LOCAL DIVING 36 | SPRING 2019 P uff … snuffle … sputter. The sound of robust, hearty breaths breaking the water’s surface is a sweet, melodic symphony to any manatee lover’s ears. They had me at the first boisterous exhale. It seems the more things change in and around Crystal River, Florida, the more the manatees stay the same — except for their climbing numbers. The manatee population in the Kings Bay area is increasing and thriving. Observers are able to view them from beautiful tree-lined boardwalks and also have the unique opportunity to experience them below the water’s surface. To protect Florida’s state marine mammal, the charismatic manatee, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) developed regulations for both topside and underwater visitors to follow. The information, rules and photographs collected here will help illustrate the magical encounters, but status, rules and regulations can be modified at any time. For the most current information, Text and photos by Carol Grant ENCHANTING MANATEES OF CRYSTAL RIVER An early-season manatee gazes in wonder. Natural light and blue water highlight the fall season at Big Sister Spring.