Picture of Paddling with Manatees
Picture of Paddling with Manatees
Picture of Paddling with Manatees
Picture of Paddling with Manatees
Picture of Paddling with Manatees
Picture of Paddling with Manatees
Picture of Paddling with Manatees
Picture of Paddling with Manatees
Picture of Paddling with Manatees

Paddling with Manatees

Destination: Homosassa Springs, FL

Who can resist these gentle giants in their winter home of Florida's spring-fed rivers?? On this trip we experience the manatees up close and personal in their natural habitat, viewing them through crystal clear waters as we sit above and among them in our kayaks. 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, as if to be petted, 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.



  • 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 21 to January 24, 2020
$1275.00 - Available
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  • 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.


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 accommodated 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.


As is true on any adventure trip, this itinerary may be modified based on weather, tides, changes in conditions, group desires etc. While we cannot guarantee that you will see wild manatees, it is extremely likely based on previous experience.

We meet at the Tampa, FL airport at 10:00am (if you plan to arrive that morning, please make sure your plane arrives by 9:30am). Our drive to the Chassahowitzka Hotel is about 1.5 hours. After settling into our rooms, we will share a welcome picnic 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'll 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. By the end of this session, you'll be ready to paddle with the manatees and enjoy your trip! After our time on the water we'll return to our rooms and our group dining area for a hearty meal and a discussion of our plans for the rest of the trip.


We'll spend our first full day on the Homosassa River. Leaving directly from the boat ramp at our resort, we head towards Monkey Island. Monkey Island is the home to several monkeys whose ancestors were left there after a Tarzan movie was filmed on the Homosassa River in 1937. Leaving Monkey Island we'll hug the shoreline and start watching 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.

We'll continue exploring the Homosassa to its end at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. After lunch back at the resort, we head back to the Park, this time by land. This little gem of a park is a great place to learn more about the manatees and the other birds and mammals in the area. 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 walking among the other animals and birds that also live in this area, we'll return to our rooms for some relaxation and showers. 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.

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.
After a hearty breakfast we'll pack up and leave our riverside resort for one last experience of the area. This time we'll spend about 2 hours in the woods, hiking Rook Trail in the Withcaloochee State Forest. This 2.7 mile trail is a beautiful hike away from any sign of human development and a peaceful end to our trip, as well as get a chance to stretch our legs before our flights home. We'll be walking on a mix of upland sandhill habitat with hardwood swamp, pine forest and open meadow. After our hike and a few last words, we'll head back to the Tampa airport. You'll be back by 1:30pm and can fly out after 2:30 PM.

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  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.