You can find manatees throughout the year in Florida. These gentle “sea cows” live in a variety of coastal areas, slow-moving streams, estuaries and salt-water bays. In Florida, from November-April, manatees tend to come inland when it is cold. They can be found in the warm freshwater springs throughout the state. Manatees are an endangered species and are protected by law. The largest threat to manatees are human activities, mainly boating.
Here are some ways you can see and experience manatees in Florida:
There are many springs in Florida where you can see manatees in person. Some common springs are Crystal River, Homosassa Springs, Blue Springs, Tarpon Springs and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Some of these areas offer more than just paths around the springs to enjoy. For example, there is a wildlife refuge at Homosassa Springs, and you can learn more about Florida wildlife, including flamingos, panthers and bears.
Due to the danger that traditional propeller boats pose to manatees, one of the best ways to get on the water and see them is on a kayak. Some places actually allow you to rent clear-bottomed kayaks to see the manatees. Crystal River is a common area to kayak with manatees. If you don’t want to go too far from home, manatees can sometimes be found while kayaking around the Amelia River near Amelia Island.
Many of the springs where manatees can be found also offer a host of boat tours. This glass bottom boat tour at Silver Springs is a favorite of many. There are also plenty of eco cruises which provide not only wonderful information regarding manatees, but also ecological education and wildlife sightings.
Swimming with manatees is on my Kings Bay bucket list. I have yet to have the opportunity to swim with manatees, but I have been able to view them a handful of times in person. To swim with manatees, you need to find a tour that is legally permitted to swim with manatees. Crystal River is one of the few locations where this is possible. Fun 2 Dive, Captain Mikes, and Swim with Manatees are some of the top rated swimming tours, among others.
Have you seen these gentle giants while in Florida? Let other adventurers know your favorite places to view or swim with manatees.