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How to See Manatees in Florida & How to Interact With Them!

Updated: Feb 26

Florida, renowned for its diverse wildlife, offers a unique opportunity to swim with gentle giants – the manatees. In this blog post, we'll explore the ideal springs, the perfect time of year, the best time of day, and the essential etiquette to ensure a respectful and memorable experience with these fascinating marine creatures.

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Choosing the Right Springs:

How to see manatees in Florida ... Several rivers in Florida are known for hosting manatees during the winter months. To find the manatees, you'll want to visit springs that are branched off of these rivers:

1. Blue Spring Run (St. Johns River):

Blue Spring State Park, located along the St. Johns River, is a designated manatee refuge. The spring maintains a constant temperature, providing a warm haven for manatees during colder periods.

2. Crystal River:

Crystal River and its associated springs, such as Three Sisters Springs, are well-known for manatee activity. The warm waters attract manatees seeking refuge during the winter.

3. Homosassa River:

The Homosassa River, located on Florida's Gulf Coast, is another popular spot for manatees. The river's warm waters make it an attractive destination for manatee sightings.

4. Indian River Lagoon:

The Indian River Lagoon, stretching along Florida's east coast, is a diverse estuary where manatees can be found in the winter. It provides a mix of fresh and saltwater habitats.

5. Tampa Bay:

Various areas within Tampa Bay, including the vicinity of power plants with warm water discharges, can attract manatees seeking warmth during colder months.

6. Manatee River:

Appropriately named, the Manatee River on Florida's west coast can be a location where manatees are present, especially during the winter when they seek warmer waters.

Timing is Everything:

For the optimal manatee experience, plan your visit during the winter months, from November to March. During this period, manatees seek refuge in warmer waters, and the chance of encountering these majestic creatures is significantly higher. Keep in mind that the water temperature in Florida's springs remains relatively constant, around 72 degrees, providing a comfortable environment for manatees.

Best Time of Day:

To maximize your chances of an unforgettable encounter, plan your swim early in the day. Manatees are more active during the morning hours, making dawn the perfect time for a peaceful and undisturbed interaction. The serene atmosphere during these hours enhances the overall experience, allowing you to connect with nature and these gentle giants.

Respecting Manatee Etiquette:

While swimming with manatees, it's crucial to practice responsible and ethical behavior. Adopt a passive approach by allowing the manatees to initiate contact. Please, NO Chasing, touching, or disturbing them.

The best way to observe manatees is to let THEM initiate the interaction. Let them come to you. Adhering to these guidelines promotes a positive relationship between humans and manatees, contributing to the conservation efforts aimed at protecting these endangered creatures.

Remember: NEVER chase, touch, or disturb manatees.

  • Maintain Distance: Give them ample space to move freely and avoid altering their natural behavior.

  • Snorkel Gear: Submerge quietly using snorkel gear to observe them from the surface.

  • Stay Calm and Quiet: Minimize noise and sudden movements to avoid startling them.

  • Flash/Strobe Photography: Avoid using flash or strobe photography due to their sensitive eyes.

  • Let them Initiate: Allow manatees to approach you on their own terms.

  • Educate Others: Spread awareness about responsible interaction and manatee conservation.

Additional Tips:

  • Look for guided tours led by trained professionals who prioritize responsible manatee encounters.

  • Support organizations dedicated to manatee research and conservation.

  • Follow all local regulations and guidelines regarding manatee interaction.

Remember: Responsible interaction ensures everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience, while protecting these magnificent creatures for future generations. Let's create lasting memories and safeguard Florida's aquatic wonders.

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