Florida manatees are found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal water ecosystems of the southeastern United States. They can live in fresh, brackish, or salt water. Manatees prefer waters that are about one to two meters (3-7 feet) deep. Along the coast, manatees tend to travel in water that is about three to five meters (10-16 feet) deep, and they are rarely seen in areas over six meters (20 feet) deep. This habitat provides them with sheltered living and breeding areas, a steady, easily obtainable food supply and warm water -- all of which they need to survive.
Remember to Look, But Don't Touch For their own protection, wild animals need to stay wild to survive.
Passive Observation Video: Manatee advocate and underwater photographer Tracy Colson documents the wonderful views of natural manatee behavior that snorklers can get by practicing passive observation: float on the surface, be still and quiet, and keep your hands to yourself. The video includes beautiful footage of resting manatees, a manatee doing a barrel roll, and more.
Manatee Harassment Video: In contrast, in another video from Tracy, a guided tour group disturbs resting manatees, chases after them, and holds and attempts to ride the calf. The calf is then prevented from taking a full breath of air when it surfaces. Please be a responsible viewer when you see manatees in the wild. Manatees cannot tolerate temperatures below 68° F for long periods of time and need the warm water spring to survive in the winter. If manatees are harassed, they may leave warm water areas. A mother and calf could also be separated, and the calf could ultimately die without her.
There are lots of places in Florida to observe manatees. In the winter when the weather is cooler, generally November through March, you might be able to see manatees in the wild, clustered around warm water sources. Click the links below for more information for each viewing area.
If the weather is warmer, manatees are more widely dispersed. A few manatees may range as far north as Massachusetts and as far west as Texas during the summer months, but these sightings are rare. Summer sightings in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina are relatively common. From April through October, you will probably only be able to see manatees at captive facilities. Click the links below for more information for each viewing area.