Another day, another reason to love living in the Sunshine State. A crystalline manatee tour in Crystal River just earned a spot as one of the top 10 experiences in the world. The only U.S.-based experience to make the top 10, the manatee tour finished alongside other must-do, favorite experiences, including a camel safari in Dubai (No. 1), a hot air balloon ride in Egypt (No. 3), and a northern lights adventure in Norway (No. 9), according to a release.
Explorida’s Manatee Swim Tours received the official top honors. Those interested in booking a tour, can do so on Explorida’s website. Crystal River is the Manatee Capital of the World and is home to the only National Wildlife Refuge in the United States specifically created to protect habitats for Florida’s beloved official marine animal. Manatee tours occur year-round.
Visit a manatee refuge in Crystal River
Tour companies on Kings Bay in Crystal River operate under Special Use Permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the only Refuge in the United States solely dedicated to protecting critical habitat for manatees. Between November 15 and March 31, sanctuary markers are in place near spring vents designating critical resting areas for manatees. Swimmers, kayakers and all watercraft are prohibited from these areas that are essential to manatee’s survival.
Tripadvisor’s Best Things to Do Awards are based on an analysis of authentic reviews and ratings of experiences, tours, attractions and activities over the past 12 months from Tripadvisor travelers. The Top Bucket List Experience – World subcategory is one of 11 included in the 2022 awards. Located just 90 minutes north of Tampa, Crystal River is known as the Manatee Capital of the World, and home to several professional tour operators like Explorida, which specialize in manatee swim experiences.
“We’re thrilled for Explorida on making such a prestigious list and congratulate their team for delivering unforgettable bucket list experiences for our visitors,” said John Pricher, director of Discover Crystal River Florida. “Like all our certified tour operators, Explorida is an expert in providing a safe, fun, one-of-a-kind vacation adventure, but also take very seriously our shared responsibility of promoting and protecting the local manatee population.”
Crystal River is home to the world’s top outdoor adventures
According to Pricher, the tour guides in Crystal River make sure swimmers, paddlers and boaters adhere to rules regarding interaction with manatees in the wild and avoid designated sanctuary areas.
“We’re beyond honored to receive this esteemed designation,” said Kim Altman, who co-owns and operates Explorida with her husband, Anthony Altman. “From conception, we’ve dedicated ourselves to the customer experience at Explorida, educating guests and doing our part to protect the manatees and resources we all call home. That’s what our guests experience when they step foot in our door, and what got us here today.”
Creating a sustainable operation in the Sunshine State
The Altmans are committed to running a sustainable operation, emphasizing the importance of recreating responsibly. “When offering guided tours of natural resources, we believe a responsible company should embody all aspects of preservation and conservation. At Explorida, we set the industry standard by equipping every boat in our fleet with Powerpole ‘spike’ Anchors to protect the grass beds, and prop guards to benefit the grasses and manatee population as well. Our guests recognize and appreciate our efforts.”
In addition to swim tours, the Crystal River region makes it easy to see manatees in the wild from easily accessed boardwalks at Three Sisters Springs and the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, or by kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding throughout Kings Bay or the Homosassa River.