming with manatees. "By practicing passive observation and allowing the manatees to initiate any and all interaction, we are able to view these magnificent creatures in a way that is beneficial to both the manatee and the human," says Altman. Explorida operates under a special use permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is necessary for commercial operators to enter refuge waters, but not other parts of the bay.

"Swimming alongside manatees is really a once in a lifetime experience," Altman says. People leave with a deeper love for these animals and a greater sense of protection for them." While manatees are a vulnerable species, these 14 beautiful animals could disappear in your lifetime.

Dreams come true

swimming with manateesCourtesy Explorida Adventure Center

Dorothy Peters grew up in Florida, where, according to her, it's a rite of passage to see a manatee. "I always wanted to swim with them because they are my favorite marine animal." Yet she moved away from Florida after college without ever getting her chance. This year, she returned to Florida's Crystal River to check off swimming with a manatee from her bucket list.

On her boating excursion, Peters spotted a manatee then entered the water quietly and slowly swam to a manatee munching seagrass. "He or she didn't care that we were there. We just hung out there watching, enthralled for about 20 minutes, I lost track of time," says Peters.

Then, as they were on their way back to shore they came upon a herd of baby manatees. Peters got in the water—the babies immediately swam toward them. "They were super curious. I thought after seeing the first manatee I had seen it all, but the babies, nothing could top being with them. This is one of the top ten experiences in my life." Here are 18 more one-of-a-kind adventures to add to your bucket list.

Manatees in the neighborhood

swimming with manateesCourtesy Gisela Hausmann

Gisela Hausmann used to live in the Florida Keys where she regularly saw manatees in the mangroves and canals near her home. She'll always remember her swims with them. "They like to be petted or rubbed, at least the ones who lived in our canal did. Their skin feels like an elephant's skin."

Hausmann says they're smart. "It seemed that the manatees remembered where they got fed because the same animals would come to our place again and again."

What's most surprising about them? Says Hausmann, "Manatees fart like no other animal I have seen. Once I swam next to a manatee when three air bubbles, the size of gallon jugs came up. Swimmers can feel them!" There are all sorts of things you probably never knew about manatees.

What It's Like to Swim with a Manatee in the Wild, Source:https://www.rd.com/culture/swim-with-manatee/