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Tara Tufo

What’s 2000 lbs, Sort of Gray and And Ready to Be Your Swim Buddy In Citrus County, Florida?

Ancient mariners thought it was a mermaid, but….it’s a Florida Manatee!

Crystal River, Fla. – According to legend, ancient mariners mistook Manatees for mermaids. We think that the mariners had been at sea for a loooooong time. But, today visitors to Citrus County can see for themselves, because it’s the only place in North America where you can legally swim with these protected mammals.

In the cool winter months (well, frigid anywhere but Florida) the Manatees seek the warmer spring waters — which are a constant 72 degrees — for comfort.

Manatees are curious and interested in the terrestrial visitors to their watery homes, and, like other “guests,” swimmers have to respect the manatee’s space. Most people tend to be pretty respectful as a ton-sized wild animal approaches, but even so, there are some rules. But as far as we know, the rules that protect the manatees have yet to stop a close encounter with experienced guides.

Want to see manatees without getting wet? Visit the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where manatees can be viewed up close in an underwater observatory in the main spring. Then there’s something special: Yuma, the rescued Florida Panther. Visitors can also meet the rare whooping crane, deer, bears, bobcats, egrets and flamingos along unspoiled nature trails.

Swimming with a manatee is a Bucket List item that can easily be checked off with a visit to Citrus County this winter.

To learn more about the area, special offers, events and accommodations, please go to, or call the Citrus County Visitors & Convention Bureau toll-free at 1-800-587-6667.