Manatees also known as sea cows graze on a diet of seagrasses and other aquatic plants. These ‘cow-like- mammals can spend up to eight hours a day grassing on sea grass, but don’t let their slow nature fool you. Manatees are enchanting to see and visitors come from all over to spot these cows swimming in warm Florida waters.
Types of Manatees in Florida
Manatees in Florida have egg-shaped head, flippers and a flat tail and are harmless herbivores. Although manatees themselves are practically harmless they face many dangers including boats, human disturbance, and habitat loss. Boat propellers can be skid over manatees back and leave large gashes along their body. Manatees are endangered animals, and Florida has strict laws to protect them and probhit manatee hunting. Other dangers manatees face include toxic algal bloom or “red tide” which in 2018 killed almost 300 manatees alone.
Manatees in Florida are two subspecies of West Indian Manatees, the Antillean Manatee and Florida Manatee and can almost always be found munching on beds of seagrasses. While both of these types of manatees are very similar they are considered genetically diverse. Antillean manatees are likely to be spotted swimming in a mangrove or coral reef ecosystem.
Weeki Wachee will take around two hours to paddle down. Don’t be in shock if a manatee swims by in the translucent water while kayaking. Since manatees migrate towards warmer waters you can expect Manatees to show up when the weather is a little cooler around Weeki Wachee. It is a great location for paddling and manatee spotting near Tampa, Florida.
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is connected to the United States National Wildlife Refuge System focused on providing sanctuaries for animal and plant life, especially the endangered manatee. The river is located in Kings Bay and covers about 80 acres and is a hub for West Indian Manatees.
Weedon Island Nature Preserve
Out of all the local joints Weedon Island Nature Preserve is one of the best locations for manatee spotting near Tampa, Florida. Weedon Island kayaking near St. Petersburg allows for guest to get away from the crowded St. Pete Beach. Don’t be surprised if you spot a dolphin or two on you expedition as well.
Fanning Springs State Park
Located along the Suwanee river you might recognize Fanning Springs State Park for its iconic blue-green translucent waters. Throw a rock into the spring and watch it as it lands at the bottom of the water. The clear water allows every movement to be visible and you won’t miss any manatee or other aquatic life that swims by.
Fort De Soto State Park
Fort De Soto State Park has something for everyone. You can rent bicycles, go fishing, swim in the crystal blue water, or wander around the ancient fort. During your time at Fort De Soto be sure to watch the water closely. If you see a puff of air shooting up from the water it could be a manatee. Although you cannot touch a wild manatee, you can observe them in wonder from a distance.
Climate Change Affecting Manatees
Even though manatees in Florida thrive in warm waters, their diet doesn’t. Warming ocean temperatures is causing seagrasses to die out and manatees left without food. Climate change and the rising of sea levels has deeply impacting manatees in Florida. Protecting and restoring the wildlife habitat of manatees is crucial for their survival.
Warm pockets of water are ideal spots for manatees in Florida, so don’t miss out on your next visit. Manatees are more likely to come out during the winter months.