Responsible Manatee Viewing
Get a glimpse of this endangered species without disrupting natural behavior


Kayakers delight in seeing a manatee in the wild.
Kayakers delight in seeing a manatee in the wild. Save the Manatee Club recommends passive observation or viewing from a distance as the best way to protect manatees and all other wildlife.

by Nancy Sadusky, Director of Online Communications

Here’s a quandary: you love manatees and yearn to see them in the wild, but you also want to do it in a responsible way that does not disturb or harass them. Save the Manatee Club (SMC) recommends passive observation or viewing from a distance as the best way to protect manatees and all other wildlife, so we don't advocate any programs where you can touch them or feed them. However, there are several manatee viewing areas in Florida, and you can find information and protection tips at www.savethemanatee.org/viewing.

Another option is to take an ecotour with a responsible operator who has the best interest of manatees in mind. These ecotours can provide a less invasive alternative. Four such operators on Florida’s west coast include Aardvark’s Florida Kayak, Nature Coast Kayak Tours, and Manatees in Paradise in Crystal River, and Manatee Guides in Fort Myers.

Two manatees surface to breathe near on a kayaker.
It's important to view manatees in a responsible way that does not disturb or harass them.

Aardvark's Florida Kayak manatee tours are led by owners Matt and Sue Clemons. Matt is a wildlife biologist with several years of experience conducting manatee research, and Sue is a former park ranger. Matt is also a member of SMC’s Board of Directors. “Our manatee tours are conducted with a hands-off approach,” says Matt. “We believe that wild animals need to stay wild and the true ecotourist looks but does not touch.” In addition, 10 percent of each Aardvark tour booked by an SMC member goes toward the Club’s manatee conservation efforts.

Tracy Colson runs Nature Coast Kayak Tours, which offers guided ecotours of the Citrus County area. A Florida native, Tracy spent a lot of time on the Crystal River when she was growing up, and she has a keen interest in wildlife and nature. Tracy is an avid photographer and videographer who has used her skills to document manatee harassment. She has also volunteered her time to help rescue sick and injured manatees, and she has worked diligently to protect manatee habitat.

Manatees in Paradise in Crystal River offers an in-water experience without interfering with wild manatees in their winter habitat. “We are privileged to be able to enter their home,” says Captain Stacy. Captains Stacy and Mike Dunn are longtime volunteers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, helping to observe sick or injured manatees, recover dead manatees, and lend a hand for manatee health assessments. Their tours are small and uncrowded with a six-person maximum.

Manatee Guides in Fort Myers is owned and operated by Tim Martell, a guy with a big heart for manatees and a passion for teaching people about Florida’s wildlife and their habitat. Tim is a certified Florida Master Naturalist and expert wildlife guide as well as a volunteer at the Lee County Manatee Park in Fort Myers. Tim played a significant role in saving the lives of several red-tide-affected manatees in 2013, and he has volunteered numerous hours assisting FWC staff as they search for and help rescue injured or sick manatees in the area.

Tours to see manatees generally begin in October and run through April, and reservations are required. Please book your tour directly through the tour operators listed below.

Contact Information:

Vital Habitat for Endangered Manatees
Manatee sanctuaries are vital to the survival of manatees. During the winter months, manatees require water temperatures greater than 68° F to prevent the development of a potentially fatal syndrome called cold stress, with symptoms similar to frostbite and hypothermia. Florida’s springs provide a source of warm water, making them a preferred winter habitat for manatees when surrounding waterways cool into the mid-60s or below. Please do not enter designated manatee sanctuaries for any reason. If you see manatees in the wild, please be respectful and observe them from the surface of the water and at a distance. If you see a manatee being harassed, please call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC or #FWC on your cellular phone. You can also send a text message to Tip@MyFWC.com or use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio.

Aardvark’s Florida Kayak Company
707 N Citrus Avenue, Suite A
Crystal River, FL 34428
http://floridakayakcompany.com/TheBay.html

Aardvark tour participants who identify themselves as Save the Manatee Club members will receive a free “I Love Manatees” sticker, a 20 percent discount coupon for SMC’s manatee gift catalog or for SMC t-shirts sold in Aardvark’s store, and a 20 percent off discount coupon to see manatees at the nearby Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa, Florida.

Nature Coast Kayak Tours
Crystal River, FL 34428
Tours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays
http://naturecoastkayaktours.com

Manatees In Paradise
1223 N. Circle Drive
Crystal River, FL 34429
www.manateesinparadise.com

Manatee Guides

Ft. Myers, FL
www.manateeguides.com

Hope the inflatable manatee.
“We are privileged to be able to enter their home,” say Captains Mike and Stacy Dunn of Manatees in Paradise.
 
Matt Clemons and kayakers on a manatee ecotour.
Biologist Matt Clemons of Aardvark's Florida Kayak Company (at bottom right in the red kayak) and his ecotour group stop to view manatees gathered at a warm water spring during a chilly winter day. “We believe that wild animals need to stay wild and the true ecotourist looks, but does not touch,” says Matt.



Get More Info:

Join us on:

Facebook Twitter YouTube Pinterest


Return to the Manatee News page