As the Florida weather turns colder, the manatees head for warm waters. This typically leads them to places like springs and power plant discharge basins. So while it may be a bit chilly to head to the beach this weekend, it may be a good time to grab a jacket and go out and try to spot some manatees.
Here are some of the best places to see groups of manatees during the Tampa Bay winter:
Spring Bayou near Craig and Coburn Parks
One great spot to see manatees this time of the year is Spring Bayou near Craig and Coburn Parks in Tarpon Springs. The manatees are very visible from shore when present. The Bayou is also the site of the annual Greek Orthodox Epiphany Celebration and cross-diving ceremony. Parking is limited in this historic district.
Tampa Electric Company (TECO) Manatee Viewing Center
Manatees also love the warm waters caused by discharge from power plants. TECO has an excellent official Manatee Viewing Center. Unfortunately, it’s closed this season due to COVID. However, they have two incredible cameras that you can control on-line to pan, tilt and zoom to see all of the manatees swimming around. You’ll see some great fish too. You can do that here.
There is great viewing of manatees along the Nature Coast in Crystal River. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge allows you to view the manatees from the boardwalk near Three Sisters Spring (with boardwalk viewing on a limited schedule). Vendors offer in-water tours for a fee.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has a list of many places to see manatees here.
The FWC encourages you to watch wildlife from a distance and to use binoculars or zoom lenses to extend your view. When you get too close to wild animals, problems may arise. When the animal uses energy to escape human disturbances, it no longer uses this energy to search for food, migrate to warm water sites, or store the energy in fat reserves for use during cold periods.
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