The cooler weather earlier this week has brought manatees into the rivers and springs in Citrus County.  Tour boats have already started taking people out to get a closer look, much earlier in the year than normal.

  • Cooler weather sending manatees in search of warmer waters
  • Manatees expected to remain in rivers, springs through winter
  • Busiest time of the year for boat captains, restaurants, lodging near rivers

With about five times more manatees already in the Springs than they typically have throughout the year, people are booking their tours eager to jump in the water and get a closer look.

Seeing several manatees in these water is pretty unusual in early November, but the cooler weather earlier this week sent them in the search of warmer water.

"Usually we wait up until the end of November, because we don't want to take people swimming out here when there's not a whole lot of manatee to interact with," Gary Bartell Jr. with River Adventure Tours said.

"This past Monday it was unbelievable -- it was like a train of manatee coming down the river right through the middle ... it was like a big parade. It was a great sight to see," Bartell added.

Bartell said even though it's gotten a little warmer, he expects most of the manatees here to stay for the winter.

He said getting started a few weeks earlier is huge for his business, since this is one of their busiest times of year.

"This is our biggest industry of the year for boat captains, for lodging, for restaurants -- we really depend on the manatee season to be successful."

Other captains we spoke with say this early start is much needed this year, since many of them took big losses not taking people on tours when Hurricane Irma hit.

"This is the start of our busy season. It's going to be non-stop here until about the middle of April," Greg Sorvino with Snorkel with the Manatees said.

A unique experience that people now have a bit longer to check out for themselves.

Bartell told us he counted more than 60 manatees in the springs there in Homossosa earlier this week.