Crystal River Expedition

Enjoy a Crystal River nature cruise and manatee experience like no other as you explore their natural habitat with Dr. James “Buddy” Powell. Dr. Powell is one of the foremost manatee experts in the world and the Executive Director of Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, leading a team of scientists who protect threatened and endangered marine species and their habitats.

On this private expedition, Dr. Powell will guide you through the unique and beautiful Crystal River Wildlife Refuge, home to hundreds of West Indian manatees native to the waters of Central Florida. You’ll explore Dr. Powell’s secret manatee “hot spots” throughout the refuge, learn about the ecology of manatees, and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience of snorkeling alongside of them.

During your time on the expedition, you’ll discover why both Crystal River and manatees still need protecting as Dr. Powell provides you with valuable insight into endangered species conservation and why safeguarding these natural resources are so important. You’ll also learn about the ways Dr. Powell and his team work to safeguard manatees here in Florida and beyond, which include tagging and tracking, direct rescue, and conservation interventions.

Trip Highlights

  • Experience Crystal River through the eyes of Dr. Buddy Powell, leading manatee expert who worked alongside Jacques Cousteau during the filming of the first documentary on manatees
  • Stay at the historic Plantation Inn on Crystal River and enjoy local Floridian cuisine with Dr. Powell
  • Explore the coves and springs around the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge by boat and have the chance to snorkel alongside manatees
  • Learn about the early days of manatee research; Dr. Powell’s current research in Florida, Cuba, and Belize; and the perspective on the future for this incredible species

What’s Included

  • Floridian cuisine dinner with Dr. Buddy Powell
  • Snorkeling package with wetsuits, masks, snorkels, fins
  • Day nature cruise and snorkeling guide in Crystal River Wildlife Refuge
  • Overnight lodging at Plantation Inn with complimentary breakfast


This trip is rated with a light physical rating. Trip members should be able to confidently swim against possible currents. While Dr. Powell will be alongside you for all in-water activities, swimmers must be physically prepared for solo snorkels near large manatees. Crystal River maintains a 72-degree F temperature, and you will be provided wet suits.

Length: 2 Days, 1 night (Option to add second night)
Group Size: 7 people, must be 13+ years old
Physical Rating: Light
Accommodations: Plantation Inn at Crystal River, 1 night

Day 1: Arrive at the historic Plantation Inn on Crystal River. Relax and explore the property to see the history of one of the most beautiful and natural areas of Florida. Join Dr. Powell for a local Floridian dining experience during the evening, and hear stories about his youth growing up on Crystal River, his year with Dr. Cousteau, and his global work throughout Africa, Belize, Cuba, and the United States.

Day 2: Enjoy your complimentary breakfast at Plantation Inn before walking over to the adjacent dive shop to change into your “field gear”. Dr. Powell will pick you up on the pontoon boat directly from Plantation Inn’s property! Travel the river with Dr. Powell, stop in the hidden coves and springs, and have the chance to snorkel side by side with manatees! After a day on the water, you’ll return to Plantation Inn where you can relax and explore at your leisure. Optional: Add on another night at Plantation Inn to extend your stay and enjoy a relaxing breakfast in the morning

What to Pack

  • Lightweight sun-protective clothing
  • Clothing for a casual dining experience
  • Sunscreen (Please be sure that it is certified reef and fish-safe)
  • Comfortable shoes/sandals for the boat ride
  • Swimwear
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Towel
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses (polarized are recommended to see through the water and observe manatees)
  • Binoculars for bird-watching
  • Snacks suggested as you will be on the water for a while after breakfast

Not Included

  • Additional meals and alcoholic beverages
  • Travel Insurance
  • Airfare or travel expenses to Crystal River not included.

Additional Information

Trips subject to weather conditions. If your trip is postponed due to inclement weather, every effort will be made to reschedule at the earliest convenience.

Interested in a Crystal River Expedition? 

Request more information by providing your contact information below. 

CMA Blog

Updated Jul 8, 2019 | Posted May 22, 2017
Updated Jul 8, 2019 | Posted Feb 27, 2017
Updated Jul 8, 2019 | Posted Jan 30, 2017

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