Some of the best memories we have from our holiday from Florida were made in the water in and around Citrus county. We decided to try some things that we have never done before and spoke to the wonderful people from River Ventures in Crystal River and River Safaris in Homosassa to organise swimming with Manatees and diving for Scallops in this amazing part of our Florida adventures.
We headed up to Citrus county and booked into a Quality Inn for 3 nights. The Quality Inn was ideally located to explore this area, was cheap, clean and comfortable. It also had a cook yourself waffle station at breakfast which my girls thought was brilliant.
Our first days adventurers saw us heading out in a boat with River Ventures to track down some manatees so we can get in the water and swim with them. Manatees are such graceful creatures and we were lucky enough to swim with a mum and her calf who were just happy going about there business eating and swimming as we watched.
Swimming with Manatees is an amazing experience and before you get in the water River Ventures make sure that you are aware of all of the rules and regulations involved. They also make sure that you have a guide in the water with you who not only takes pictures for you but also helps to ensure you get the most out of your time with the Manatees whilst also ensuring that the Manatees are happy and that all swimmers stick to the rules and regulations that are set up to protect the Manatees.
We had such an amazing experience with River Ventures that we would definitely recommend they to others but I just wanted to point out that you can get cheaper manatee swims but we saw some of these in action and can guarantee that the experience we were getting with an in water guide was worth the small amount extra that we paid. If you do not have an in water guide you might not even be able to see the Manatees because they may be big but if you don’t know what you are looking for you will be surprised by how well they can hide even if they are right in front of you. The in water guide is also there to protect the Manatees and we saw a group who were not supervised who were reaching out to touch the Manatees which is not permitted. Please if you are wanting to have an amazing experience with these fabulous creatures book with a reputable company who will put a guide in the water with you. We loved Sheena our guide and Tanner our captain who were both fun and knowledgeable.
After our swim we headed to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife park for the afternoon and not to see some amazing animals including three of their resident Manatees. The wildlife park was perfect for a few hours of family fun and we saw so many fantastic creatures as well as go on a boat ride and a train ride.
The boat trip into the Wildlife Park is definitely worth waiting for and we saw lots of wild birds, reptiles and fish. As well as the gorgeous scenery.
Once in the wildlife park we were able to walk around at our leisure and even watch some animal encounter shows. In fact it was whilst watching a show on Possums that we encountered our first proper Florida downpour which my girls still talk about. It is strange what kids remember the most.
We visited Citrus county during the summer months when it isn’t Manatee season but if you are in Florida during the winter months then heading up to this part of the state is highly recommended as all the Manatees head to the Springs for the warm water. The Homosassa Springs Wildlife park becomes home to hundreds if not thousands of Manatees and I can imagine it is an amazing sight.
We had a brilliant first day in Citrus County and it just made us want to see more but our early start to the day we decided to head back to our hotel for an evening of swimming and relaxing before another fun packed day.