West Indian Manatee is a large, gray-brown aquatic mammal.
Its seal-like body tapers to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. The
upper part of its body has two small forelimbs with 3 to 4 nails
on each flipper. The head and face are wrinkled, and the snout
has whiskers. Adults have been known to reach lengths of over
13 feet and weights of over 3,000 pounds. Calves are 3 to
4 feet long at birth and weigh approximately 60 pounds.
Manatees spend most of their time feeding and resting.
They graze for food along rivers, coastal bottoms and the water's
surface. Manatees have been known to hold their breaths for as
long as 20 minutes, but they usually surface every 5 minutes to
breathe. Their minimum population is estimated to be about
the continuing growth of Florida's coastal areas threatens the manatee's
SPRING manatee conditions
US. Fish and Wildlife conducts regular aerial
counts during the months of Nov-March.
On Jan. 13th, during the 2 week cold snap, there was a record count
of 650 manatees in Citrus County and 565 in Kings Bay alone. The
extraordinary cold snap brought unprecedented numbers. On the same
day there was a state wide fly over. Over 30 planes were coordinate
for this effort. Temperatures were below 50 degrees as far south as
the Keys, yielding the best conditions and the highest count
recorded. A very encouraging number of 5067 manatees were counted
state wide. Wonderful news for all manatee lovers. However,
numbers have since declined.
We had a great winter, but winter is over. Now
we enter the spring. We're still having enjoyable tours but with
far fewer manatee and not usually in clear water. We can expect at
least one or two more cool spells, bringing many happy manatee back
into the clear springs.
weather.com and our local forecast will pop-up.
In the mean time, though, we can expect most days to find fewer,
eating, sleeping, and sometimes interacting with us. Visibility
typically varies between pretty good and not so good, but that is a
day by day change that we cannot predict in advance. Our customers
enjoy these tours and some come back year after year at this time. Call us at 800.771.2763 for the most
The mornings can be chilly.
All of our boats are enclosed and drinks and Donuts are available
on the boats. Wear your swimsuit under your clothes to the
shop, change into your wetsuit at the shop and bring a dry bag (or
plastic bag) with you to put your clothes in after changing into
your wetsuit (most people change back into their dry clothes on the
way back to the dock). Please
call for reservations.
This aerial photograph is of the
King Spring sanctuary in
December, 2001, when the air
temperature was 32F
The water temperature is always 72F around the springs.
What Can Boaters
You can reduce your chances of injuring or killing a manatee by following these simple steps:
- Wear polarized glasses while operating a boat. Polarized lenses make it much easier to see the "swirling" that
occurs when a manatee surfaces for air.
Stay in the center of the marked channel.
Manatees have shown signs that they are avoiding heavy traffic areas.
Channel depth reduces the likelihood of pinning or crushing manatees.
Stay out of sea grasses. Grass beds are prime manatee habitat.
This includes areas where hydrilla and water hyacinths are present.
Slow down. Your boat has speeds other than idle and "wide open".
Reducing your speed gives you greater maneuverability to avoid a manatee when you see
one (you'll also save gas).
Observe all manatee speed zones and caution areas.
What Can Divers
As divers, you are directly entering the manatee's habitat. By following these simple
steps you can minimize your impact:
- Use snorkel gear when diving with manatees. The sound of bubbles from SCUBA gear can frighten the manatees.
Manatees are wild animals and should not be fed.
Close exposure to or dependence on humans can be harmful to them.
While swimming or diving, do not approach or chase a manatee.
Give a manatee its "personal space".
A cow and her calf belong together.
Please do not separate them -- actually, please do not separate or single out
any individual manatee from a herd.
Never poke, prod or stab a manatee with your hands, feet or any object.
Take only as many pictures as the manatees will pose for.
Never try to force a manatee into an extended photo
Becky Dayhuff wrote several articles about Florida's manatees after swimming with them in Crystal River.
Her articles have helped raise awareness of the many problems that manatees face.
Article 1: First Encounter
Article 2: Endangered
Article 3: Protection
These articles were taken from a series of articles originally published by
Africam.com in July of 2000.
Africam.com was recently highlighted on NBC Nightly News and was featured in the
August 2000 issue of Conde' Nast Traveler magazine.
If you would like more information about manatees and the things that
are being done to protect them,
contact the organizations listed below and request the specified
booklets or brochures -- or visit your local library.
Power and Light
Environmental Affairs Department
P.O. Box 078768
West Palm Beach, FL 33407-0788
|Request these booklets:
The West Indian Manatee In Florida
Attention: Swimmers, Boaters and Divers -- Guidelines
for protecting Manatees
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Protected Species Management
MS 245 3900 Commonwealth Boulevard
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000
|Request this booklet:
The Manatee, Miss Her Now or Miss Her Forever
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
1502 S.E. Kings Bay Drive
Crystal River, FL 34429
|Request these brochures:
Chassohowitzka National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
... and this booklet:
Guidelines for Protecting Manatees