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Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

1502 Southeast Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, Florida, 34429

The Basics

Visitors to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge must approach the area by boat. Trained wildlife experts lead excursions onto the river for visitors to view the sea cows and snorkel among them. Whether on a private or a group tour, visitors should receive safety instructions to give the wild animals plenty of space and admire their beauty from a distance. In addition to manatees, you may see dolphins, birds, fish, and turtles. Though manatee encounters are never guaranteed, the refuge is one of the few natural habitats where people are permitted to swim with them.

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Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
$74.16 per adult
Traveler Favorite
Great for kids!
We had the best experience with Lindsay and Peter! We saw two manatees and lots of fish. Lindsay was so friendly and informative and both of my girls really loved the experience. It’s a must-do, bucket list item that’s great for kids!
Sarah_S, Oct 2021

Recent reviews from experiences in Crystal River

star-5
Memorable
Alysha_S, Jun 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim or Boat Ride from Orlando
We had so much fun!! Our driver Paul, was super friendly and kind. Our tour guides were “Tom and Jerry” and they did a fantastic job at finding us manatees to swim with! The lunch was spectacular as well! Because of covid they could not provide breakfast but instead, upgraded us to free gear to use!
star-5
Put on your bucket list!
Darlene_M, Oct 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim or Boat Ride from Orlando
Swimming with the manatees was great. Our boat crew, John, Neil and Jerry were perfect. The nature preserve was interesting and relaxing. Ismael was a wonderful driver and guide. He was friendly, professional and had many fun facts about the area. Breakfast was bagged but plentiful. Lunch was at Sara's cafe it was soooo yummy and our service was good. I recommend the fish basket. Some of the best fish I have ever had.
star-5
Great experience
Andrea_A, Sep 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
My best friend and I had a great experience. The company does a great job being respectful to these animals.
star-5
Awesome experience
Martin, Aug 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Awesome experience! Captain Mike and our guide Matt were so knowledgeable and friendly. We were not rushed swimming with the manatees at all! Definitely the best experience!
star-5
Bucket list experience
Victoria_W, Jul 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Peter was fun and very friendly, Liz was wonderful she made sure everyone got to experience a view of the Manatee, she was really great! The experience was a bucket list experience, it was amazing!
star-5
Amazing experience!
Danielle_N, Jul 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Shelly and Chrissy were amazing! They were knowledgeable and friendly. Our trip was fantastic and we saw two manatees. A female sleeping and a male that was eating and was very active. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience!! Thank you so much!!
star-5
Yes!
Kayleigh, Jul 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
All around great experience. Saw and swam with several manatees and enjoyed one of the local spots with a natural spring! Very memorable excursion!
star-5
So highly recommended!!
Laura, Jul 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
This was one of the best experiences! Lindsay L, our guide and Ross, our boat driver were fantastic! So helpful and knowledgeable! We saw a momma manatee and her baby! Precious experience!!!
star-5
Do not miss!
Erin_O, May 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim or Boat Ride from Orlando
They were all so amazing. All staff were all so nice. Floating over the manatee was an experience like none other. The wet suit is a must in the cold, clear water. So shallow, yet you have to float over with a pool noodle so that you do not stir up the shallow floor underneath. Even if you don't go in, they can be seen with the 2-5 foot depths of the river. If you put your face in, can hear them munching on the sea grass. Very gentile, graceful, peaceful creatures. A shame that they are on the endangered list. An Iconic Florida experience. Highly recommended!
star-4
Where are they?
Holly_P, Jun 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
This was such a cool experience. We only saw a couple of manatee and swam with one. Trish and Wade were wonderful and I enjoyed the boat ride.
star-5
A great experience. I would do it again
Angela_V, Jun 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Exceeded my expectations. Informative guide and captain. Plenty of Manatees to see and even 2 babies that came up to see us. That was unexpected.
star-5
Best memorable trip
Lizz_Daniel, Apr 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim or Boat Ride from Orlando
Most wonderful trip and best memories that we will cherish for forever ! Once in a lifetime opportunity that we now have pictures to last a lifetime!

Things to Know Before You Go

  • The waters at Crystal River are comfortably warm, about 72°F (22°C) and clear year-round.

  • Most guided tours are led by US Coast Guard-licensed captains and include a wetsuit and snorkel gear.

  • Travelers should not intentionally approach the manatees; touching, chasing, and feeding are prohibited.

  • Tours often include underwater photography and meals or snacks for the day.

  • Manatee season is mid-November to late March and most tours start early in the morning.

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How to Get There

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge sits alongside the town of Crystal River in Kings Bay, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Tampa and 85 miles (137 kilometers) northwest of Orlando. The refuge doesn’t offer water access facilities for visitors.

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When to Get There

The manatee season at Crystal River refuge begins in mid-November and ends in late March. The visitor center is open daily from 8am to 4pm in winter and on weekdays from May through October. The refuge staff may close parts of the sanctuary during winter.

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Three Sisters Springs

There are three major sites within Crystal River from which the Florida manatee can be observed. King Spring, where the refugee started, is the largest. Three Sisters is considered the most beautiful and important to the manatees. Shuttles from the Three Sisters Springs Center to a boardwalk along the water run daily.

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