Monday, January 6, 2014

TECO's Manatee Viewing Center

manatee sign

Florida is one of the few places in the world where manatees are found. Although manatees look fat, they actually have very little body fat to keep them warm. So when the Gulf of Mexico dips below 68 degrees, they migrate to warmer waters like the natural springs in Homosassa or Crystal River. Every few years, Ron and I like to take the boat up to Homosassa to swim with the manatees. But since it didn’t look like we’d have time this year, we decided to spend an afternoon at Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center instead.

The viewing center was created after the Big Bend Power Station opened in 1986 and employees noticed large numbers of manatees congregating in the warm waters of their discharge canals each winter. The center includes an observation platform, as well as educational displays, a nature trail and butterfly gardens.

We picked the perfect day for manatee-watching. Because of the recent cold front, there were over a hundred manatees swimming, snoozing and socializing in the canal. The only problem with viewing manatees from a platform is that you mostly see their backs and tails and the occasional nose popping out of the water. But we did spot several baby manatees with their mothers. And there was plenty of other wildlife too - pelicans, fiddler crabs, jack, tarpon and even some sharks. Kudos to TECO for turning an industrial area into a place where people can see and learn about these unique animals.

observation platform
Observation platform

lots of manatees
Lots and lots of manatees

manatee tail


manatee nose


manatee mother and calf
Mother and calf


nature trail

butterfly habitat sign


Travel Tips:  The Manatee Viewing Center is open from November 1 to April 15 and admission and parking are free. There are even some parking spots with charging stations for electric cars.

manatee up close
Up close and personal (a manatee in Homosassa Springs, 2011)

No comments:

Post a Comment