Seeing manatees in Florida is a great experience for those who don't live in the Sunshine State. Not only is it a unique activity to have with some of Florida's most beloved native marine species, but it's something that can be done quite easily. With so many places at which to see manatees, and a time frame that's fairly broad, visitors should have no problems watching these beautiful animals in their natural habitats.
With that being said, there are some things visitors to Florida should know before taking a dip with manatees. Some locations are better than others, and many of them have rules and guidelines in place to protect this incredible species. Additionally, certain times of the day are better to see a manatee in the wild than others, as is detailed in this guide.
Where Are The Best Places To See Manatees In Florida?
The biggest question, and the most important one, is about manatee habitats. Some places are known as breeding grounds and frequent feeding grounds for manatees, which makes them more likely to yield a manatee sighting than others. Of some of Florida's most popular spots, these give visitors the best chance at witnessing one during a visit.
Known as one of the top spots in Florida for manatee sightings, Crystal River is popular thanks to the many natural springs that make up its aquatic landscape. Visitors to Three Sisters Springs have the chance to potentially see hundreds of manatees during its peak season.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
This is one protected park where visitors are able to see manatees in Florida all year round. The refuge has greatly benefited the manatee population, and many people visit to explore the grounds and observe other native species - not just manatees.
Blue Springs State Park
Blue Springs State Park is home to Blue Springs, where visitors can often see more than one manatee swimming at a time. The boardwalks throughout the park and around the springs make for great viewing platforms, and allow visitors to hang out and manatee-watch all day.
This natural spring is known for kayaking, but it's often that those who are kayaking will bump into manatees during their trips, as well. The best time to see manatees here is during the colder Florida months when they will be more active in the area near Tampa.
Which Months Are The Best For Seeing Manatees?
The unique thing about manatees in Florida is that they can be seen all year round. There are no 'bad' times to look for them, per se, but there are certain months that visitors will benefit from during their visit. If manatee viewing is the goal, the best time to visit is during the state's colder months. This means that between November and April, visitors will have a higher chance of seeing manatees in Florida's waterways than they would during the summer.
The cold months are when the population is more active and rather than seeing two or three, one might see them by the dozens, depending on where they are.
The months when one will find the most manatees are December, January, and February - the coldest months in Florida are also the most active for the species.
What Time Of The Day Is Best For Seeing Manatees?
Additionally, those looking for manatees in local waterways should plan their visits in the early morning. This is when manatees are known to be more active and playful, and also when springs are less crowded. To avoid crowds even further, visiting Florida's natural springs during the week, rather than on the weekends, is a safe bet.
Can You Touch Manatees In The Wild?
The short answer is yes - however, it's important to remember that manatees are an endangered species. Therefore, there are rules and guidelines when it comes to any type of human-animal interaction. Some things to remember when interacting with a manatee, or any marine life:
- The best chance of seeing and interacting with manatees will be through a marine tour, guided by an expert.
- Swimmers and divers should avoid making more noise than necessary as they can spook the manatees.
- Avoid excessive splashing.
- All movements should be done in a calm and calculated manner; no thrashing about.
- Manatees are fairly comfortable with humans, and it's not unusual for them to swim up to a person out of curiosity.
- A person is permitted to touch a manatee on the back or stomach, but it is illegal to touch a manatee with both hands - one hand at a time, only!
With that being said, visitors to Florida's natural springs can see manatees without ever entering the water with them. They are a spectacular sight to see and an incredible species to observe, learn about, and experience in person.