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One of our favorite wildlife encounters is swimming with manatees. Every January we drive down to the coastal town of Crystal River in Florida to visit them.

Swimming with manatees is unlike any other wildlife experience. Manatees are very curious, and will approach closely to investigate you. Some, like the youngsters, are very brave and may hold your hand or leg with their flippers and chew on your hands or feet. Swimming with manatees gives you a moment of intimacy with a wild animal, on their own terms. It is truly a unique experience.

All of the pictures in this photo gallery were taken in the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River during our various visits.

 

A manatee in the Three Sisters Spring in Crystal River, Florida

A manatee in the Three Sisters Spring in Crystal River, Florida

 

Baby manatees are very wrinkly. They will eventually grow and fill those wrinkles with body fat.

Baby manatees are very wrinkly. They will eventually grow and fill those wrinkles with body fat.

 

Swimming with Florida Manatees is one of America's greatest wildlife experiences.

Swimming with Florida Manatees is one of America’s greatest wildlife experiences.

 

Manatee swimming away

Manatee swimming above the deepest spring in the Three Sisters

 

Sometimes manatees get so close, it's tough to keep them in the frame.

Sometimes manatees get so close, it’s tough to keep them in the frame.

 

Manatee rolling over and pooping. Check out their nails!

Manatee rolling over (and pooping). Check out the finger nails!

 

They sleep with their faces resting in the sand

Manatees sleep with their faces resting in the sand

 

When manatees sleep they still need to surface to breath.

When manatees sleep they still need to surface to breathe.

 

After breathing, a resting manatee sinks back into sleeping position

After breathing, a resting manatee sinks slowly back down into  sleeping position

 

Manatee and calf sleeping

Manatee and her calf sleeping

 

Manatee swimming to the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River

Manatee swimming through the channel into the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River

 

Manatee chewing on a rope

Manatees love chewing on anchor ropes. This particular fellow found a little piece to take with him.

 

Manatees are very curious animals

Manatees are very curious animals and if you hold very still you’ll often receive a manatee “kiss”.

 

A manatee tail damaged by a boat helix

One of the greatest threats to manatees is collisions with boats and nearly all bear propeller scars. This one has particularly horrific damage to its tail.

 

A young manatee approached Hal and didn't let him alone until they hold hands.

This young manatee played with Hal for half an hour and repeatedly grabbed Hal arm with his flippers. Manatees like to hold hands too.

 

Would you like to swim with manatees? Do you know where to go? We can help you! Read our How to swim with Manatees guide and start preparing for one of the best wildlife encounters you’ll ever have. Don’t want to get in the water? Then find out Where to See Manatees in the Wild

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