- Named one of National Geographic Traveler's "50 Tours of a Lifetime" in 2015!
- Snorkel alongside large groups of manatees in crystal-clear springs.
- Stay on a historic, private, family-owned tree farm with 1,100 acres of sustainably managed habitat that is home to abundant native wildlife.
- Enjoy diverse activities including guided canoeing or airboat excursions, and learn about local ecology and conservation.
Oceanic Society is excited to bring you this unique, educational experience with Florida's manatees and vanishing ecosystems.
This is a great program for families. The highlight of the adventure will be two mornings spent snorkeling alongside large congregations of Florida's endangered manatees, in the crystal clear springs that they rely on in the winter months. Afternoons and additional days will include exploring the grounds of Espedeco Tree Farm (described below) and naturalist guided canoeing or airboat excursions.
During your stay, members of the local conservation community will come and talk with the group. For example, we will discuss how wildlife photography is used to showcase the often forgotten wilderness and charismatic species in our own backyard. Park rangers and wildlife rescuers will also discuss the challenges of preserving the vital springs and surrounding habitats from development and poor water usage.
This program is designed to integrate the experience of viewing manatees in the wild with opportunities to learn about how that ability is dependent on the preservation of the native ecology of the region. The program leader will provide natural history and ecology lectures on the other evenings.
Through this experience, participants will have an opportunity for full immersion in this Florida ecosystem and will get to see that sometimes you do not have to go across the globe to see vital wildlife communities and learn about conservation challenges.
The highlight of our trip will be two mornings spent snorkeling with manatees in their warm water winter refuge. The manatees are part of the Crystal River herd, which makes up roughly 25 percent of the United States' manatee population.
We will also have ample time to explore Espedeco's forests, which protect a disappearing habitat where many of Florida's native species can still be found in abundance, including alligators, bobcats, endangered gopher tortoises, armadillos, opossums, white tailed deer, foxes, and a wide variety of birds including osprey, owls, and hawks. Espedeco's open fields and wild meadows are also home to many species of butterflies.
Trip Dates & Cost
2017: January 18-22. $1,395 per person.*
* Single supplement fee $475. Trip price does not include airfare.
Nataly Castelblanco-Martinez is a Colombian conservation biologist with extensive experience with aquatic mammals in South America and the Caribbean. She holds a master in freshwater biology and fisheries and a Ph.D. in ecology and sustainable development, and is regional co-chair of the IUCN Sirenian Specialist Group. Nataly's work has focused on the ecology, behavior, population dynamics, morphology and ethno-knowledge of aquatic mammals.
Samantha Whitcraft holds a bachelor in Natural Sciences from Harvard University and earned her master of Marine Affairs and Policy at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. As a conservation biologist, she has worked with National Geographic, WildAid and local communities to research and develop sustainable ecotourism and "citizen science." A resident of Florida, her fieldwork has taken her to the Amazon, Kiribati, the Bahamas, Fiji, and the Galapagos.