The Group Travel Leader

OCT 2016

The online home of The Group Travel Leader, America's leading publication for the group travel industry. Articles on hot destinations, attractions, news and travel trends from across the country and around the world.

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GROUP GROU P TRAVEL LE ADER T H E T he coast is a good place for remarkable adventures, from coming face to face with manatees and dugongs, gentle creatures once mistaken for mermaids, or having a Herman Melville-style experience by searching the sea for whales. For a memorable spin on outdoor adventure try a seaworthy experience at one of these five destinations. C RY S TA L R I V E R , F L O R I D A When Spanish explorers first came to the West Indies, they saw what they believed to be mermaids swimming alongside their ships. We know today that these were likely curious manatees and dugongs that live in the area. Crystal River, Florida, home to more manatees than anywhere else in the state, is the only destination in the United States where groups can swim with manatees. The manatees feed in the shallow waters off of Kings Bay and winter in the 70 or so warm water springs in the area; Three Sisters Springs and Homosassa Springs are two particularly popular locations. Crystal River Wildlife Refuge, which includes Three Sisters Springs, was the winter home to 530 manatees last year — a little over half of the area's population. Boardwalks at Homosassa and Three Sisters provide easy access to the manatees for groups, but for those who do want to get on the water, many area companies provide tours by boat, kayak and paddle board. For an underwater view of the manatees and other creatures that live in the spring, Homosassa has the Fish Bowl observatory, which floats in the main spring. Manatee season is mid-November through March, but manatees are found in the waters around Crystal River year round. The Florida Manatee Festival is held each January. — W W W. D I S C O V E RC R Y S T A L R I V E R F L . C O M — G A LV E S T O N , T E X A S Texas' Galveston Island is home to 32 miles of beach, and the nearby Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is the largest coral reef and the only marine sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. The waters off the Texas shore are filled with coral and plentiful fish and sea life. Galveston is a great place for groups to charter a boat for sightseeing, fishing and diving. Groups interested in sampling their catch can enjoy a shrimp- ing experience where they tag along on a shrimp boat and watch as fishermen bring in the catch. After the nets are filled, the boat heads back to shore, and the group can have a shrimp boil on the beach. Artist Boat offers walking and kayak tours around the island that feature sightings of egrets, ibises, crabs, herons and rays and other marine life. Artist Boat also offers the chance to combine watercolor painting with a tour. — W W W.G A LV E S T O N . C O M — M Y R T L E B E A C H , S O U T H C A R O L I N A Murrells Inlet is a great area to explore the hidden outdoor treasures around Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Originally a fishing village surrounded by rice planta- tions, the ocean inlet now includes a national historic district, known for the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk and G I V E Y O U R A D V E N T U R E R S S O M E ' W O W ' O N T H E W A T E R Courtesy Galveston Island CVB INSET: GROUPS WILL SEE PLENTY OF WATERFOWL AND WILDLIFE ON A TOUR OF GALVESTON ISLAND. ABOVE: GROUPS WILL ENJOY A SAILING EXCURSION IN GALVESTON HARBOR.

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