CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. (Aug. 15, 2022) – Tripadvisor®, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, announced the winners of its coveted Travelers’ Choice® Best of the Best Things to Do Awards earlier this summer, with the Explorida Manatee Swim Tour in Crystal River, Florida, voted the No. 10 Top Bucket List Experience in the world.
The only U.S.-based experience to make the top 10, the manatee tour finished alongside other must-do, favorite experiences, including a camel safari in Dubai (No. 1), a hot air balloon ride in Egypt (No. 3), and a northern lights adventure in Norway (No. 9).
Like all Travelers’ Choice Awards, Tripadvisor’s Best Things to Do Awards are based on an analysis of authentic reviews and ratings of experiences, tours, attractions and activities over the past 12 months from Tripadvisor travelers. The Top Bucket List Experience – World subcategory is one of 11 included in the 2022 awards. Located just 90 minutes north of Tampa, Crystal River is known as the Manatee Capital of the World, and home to several professional tour operators like Explorida, which specialize in manatee swim experiences.
“We’re thrilled for Explorida on making such a prestigious list and congratulate their team for delivering unforgettable bucket list experiences for our visitors,” said John Pricher, director of Discover Crystal River Florida. “Like all our certified tour operators, Explorida is an expert in providing a safe, fun, one-of-a-kind vacation adventure, but also take very seriously our shared responsibility of promoting and protecting the local manatee population.”
According to Pricher, the tour guides in Crystal River make sure swimmers, paddlers and boaters adhere to rules regarding interaction with manatees in the wild and avoid designated sanctuary areas.
“We’re beyond honored to receive this esteemed designation,” said Kim Altman, who co-owns and operates Explorida with her husband, Anthony Altman. “From conception, we’ve dedicated ourselves to the customer experience at Explorida, educating guests and doing our part to protect the manatees and resources we all call home. That’s what our guests experience when they step foot in our door, and what got us here today.”
The Altmans are committed to running a sustainable operation, emphasizing the importance of recreating responsibly. “When offering guided tours of natural resources, we believe a responsible company should embody all aspects of preservation and conservation. At Explorida, we set the industry standard by equipping every boat in our fleet with Powerpole ‘spike’ Anchors to protect the grass beds, and prop guards to benefit the grasses and manatee population as well. Our guests recognize and appreciate our efforts.”
Travelers’ Choice award winners are those select accommodations, attractions and restaurants that consistently demonstrate a commitment to hospitality excellence and are among the top 10% of listings on Tripadvisor. Travelers’ Choice “Best of the Best” award winners are among the top 1% of listings on Tripadvisor, earning consistently great reviews.
In a press statement, Kate Urquhart, General Manager, Experiences at Tripadvisor, said the awards bring well-deserved recognition to the hard-working and skilled tour operators who have managed to provide exceptional experiences to their guests while still navigating the pandemic. She encouraged everyone to “check out this year’s winners to discover the tours and activities travelers say you can’t miss!”
In addition to swim tours, the Crystal River region makes it easy to see manatees in the wild from easily accessed boardwalks at Three Sisters Springs and the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, or by kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding throughout Kings Bay or the Homosassa River.
Crystal River is also home to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the only refuge in the United States specifically created to protect critical habitats for the manatee. Manatees can be found here year-round, but especially during Manatee Season (Nov. 15 – March 31, 2022), when hundreds of the slow-moving mammals leave the nearby Gulf of Mexico for the constant 72°F (23°C) spring waters of Kings Bay and the Homosassa River. To learn more about Crystal River and experience one of the Top Bucket List Experiences in the world, visit DiscoverCrystalRiverFL.com.