Crystal River Watersports received designation on February 11 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 flotation 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.