I still can’t believe that this happened in real life!
Swimming with wild manatees who are desperate for interaction and attention? I could do this every single day!
I’m lucky and have access to a family cottage in New Smyrna Beach, Florida and a few years ago I discovered Birds Underwater. There are a bunch of reasons that I love this company, the first and foremost being their focus on educational conservation and species preservation. Before they take anybody out, no matter how many times you’ve been out with the manatees, you watch an educational video showing you how to properly (and legally) interact with these adorable sea cows.
As far as tips for booking tours go, I’d really recommend hauling yourself out of bed for the early morning tour. First of all, the sunrise with the mist coming off the water is absolutely beautiful. But almost more favourably, there are WAY less tourists at this time of day (not that surprising, right?).
Also, I’ve been on this tour a few times and had a few different guides. If you get the chance to go out with Steve & Jenny you really have to take the opportunity! They’re a fun and easy going team and Steve is full of manatee information and local secrets (ask him about the cottage on the island!).
One final tip worth mentioning is that there are peak manatee viewing seasons that correlate with seasonal water temperatures. The winter is the best time to see them, when the water cools and they seek refuge in smaller springs. Keep in mind, it also makes the water colder for us – don’t worry though, Birds Underwater provides wetsuits and hot drinks after your swim (Steve even gave me a hot water bottle after one of my tours, game changing on a cool morning swim)!
I can’t explain how magical it is to spend time with wild manatees in spring fed (read: crystal clear) water. Every time I do the tour I’m surprised by how quickly it goes and am quickly planning when I can go again.
Has anyone else done this tour? What have you done in the Florida area? I’m always looking for new and exciting things to try!