Paddling with Manatees

Destination: Homosassa Springs, FL

| Activities: Kayaking, Wildlife

Who can resist these gentle giants in their winter home of Florida's spring-fed rivers? During the winter months, manatees come to the springs of Crystal River NWR to conserve the energy necessary to survive the cold Gulf waters. Crystal River is the perfect setting to see a large number of protected Florida manatees in one place in their natural habitat. Hopefully, you will see them up close but practice your "manatee manners" - look, don't touch!

This is an ideal trip both for women who know they love paddling and for those who want to give kayaking a try: you'll learn basic kayak strokes on calm waters and by the end of the weekend you will be a competent and confident paddler. Even if you discover you don't like kayaking, which we doubt, the thrill of these wondrous creatures sticking their snouts out of the water beside your kayak is simply an amazing experience!

We've chosen two very different rivers to experience on this trip, the Homosassa and the Chassahowitzka. The Homosassa, wider and more developed, offers an excellent opportunity to see the manatees as they move in from the cooler ocean temperatures to the warmer waters of this spring fed river. The Chaz is a more primitive river with virtually no development along its shores. It has over 30 springs tucked away on her tiny tributaries and feeder streams. We'll explore just a few of these hidden gems in search of the manatees that hang there for the warmth of the springs. We'll also explore nooks and crannies to see the outstanding array of shorebirds wading, feeding and drying their wings: Great Ibis, Snowy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Anhinga, Cormorant, and Wood storks all call this area home.

Highlights

  • Watching manatees in the crystal clear waters of the Homosassa & Chassahowitzka Rivers from kayaks
  • Learning/reviewing basic kayak strokes & becoming confident paddlers
  • Viewing an outstanding array of shorebirds such as the Great Ibis, Snowy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Anhinga, Cormorant, Wood stork
  • Paddling kayaks in pristine and unspoiled beauty
  • Visiting Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to learn more about the manatees & wildlife

Departures and Prices

January 18 to January 21, 2022
$1395.00 - FULL
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January 22 to January 25, 2022
$1395.00 - FULL
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Inclusions

  • Experienced guides (minimum of 1 guide for 6 participants)
  • Three nights double occupancy lodging
  • All meals from lunch on the 1st day through breakfast on the last day
  • Round trip transportation from the Tampa, FL airport
  • Kayak rental and instruction
  • Entrance fees

Not included: Transportation to and from Tampa, alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities and travel insurance.

Trip Documents

Trip Intro

We have rated this trip a 2 because, since it is both an instructional trip and full of opportunities to watch wildlife, the pace is slower. It is appropriate for active women in basic good health with sufficient mobility to get in and out of the kayak when necessary. Rating: 1 [2] 3 4 5

This trip combines the opportunity to learn or improve your kayaking skills with immersion into the unique wildlife of this area. In addition to manatees, there are outstanding bird watching opportunities - you may even be able to tell an anhinga from a cormorant by the time you leave! No previous paddling experience is needed - we'll teach you everything you need to know.

We spend all three nights at the Chassahowitzka Hotel which we will have to ourselves. Our hotel is a classic 'sportsman' hotel that has been owned by the same family on and off since 1910. It has recently been renovated to accommodate groups and individuals alike. It is situated next to a large oak tree which gives it a wonderful nostalgic Florida feel. The hotel has a lovely veranda for relaxing and watching the world go by.

The rooms are simple with one or two twin beds. The rooms do not have ensuite bathrooms. But there are plenty of shared bathrooms and showers in the hotel. There are 2 single rooms available at an additional cost. You can select these on your registration form. If they are not available the selection will be greyed out.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

DAY 1
We meet at the Tampa, FL airport at 10:15am (if you plan to arrive that morning, please make sure your plane arrives by 9:45am). Our drive to the Chassahowitzka Hotel is about 1.5 hours. After settling into our rooms, we will share a welcome lunch and then head to the water for a couple of hours of instruction in our kayaks. Contrary to popular myth, kayaking does not require significant upper body strength; we will teach you how to paddle safely, effectively, and efficiently so that you are not totally exhausted at the end of the day. This practice time will also help you get to know your boat and how to get it to go where you want it to. Our paddle will be on the Homosassa River to the back side of the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. We will hug the shoreline and watch for manatees. We’ll learn to spot them by the soft exhalation of air as they stick their snout above the water to breathe and by their form just below the surface of this clear water. If they are curious, they may come right up to us! Despite weighing multiple tons, manatees are very gentle and slow moving, so they pose no danger to us. After our time on the water we’ll return to our hotel and our group dining area for a hearty meal and a discussion of our plans for the rest of the trip.
DAY 2
Today we return to our outfitter and instead of heading up the Homosassa River, we’ll turn left and head up the Halls River. Paddling on this scenic river will enhance our skills as we spend more time on the water. After lunch back at the hotel, we head back to the Homosassa Springs State Park, this time by land. This little gem of a park is a great place to learn more about the manatees and the native other birds and mammals. This is a haven for rescued wildlife that cannot be safely returned to the wild. We’ll be able to see the recovering manatees and a variety of fish through the underwater viewing station. After spending a couple of hours in the park, we’ll return to our hotel for some relaxation. You might opt to hang out on the porch. Whatever you decide to do, we’ll end the day with a fabulous meal in our group dining area.
DAY 3
Today we'll explore another spring fed river, the Chassahowitzka or 'the Chaz'. The Chaz is very primitive and feels ancient. You'll find yourself wondering if a T-Rex is going to stick its head over the Spanish moss draped palm trees or if a brontosaurus will be munching on the marsh grasses we paddle through. The Chaz has over 30 springs, some of which are well hidden and hard to reach. We'll pick a few and paddle to them in our kayaks in search of the manatees that like to gather in the spring's warm water. The Chaz's waters are crystal clear, abundant with colorful fish as you look towards the bottom. The springs are turquoise blue and beautiful to behold, with or without manatees. As we explore the Chaz we'll also watch for shore birds feeding in the waters. If we're lucky, we may even see a Yellow Crested Night Heron.

After our day of paddling we'll return to our resort to shower and change before going to Three Sisters Spring, where we can walk out on a boardwalk to three different springs where manatees hang out. Tonight we’ll go out for our farewell dinner.
DAY 4
After a hearty breakfast we’ll pack up and leave our riverside resort for on last experience of the area. This time we’ll spend about an hour in the woods, hiking the Salt Marsh Trail. This trail and observation tower provide a sweeping view of a vast span of salt marsh. This is a great way to stretch our legs before our departure. After our hike we’ll head back to the Tampa airport. You’ll be back by 1:00 pm and can fly out after 2:30 pm.

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

4.7

(54 reviews)
4.3 Food
4.2 Lodging
4.5 Safety
5
(44)
4
(8)
3
(1)
2
(0)
1
(0)
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Sandra D.
7 months ago

Joy G.
8 months ago

Lillian F.
8 months ago

Carol I.
8 months ago

It was enjoyable!

Linda B.
8 months ago

Yes. I could have stayed longer!

Sydney H.
8 months ago

Pam S.
8 months ago

Gerrilyn B.
8 months ago

Outdoor activities yes. Food and accommodations no.

Barbra G.
1 year ago

Great group of women, warm and friendly accommodations, excellent organization, and lots and lots of manatees.

Terri D.
1 year ago

so many manatees

Sheila W.
1 year ago

And more! I laughed so often, gasped in amazement- sometimes at myself for what I learned I could do, and ate wat to much!

Patricia Z.
1 year ago

Above and beyond expectations!!! I knew we may see some Manatee but because of the cold weather, we saw an unbelievable number. It was fascinating from start to finish. The guides were fabulous! I loved kayaking which was a new sport for me. The lodge was wonderful and staff at the lodge were so personable and became family!

Eileen E.
1 year ago

Exceeded Expectations. Laurie

Janet B.
1 year ago

Seeing so many manatees. Also the kayaking.

Karen C.
1 year ago

Manatee behaviors were far more interesting than I expected.

Nadira R.
1 year ago

Linda K.
1 year ago

The group was very nice. Always on time is a plus. The lodge was a delight.

Karen J.
1 year ago

Maria G.
2 years ago

Kayaking in those rivers was great, Meeting all the nice ladies is always a highlight.

Jeannette G.
2 years ago

Terri G.
2 years ago

Guides were amazing and the manatees were bountiful!

Cynthia S.
2 years ago

Kayaking new rivers, seeing wildlife

Jeannette G.
2 years ago

Laurie and Wendy worked as a team in perfect balance and a compliant to each other. Very caring, professional, flexible, very knowledgeable , genuine, kind and true to who they are and allowed us to be who we are. Each day we had many laughs and smiles.

Christine B.
2 years ago

Sheila J.
2 years ago

The people (guides

Marthanne F.
2 years ago

The highlight was just what the trip was called - Paddling with the Manatees. The Homosassa Springs Wildlife Center was very interesting. Because of potential thunderstorms this was done in the morning rather than afternoon

Kimberly P.
2 years ago

Great guides. Well planned. Wonderful group of women!

Sandra C.
2 years ago

Seeing the manatees, all kinds of cool birds, kayaking down beautiful rivers I don’t know if it’s always this way, or I lucked out and got a really good group my first time. We all got along so well and just laughed and laughed..I loved it!

Jennifer A.
2 years ago

Kayaking was the best part of the trip.

Mateja M.
2 years ago

We saw manatee! I was terribly afraid we wouldn't see any; or I wouldn't see any. I'm still sort of living in the Thursday 1/24 paddle. Easily that was a trip rating of 3 paddle, but it showed me I'm WAY stronger than I think I am. The trip overall was just absolutely amazing. Never mind I got to travel with my grandmother for the first time in 10 years!

Carole G.
2 years ago

Of course, seeing the Manatees up close but just the fun we have together. This was a special trip as I brought my granddaughter with me. This was her introduction to women's travel.

Jacqueline A.
2 years ago

Anonymous
2 years ago

A little disappointed in the amount of kayaking. In the kayaks only 1/2 of each day for a couple hours. Would prefer more kayaking, as it was a "paddling" trip.

Laurie A.
2 years ago

Great guides. Very knowledgeable and interested in our safety and comfort. Great group of fellow travelers..

Lani D.
2 years ago

Paddling the Chassahowitzka - amazing.

Laura S.
2 years ago

FABULOUS!! The manatees were amazing, our guides, Laurie and Wendy were the best--very professional, excellent cooks, friendly, funny, supportive, educational, etc. Even when the weather forced a change in itinerary, they handled it without any stress, as if it was supposed to happen that way.

Judith L.
2 years ago

The kayaking was nice and in varied locations, nicely mixed with a little hiking and a chance to see the manatees and other wildlife from land, as well as from the kayaks. Even though one day we were unable to kayak due to weather, we did alternative things that were fine. The evenings with the group and the guides were fabulous, fun, with lots of laughs and good food and good company. Our two guides did a great job of bringing us all together as a group in a very short length of time. This was one of my best trips with you for group bonding. Everyone was friendly, positive and supportive. Our guides were great facilitators as well as participants in our group activities.

Cindy M.
2 years ago

This was the best trip ever!! To paddle with the manatees, the friendships with Laurie, Wendy and the other 10 members of the group were priceless. Paddling down the Chaz was a beautiful experience, the peacefulness of the water, the birds--maneuvering through that narrow shallow passageway was a bit of a challenge for me, but I did it!! I would book the trip again for next year except it's full and there are a few more trips I'd like to try.

Elizabeth R.
2 years ago

I loved seeing the Manatees.

Deborah D.
3 years ago

Havin an experience I have never had before - kayaking with manatees, reconnecting with friends and meeting other women. It was a great group of women and guides!!

Amy F.
3 years ago

The kayaking and the manatees were definite highlights.

Cassandra K.
3 years ago

Being surrounded in my kayak by manatees.

Sandra W.
3 years ago

Learning how to kayak from excellent guides

Barbara P.
3 years ago

This was my first ever group traveling event that did not include my husband. I was delighted to learn that other woman share my desire to travel "solo"! The comradery was outstanding.

Dancy W.
3 years ago

Paula K.
3 years ago

the kayaking and manatee sightings at both Homosassa and Chaz rivers

Barbara S.
3 years ago

The trip exceeded all my expectations and was superb! Loved the kayaking on Saturday into the more intimate area!

Michelle K.
4 years ago

It was a great trip. The guides were helpful and patient. The area was beautiful, and the activities were fun. The food was also very good.

Susan H.
4 years ago

The Manatees of course along with beautiful weather. Meeting women from different parts of the country

Nadine V.
4 years ago

I thought the first day of kayaking (manatees) would be the highlight of the trip, but the second day of kayaking was incredible!!! Loved it so much that I am trying to juggle my schedule so I can sign up for the AGC March Florida kayak trip!!!

Stacey R.
4 years ago

The highlight was that everything was taken care of for you and no planning, thinking, or worrying was needed. It was great! I just had to be at the location at the time specified.

Kathy C.
4 years ago

Susan C.
4 years ago

I would like to start by saying that our guides were fabulous; the other travelers were lovely. Because seeing the manatees is dependent on the weather, perhaps there could be another "enticement" for the trip. The sighting of the manatees would be a special bonus.

Linda M.
4 years ago

Seeing birds, jumping into spring water, three sisters spring

  1. Where do we eat?

    The breakfasts and some dinners will be provided by the lodge. Before you leave in the morning you the guides will put out lunch 'fixings' and you will take a packed lunch. You'll go out for dinner one night and other nights relax in the lodge and have dinner there.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    If we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets although choices may be limited. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we'll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.
  4. I have never kayaked before is this the right trip for me?

    This is the perfect trip for new and more experienced kayakers. The first day there will be instruction on safety and basic kayaking strokes. The waters are calm and the boats are stable.
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