Manatees are the gentle giants of the sea. They are herbivores, which means that they eat only vegetation. This simple fact also contributes to their other name, “Sea Cows”. There are different types of manatee living in the world. The most common is the West Indian manatee, which is often found spending the winter months in the Sunshine State where they are protected. They are slow moving, often found near river banks where they are able to eat the greenery that they love, and often boaters will hurt them accidently.
Of the types of manatee in the world, you will find the West African, which lives in freshwater river systems in Africa and the Amazonian, which is exclusively a freshwater manatee. The one you will find around the rivers of Florida are known as the West Indian manatee and they commonly migrate as far north as Georgia and around the Gulf Coast states. The reason they live in these areas is simple. If they must live in water that are below 68 degrees, they will not survive. However, these gentle giants have been seen as far north as Cape Cod during the summer time.
Manatee like the areas in Florida, where salt water mixes with fresh. Studies suggest that this combination allows them to regulate the mixture of salt and water in their bodies. This makes the spring fed rivers around Florida an ideal area for them and research has proven that it has been this way for many years. There have been fossil remains found that can be dated back to roughly 45 million years.
It is hard to put exact numbers on where most manatee reside during the winter months. Statewide, in the waterways surrounding Florida, there have been as many as 5,067 manatees calling it home. However, they do tend to move around a lot, which means this number may change from one month to the next.
One popular area for manatee though, seems to be the area around Homosassa and Crystal Rivers. At any given time during the months between November and March, there may be as many as 400 West Indian manatee located within the rivers of Citrus County.
When manatee are relaxing, they swim at approximately 5 mph. They are able to swim up to 15 mph, but typically prefer to simply glide along. They may be seen alone or with a small group of less than a half dozen. This makes them slow moving solitary creatures.
They are mammals. They breathe air and must remain close to the surface. When sleeping, they can only stay submerged for about 15 minutes. If they are swimming, they need to come up for air every three or four minutes. Their need for air, their slow movements, and their need for vegetation all contribute to making them an easy target for boaters, especially when you consider that an adult manatee can be between 8-13ft and typically between 440 to 1,300 pounds. This combined with the fact that before laws were put into place to protect them, hunters would hunt them seeking out their hides, bones, and the oil that they produce naturally. It has put the sea cow on the endangered species list.
Florida has put extra effort into protecting these beautiful beasts. There are resident manatees that call it home year round and there are manatee sanctuaries specifically designed to protect the manatee by giving them a safe environment to live and breed. You can take advantage of the Crystal River manatee season anytime, but it is best if you visit during the winter months. Spring fed rivers mean that even during the coldest winter months, the water temperature is a constant 72 degrees. This creates an ideal environment for manatee and for people who want to experience the ultimate thrill of a once in a lifetime opportunity that will allow them to swim with manatees in Florida.
Because Florida is so protective of its manatee and want to educate the public about them, there is a lot of ways people can interact with them. Florida is the only state that allows you to legally swim with the Crystal River manatee. You can visit the manatee festival in Crystal River and learn about them or watch them in action on a manatee cam.
Homosassa manatee tours are also a popular attraction for people who want to learn more about the manatee if you would rather not swim with manatees. If you do choose to swim with manatees’ in Crystal River, FL. You will be taught how to do it safely by joining in on a tour that offers this amazing experience. Are you ready to book your tour yet?