When you live around the manatee’s favorite winter hot spot in Homosassa, FL, you probably just rent a boat to see manatees. It can be the quickest and cheapest way to get around the canals near the area’s springs. But, you do have to worry about being a menace on the water.
When I went to see manatees last week on the Nature Coast, I was amazed how easy it was, even for someone with no boating experience like me, to rent any boat I could get my hands on. The only requirement was an (auto) driver’s license. We could have gotten motor or pontoon boats, but we figured we’d be a big enough menace on the water in just a canoe. Remember that manatee experts say that the biggest danger to them on the water is inexperienced boaters going out without a guide.
For me to get out on the water with my husband and two beagles, a boat rental was the only way to go. We went to Crystal River Kayak, a place right on the main drag, Route 19, in Crystal River, and a very short paddle trip to the Three Sisters Spring. We paid $50 for two hours; others are cheaper but not as close. The Citrus County tourism board lists 15 boat rental outfits and I suspect there are even more. The man behind the counter was fine with us bringing dogs, gave us a map and warned us to stay clear of the manatee sanctuaries, which are roped off. He showed us a live webcam of the Three Sisters Spring area, which he described as swimmers’ stew, it was so crowded. The guys that helped us board were extra accommodating of our beagle situation.
We didn’t know if the trip would last two minutes or two hours. But the beagles cooperated and smiled in the water. Huckleberry didn’t understand the canoe or what we wanted him to do, so he just jumped into my lap. All 30 pounds of hound. All down south the beagles got a lot of love and the canals were no exception, with swimmers and other boaters coming up to pet and appreciate them. The dogs weren’t interested in the manatees–though the could clearly see them. They only seemed to care about the manatee buoy that passed the canoe.
We saw one manatee just minutes out of the dock, swimming by himself in the canal. But the big attraction are the two roped-off sanctuary areas where the manatees can rest without fear of human disturbance. They certainly have figured out those rules. The number of manatees hanging out in the sanctuaries is sad indication of how much people annoy them. Between the two sanctuaries is a channel that leads to the spring, one of those tropical paradises. In kayaks and on land volunteers patrol, making sure nobody messes with the manatees.
Where to Go See Manatees
Places to See Wildlife in Florida