It was an unusually cold day in Florida today, and I knew just what to do – go see some manatees. On Florida’s colder days, our manatees congregate in the warm waters of our natural springs and industrial power plants. For residents of Tampa, FL, Apollo Beach is the place to go. Here hundreds of manatees bathe in the warm-water discharge of Big Bend Tampa Electric Power Plant.
When people first started noticing manatees here back in 1986, Tampa Electric built a Manatee Viewing Center, and the area became a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary.
The center is open (and free to visit) from November 1st through April 15th each year. The best time to visit is on days when the water temperature in Tampa Bay drops below 68 degrees.
If you are lucky, you may see something like this:
But what you usually see is an abundance of manatee snouts, fins, backs, and tails peaking out from the murky waters of Tampa Bay.
Some of the manatees seemed to be leisurely floating, fins and snouts raised to the sky, to the delight of visiting children.
The highlight for me is being able to see such a large population of manatees, which have been gradually increasing in numbers since more stringent boat speed limits were introduced in the 1990’s.
I hear there are also manatees around the Safety Harbor pier and Veteran’s Memorial Marina Park this time of year, but I haven’t seen any myself yet.