Crystal River Watersports recently received designation as a Guardian Guide under a new program established by Save the Manatee Club and the Manatee Ecotourism Association (META). The Guardian Guide program sets principles to provide sustainable, world-class ecotourism opportunities for in- and on-water visitors to Crystal River that promote stewardship of manatees, their aquatic ecosystem and the surrounding spring shed.
Upon receiving the designation, Mike Engiles, Executive Manager of Crystal River Watersports, said, “We are extremely proud to be one of the first companies to adopt the standards and be approved. We always strive to conduct our activities in an environmentally friendly manner. This recognition by Save the Manatee Club further solidifies Crystal River Watersports as a premiere eco-tourism operator.”
The Guardian Guide program requires tour operators to adhere to the following principles:
- Vary times and locations of tours to allow manatees the ability to rest undisturbed
- Require all swimmers to wear a wetsuit, utilize a floatation device and observe manatees only passively from a distance of at least one body length when possible
- Have guides accompany guests during all tour segments while captains remain aboard the vessel, with a guest-to-guide ratio not to exceed 12:1
- Prevent over-crowding and manatee disturbance by avoiding areas already in use by another tour group
- Create stewardship among guests and the manatee ecotourism community by encouraging guests to support manatee conservation efforts, engaging guides in community service that benefits Kings Bay, and by donating $1 from every guest to aquatic habitat protection and restoration within the spring shed.
Crystal River Watersports has been adhering to many of the Principles of the Guardian Guide program for the last few years. The 2017-2018 manatee season was a probationary time for Save the Manatee Club to evaluate the program and ensure adherence to the principles. Engiles said, “CRWS is continuing to emphasize a quality eco-tourism experience that conducts tours on the manatees’ terms to ensure their survival and the sustainability of the industry. Our family-owned and -operated business is committed to quality versus quantity.”
The Crystal River Watersports staff conducts and attends training on manatee biology, physiology, and the recognition of illness and injuries. The Captains and Guides assist with the identification and documentation of ill manatees, their rescue, release, and the annual health assessments.
Donations have assisted with King’s Bay area cleanup as well as youth education in environmental and marine science.
Crystal River Watersports is looking forward to a mutually beneficial partnership with Save the Manatee Club in support of our mutual goal of having all guests have a sustainable world-class eco-tourism experience that results in manatee and marine advocates.
Crystal River Watersports is an eco-tour operator based in Crystal River, FL, that offers a wide range of water activities on Florida’s Nature Coast. They have been a charter member of the Manatee Eco-Tourism Association of Citrus County (M.E.T.A.) striving to balance the magical interaction and learning about manatees while minimizing adverse impacts on the manatees. CRWS is the only Crystal River area store with the PADI 5-Star Resort Designation for their SCUBA training programs. CRWS offers eco and manatee tours, river cruises and tours above the water; snorkel tours with manatees; scalloping charters; and SCUBA training and tours below the water. www.crystalriverwatersports.com
Save the Manatee Club is an award-winning national 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership-based organization established in 1981 by renowned singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet and former U.S. Senator Bob Graham when he was Governor of Florida. Their mission is to protect manatees and their aquatic habitat for future generations by supporting the most effective conservation actions possible, making science-based decisions and supporting science-driven policies, demanding accountability from policy-makers and working cooperatively. www.savethemanatee.org