Swimming with manatees is an experience people often put on their bucket lists, usually a few slots before skydiving with manatees. Dream big with this Groupon: for $25, you get a swim with the manatees tour for one from Native Vacations in Crystal River (a $55 total value). The tour includes:
- Ticket for manatee tour (a $35 value)
- Wetsuit rental (a $10 value)
- Snorkel-gear rental (a $10 value)<p>
Children younger than age 2 may join the tour at no charge.
Native Vacations’ Coast Guard–certified captains steer cruises over the tides of King’s Bay, a scenic waterway lush with wildlife that provides an up-close investigation of manatees. The three-hour tours—which begin at either 8 a.m. or 11:30 a.m.—start off with a brief video to acquaint landlubbers with the complex system of manners, laws, and holidays among the members of manatee society. During a boat ride in King’s Bay, captains spin yarns about manatees and point out the dolphins, otters, wild pigs, and bald eagles that frolic on beachfront property. The captain anchors the boat beside a herd of sea cows and helps participants slip into snorkel gear to swim with the 2,000-pound creatures. Naturally mild animals, manatees allow humans to take pictures, join in their herds’ slow-motion synchronized swimming, and even pet their voluptuous flanks.
If a herd is particularly reserved, the tour may extend past its three-hour slot to ensure an optimal experience for all. Therefore, the 11:30 a.m. tour may leave slightly later than scheduled. Salty sea breezes and freestyle races against manatees may leave cruisers famished, so Native Vacations extends a 10% discount voucher for Cuban fare at Cravings Cantina.
The Native Vacations crew constantly views their surroundings with the eyes of explorers. They see opportunity on any terrain, and they search for adventure while aiming to preserve the landscape. On land, the crew coordinates horseback-riding tours that wind through the Withlacoochee Forest. As hooves beat a lazy drumroll in the dappled sunlight, riders watch deer and sherman fox pups as they dart between trees. In the waterways, Native Vacations leads kayaking tours, airboat rides, and snorkeling adventures. Kayak paddles leisurely stir waters populated by dolphins while bald eagles slip through the warm air, and airboats tear across the surface of the Crystal River with the metallic purring of RoboCop drinking warm milk. In the waters of King's Bay, guides teach snorkelers the basics of breathing underwater and allow them to pet any of the elephant-gray mammoths that approach.