|Aardvark's Florida Kayak Co., Inc is the outfitter most recommended by those who care for and about
manatees. Here are what others have to say.
Citrus County is probably best known for its manatee or "seacow" population. This is known as the
Northwest Sub-Group and accounts for 10-15% of the Florida population totals. The waters of Citrus
County are the winter home of upwards of 500 Florida Manatees. The scientific name for the Florida sub-
species is Trichechus manatus latirostris. Summer counts are variable, but in the summer of 2009, counts
were in the low to mid 30 range. These unique creatures are listed as in need of protection by both state
and federal governments.
The animals frequent King's Bay in Crystal River,the Blue Waters area of the Homosassa River,
and the Chassahowitzka River in smaller numbers, with peak numbers occurring during cold snaps
from October through March and sometimes April. Manatees are wild animals and we can never
guarantee encounters. The numbers can drop dramatically as spring approaches and summer
season begins. (March thru September). At that time the focus becomes the Nature Coast's
unique environments and its other natural attributes. Tours are also available to other areas of
the Nature Coast including Ozello, and the Rainbow River.
[Tours run on Wednesday through Sunday by reservation only. The tour location is decided on a first reserved, first choice basis. Public
tours leave at 9 am and run about 3 hours. Launch times and durations may vary on Private tours.
Public & Private Tours are available. A public tour is one where you may be paired with other paddlers up to a maximum of 10 paddlers. A
private tour is limited to those in your party only. There is a 2 person minimum charge for any tour. We also offer a custom private family
tour that is tailored to families with smaller children and
can be abbreviated or lengthened to meet the needs of your family.
Children are welcome but expected to be well behaved and under control at all times. The guide has the right to terminate any tour based
on behavior out of respect for others on the water. No refunds are available. There is no age limit and children under 3 are free when riding
in a double kayak with an adult parent or guardian. Only private abbreviated tours are available to parties with children age 12 and under
and tour length is at your discretion up to 4 hours.]
The likelihood of encountering one of these gentle giants depends on Gulf water temperatures. Although
they may be found year round, when temperatures in the river and gulf drop below 68 F degrees, these
warm blooded marine mammals seek the warmer waters of the springs and are found in much greater
numbers. During the spring and summer our Kings Bay Tours focus on the other aspects of the area such as
the springs and the Wildlife Refuge and while we may see a manatee or two, it is by no means a certainty.
On Saturdays in May, June, and July we provide guided tours only in the Ozello area since Kings Bay
becomes congested with high speed water toys. Ozello is the least developed and least congested area of
Citrus County. St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve and the Crystal River Preserve State Park are
located here. While manatees may be present, they are not the primary focus of the tours.
The Florida Kayak Company offers manatee tours of a different variety. We are concerned that just the
great number of divers seeking manatee contact is beginning to or has the potential to effect behavior
such as cow-calf bonding and imprinting on humans. A recent study by Texas A&M University focuses on
harassment issues in the context of manatee tours in Crystal River and speculates that humans entering the
water may be affecting the manatees breeding behavior and energy budgets. Sorice Report (PDF)
For this reason our manatee tours are conducted with a hands off approach. While it may not be illegal to
dive with or touch a manatee under certain circumstances, we believe that the animals need to stay wild
and as with any wild animal, the true ecotourist should look, but not touch. Please resist the temptation to
reach out and pet the animal. Our encounters occur from above via the least intrusive means, kayaks &
Stand Up Paddleboards, and are by design passive observations.
Click Here for Manatee Viewing Guidelines
Under the newly established King's bay Manatee Refuge, past guidelines are now enforceable as law. The
following are prohibited activities:
(i) Chasing or pursuing a manatee(s).
(ii) Disturbing or touching a resting or feeding manatee(s).
(iii) Diving from the surface onto a resting or feeding manatee(s).
(iv) Cornering or surrounding or attempting to corner or surround a manatee(s).
(v) Riding, holding, grabbing, or pinching or attempting to ride, hold, grab, or pinch a manatee(s).
(vi) Poking, prodding, or stabbing or attempting to poke, prod, or stab a manatee(s) with anything,
including your hands and feet.
(vii) Standing on or attempting to stand on a manatee(s).
(viii) Separating a mother and calf or attempting to separate a mother and calf.
(ix) Separating a manatee(s) from a group or attempting to separate a manatee(s) from a group.
(x) Giving a manatee(s) anything to eat or drink or attempting to give a manatee(s) anything to eat or
(xi) Actively initiating contact with a belted and/or tagged manatee(s) and associated gear, including any
belts, harnesses, tracking devices, or antennae.
(xii) Interfering with rescue and research activities.
The following activities are prohibited within Three Sisters Springs from November 15 through March 31:
a. All waterborne activities in Three Sisters Springs from sunset to sunrise.
b. Scuba diving.
c. Fishing, including but not limited to fishing by hook and line, by cast net, and by spear.
Click Here for the New Manatee Manners Video
Another excellent option and the least intrusive of all is the view the captive manatees at the Homosassa
Springs State Wildlife Park and in the winter, you may catch a glimpse of the wild herd from the
observation deck at the park.
Most times* our manatee tour guide is Matt, a wildlife biologist and marine mammal specialist with several years of state research
experience with manatees. Matt has studied the SW Florida population performing aerial surveys, radio tracking studies, behavioral
observations, and necropsies (non-human autopsy). He was responsible for land acquisition and management of critical manatee
habitat that has since become part of the 50,000 acre Crystal River Preserve State Park. Matt has also served on the Manatee
Advisory Committee of Citrus County, and the Manatee Rescue Team. Matt is also the owner of Aardvark's. If manatee
encounters are your desire, please let us choose the best place for the meeting based on the current conditions.
* Matt tries to guide as many of the manatee and other tours as he can, but sometimes circumstances dictate otherwise. Matt
partners with one or two select professional qualified guides to fill in. Brack Barker runs Wild Florida Kayak Adventures and is
a certified master naturalist and former Wildlife Officer. Susan Clemons is a 30 year Park Ranger (and Ms Aardvark), Tracy
Colsen, a videographer, manatee advocate, and kayak guide, and Steve Kingery who is an environmental advocate and spends much
of his time volunteering and pushing for a clean and restored Crystal River. All are highly knowledgeable and skilled individuals who
will provide you with an entertaining and educational adventure on Florida's Nature Coast. While we have been criticized and even
sanctioned (black balled) by some of the swim with tour operators for partnering with these advocates, we feel these voices for
the manatee need to be heard and will continue to offer them a venue to do so.
MANATEE KAYAKING WITH THE AARDVARKS Click Here for Video
Please Enjoy Their Company, But Resist the Urge to Touch.
Note: While touching a manatee is not on the list of prohibited activities, we recommend, as does USFWS, a no touch ethic.
Touching or petting a manatee does nothing to meet the biological needs of this animal and may in fact effect breeding, infant
survival and contribute to injuries when manatees become too accustomed to hum
Call for Reservations (Required)
Aardvark's Florida Kayak Company
707 N Citrus Avenue STE A
Crystal River, Fl 34428
|Crystal River, King's Bay, Chassahowitzka
|Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals "love" them. But those who respect their natures and
wish to let them live normal lives, love them more." (Edwin Way Teale)
|Copyright ©2003 Aardvark's Florida Kayak Company All Rights Reserved
|The Manatees of the Nature Coast
To Swim or Not To Swim
Click Here for Info
Experience Level: Beginner to Experienced
From $50 pp includes the use of Aardvark's equipment.
Abbreviated Private Tours for Families with Small Children $65 pp
Private Tours $75 pp
Manatees are wild animals and sightings are not guaranteed.
Weekdays are less crowded than weekends and make for a more
relaxed experience. Destination will be determined based on
NOW BOOKING Click Here to Book a Tour Online