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Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

star-5
4,004 Reviews
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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Recent reviews from experiences in Crystal River

star-5
Amazing experience!!!
Tye_T, Apr 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
This was an absolutely amazing experience! Staff was wonderful and very well educated. We were able to enjoy several sightings and to interact with a young energetic manatee that was very curious! I will definitely be coming back and visiting soon it was well worth it!
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!
star-5
Life changing experience with the manatees
rober_t, Apr 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Excellent time full of great memories. Thanks to the awesome guides...Irish Mike who was in the water taking tons of pictures of us with the manatees...to Captain Emerson spotting them from the boat and always close by! Me and my boys will never forget this!
star-5
exciting
Brian_M, Apr 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
The staff is great and very knowledgeable!! The experience doesn't take place in a protected reserve as we thought, but it was quite fun and enjoyable. We saw a momma and her baby, then a large adult that was quite friendly.
star-5
Close to nature!
Gretchen_S, Apr 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Watching the young manatee nurse was a highlight of the trip as well as getting so close to their everyday living.
star-5
Swim with Manatees in there natural habitat
TravelCruiser2019, Oct 2019
Crystal River Manatee Swim or Boat Ride from Orlando
This is a wonderful tour where you get very close to these gentle creatures in their habitat. No snorkeling or dive experience required. You get a noodle to keep you afloat and they swim right up to you. Such a special expertise not to be missed if your in Orlando.
star-5
Wonderful time!!!
Laurie_J, Apr 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
It could not have been better! Captain Mike and guide JJ made sure we enjoyed every minute.!!!!. Great job!!!
star-5
Choose this team!
Danielle_A, Apr 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Our guide, JJ and our captain Mike were fantastic. The entire team was welcoming and accommodating. Our guide worked hard to ensure that we all felt safe and were comfortable for the duration of our ride. We went with two adults and a child and would highly recommend to any of our friends and family. We loved our experience!
star-5
Great Encounter with the Manatees
dean_y, Apr 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Excellent Staff and boat crew, they made it every minute worth our money, it was great experience swimming with so many manatees.
star-5
Amazing Encounter
Calvin_H, Apr 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
The manatees had been spotted from the surface, but when we got in the water, it was amazing coming face to face with these gentle giants. We swam and intermingled for 35 minutes or more! We followed the rules and this definitely enhanced our viewing.
star-4
Amazing creatures
Vincent_K, Mar 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Our guides were personable knowledgeable and friendly. The manatees were incredible to experience! Keep in mind that there’s only one guide in the water assisting 10 ish people to swim properly, find the manatees and help you maneuver around. There were so many boats that I felt bad for the animals as not everyone respects their space and some looked harassed. However I was overwhelmed by their awesomeness and it was an incredible experience I will never forget.
star-5
Amazing!
Kyle_A, Mar 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Great experience! You can tell the people who work there truly care for the manatees. I would highly recommend it to anyone. It was a amazing time!

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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Trip ideas

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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