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Citrus County is the only place in the U.S. where you can swim with and touch manatees

Posted at 11:47 AM, Feb 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-07 09:34:07-05

HOMOSASSA, Fla. — Chilly weather is the perfect time of year to swim with manatees, and Citrus County offers the most unique experience in the entire nation.

Since the 1970s, Citrus County has been the only place in America where you can swim with and touch manatees legally.

Manatees flock into the freshwater springs this time of year to stay warm in the 72-degree water. This makes colder days the perfect time to see them up close.

"They will come to you and check you out and stay by your side. They love the human interaction and are very curious," said Gary Bartell Jr. of River Adventure Tours in Homosassa.

Manatees are also protected, which is why there are so many rules including: you can’t touch their face, chase them, or kick your feet in the water near them.

And experiencing them up close gives people a new found love for the gentle creature.

"When people get back on the boat, they look at me every time and say 'that was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had,'" said Bartell.

There are many companies that offer manatee tours and the best time of year to do it is in the winter months.

For more information about swimming with manatee tours, click here.