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.
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  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 renovated to accommodate groups and individuals alike. It is situated next to a large oak tree which gives it a wonderful nostalgic Florida feel, with 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.
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.
It was so great to just get away with a fun group of women and do something we all enjoy!
The kayaking was awesome and so relaxing! Being out on the water and getting to see so many manatees and waterfowl was a great experience!
Experiencing the world of manatees and kayaking the scenic waterways was a real treat.
First, the two guides were great. Positive, informed, had everything planned out. I love kayaking and being part of nature while being with the manatees in their natural habitat was wonderful. I also appreciated that we had accommodations in and got to enjoy and absorb the local community.
The leaders set up a welcoming atmosphere and expectation of fun and camaraderie. . We were lucky the weather was cold and we saw numerous manatees. Community meals and nice schedule of activities. In the immediate area.
Great guides, lovely accommodations and activities
What made the trip special for me was the ability to experience adventures with other like minded people who were also enjoying everything as much as I was.
Being able to observe and be close up to the manatees.
Like the other AGC trips I've been on, this one did not disappoint. We had excellent weather, saw loads of manatees and learned quite a bit about them. The camaraderie among this group of women was on par with what I have experienced on other AGC trips. The lodge setting made it easy to socialize but also have some space if you wanted it. The variety of activities kept us busy and we had many moments of shared laughter.
The guides Laurie and Jaime were excellent. Loved the lodge, they fed us so much and hosts worked so hard. The weather was great and we saw so many manatees the first day. We played a manatee jeopardy at night and other games. Nice relaxing trip and a new experience in kayaking for me.
The camaraderie among the women as well as the opportunity to be kayaking seeing not only manatees, but an amazing variety of birds up close.
Easy going friendship of participants.
I was super happy to have found a friend to accompany me since I have such fun on these trips (this was my 6th trip with AGC) and I want to share AGC with others. And, just as I have experienced many times before, the group of women that came on this trip was just great. THEY, in fact, were the real highlight.
It was enjoyable!
Yes. I could have stayed longer!
Outdoor activities yes. Food and accommodations no.
Great group of women, warm and friendly accommodations, excellent organization, and lots and lots of manatees.
so many manatees
And more! I laughed so often, gasped in amazement- sometimes at myself for what I learned I could do, and ate wat to much!
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!
Exceeded Expectations. Laurie
Seeing so many manatees. Also the kayaking.
Manatee behaviors were far more interesting than I expected.
The group was very nice. Always on time is a plus. The lodge was a delight.
Kayaking in those rivers was great, Meeting all the nice ladies is always a highlight.
Guides were amazing and the manatees were bountiful!
Kayaking new rivers, seeing wildlife
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.
The people (guides
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
Great guides. Well planned. Wonderful group of women!
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!
Kayaking was the best part of the trip.
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!
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.
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.
Great guides. Very knowledgeable and interested in our safety and comfort. Great group of fellow travelers..
Paddling the Chassahowitzka - amazing.
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.
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.
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.
I loved seeing the Manatees.
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!!
The kayaking and the manatees were definite highlights.
Being surrounded in my kayak by manatees.
Learning how to kayak from excellent guides
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.
the kayaking and manatee sightings at both Homosassa and Chaz rivers
The trip exceeded all my expectations and was superb! Loved the kayaking on Saturday into the more intimate area!
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.
The Manatees of course along with beautiful weather. Meeting women from different parts of the country
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!!!
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.
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.
Seeing birds, jumping into spring water, three sisters spring