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Bucket List: Swim with the Manatees!

| Ray Collins |

I’d heard about ‘The Plantation on Crystal River’ for years—but never visited.  When I realized there was an opportunity to stay there and swim with manatees, I thought it was time to go—and check off that little item from my bucket list.

Crystal River is in Citrus County, which is just north of the Tampa Bay area, or about two hours north of Sarasota.  Up I-75 and then head west to the water.

‘The Plantation’ is a 195-room hotel smack dab on Crystal River’s King’s Bay that’s been around since 1962.  There’s an active bar and restaurant in the main building called “West 82 Bar & Grill” and a pool and tiki bar on the water out back.

Before we made our big splash the next morning, we rented bikes and toured nearby Inverness.  


Finally, the next morning it was time to do something I’ve always wanted to do—and I don’t mean shoehorn my way into an unflattering wet-suit.  After I wedged myself in that little number, we rode out to the middle of Crystal Springs with half a dozen strangers—who soon became friends—and looked for manatees to befriend.

We sat, scattered around in the boat, in nervous anticipation as the sun came up on Crystal River.  After some searching, our captain finally stopped the boat and told us how to slide into the water and glide alongside the gentle sea cows. 

There they were—a mother and juvenile manatee—minding their own business looking for breakfast under water.

Erin let the docile creatures get up close to her—and one even came right up to her mask, made eye contact and playfully did a 360.  Meantime, I hung back, not wanting to be the first person ever attacked by a manatee.  Opposites attract.

The company took pictures of us on the boat—and in the water—and had them available for purchase a short time later.

We peeled off the wetsuits, dried off and headed back to check out of our room on a high note.  Great way to end our visit to Crystal River. 

Brunch in the Plantation’s restaurant tasted great as we sat and relived our wonderful 24 hours in Citrus County.

It was our first trip, but it won’t be our last.

Ray Collins is a travel writer, elected official, media consultant and among the top 5% of Realtors in the region for 2021.  website.

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