This is the time of year when Floridians, snowbirds, and visitors alike head to the warmer waters of springs and electric plants and even nuclear plant complexes to watch our favorite manatees. While people call manatees sea cows, the female is the cow and the male the bull.
You can see them all year long in Florida waters and salt water bays, but in winter the West Indian manatees and their young gather in sometimes very large numbers in warmer waters. I think we get so excited about this because we realize that it is essential for the manatees to seek out warm waters for their mere survival. Manatees have a hard time surviving water temperatures under sixty degrees.
Manatees usually swim alone or in pairs and occasionally in an aggregation, which is a group of around six of the gentle creatures. To see dozens together is a rare except when the water temperatures start to drop to the lower sixties.
Tampa Bay is 56 degrees so the manatee head to Big Bend and warmer waters
It is difficult to not like the manatee, of which about 7,000 exist in Florida. Their survival is still endangered by changing world temperatures, speedboats, and possible diseases. They are non-territorial herbivores that seem to except snorkelers and scuba divers provided you don’t touch them or get between the mothers and calves.
Where are the best places to find large numbers of manatees?
TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach is where I take my visitors since I reside in Tampa and Northerners are surprised that manatees would hang out in a huge industrial complex like the Big Bend power plants.
The best place for winter visitors to snorkel and swim alongside manatees is at the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, 90 miles north of Saint Petersburg. The large spring area can get pretty bust with fishermen, boaters, and dive boats.
Normally underwater visitations with manatees is not promoted in Florida but the area’s experienced divers assure people are not trying to feed the manatees or interrupt their slow, casual wanderings around the warm springs.
Down in Southwest Florida the Lee County Manatee Park in Fort Myers offers a front row seat of manatees seeking warm waters. Prior to the park, people required a good canoe or kayak trip around Lovers Key State Park or a tour boat up the Caloosahatchee River to appreciate the large numbers of manatees in the region.
Manatee Park in Fort Myers
in Miami cooler weather seems to send the manatees southward toward the Florida Keys, but I have been told that some brave manatees are seen in Oleta River State Park and along the Miami River. In summer manatees are all along the canals of Coral Gables.
The large manatee groupings are found at the power plant locations by the Atlantic. West Palm Beach’s Manatee Lagoon is by the Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy plant of Florida Power and Light.
Palm Beach County Manatees Love Warm Waters
This is a real viewer friendly spot with a two-story museum, a gift shop, a snack center, and even a manatee webcam if it’s too cool outside the building. There are dozens of programs for people wanting to know more about Palm Beach water life.
Equally interesting is the Manatee Observation and Education Center at Fort Pierce on Moore’s Creek on the Indian River Lagoon near the big power plant. The neighboring Lisa’s Kayaks will put you into the middle of the action.
Of course, Florida’s many warm springs have waters over the 70 degree mark and are always popular with tourists. I think Homosassa Springs (the river) and Blue Springs at Orange City are great spots for a nature trip.
So when it gets cold in Florida – give the manatees a little love. #florida #manatees