Where to Find Manatees in the Florida Everglades

Manatee spotted near the Florida Everglades
Where can you find manatees in the Florida Everglades? It turns out that manatees live alongside the residents of Naples along the Florida Gulf Coast. Read on as we get up close and personal with Florida's manatees in what turned out to be one of our most memorable wildlife encounters in all of our travels.

Manatees Guaranteed on a 90 Minute Boat Cruise

We booked ourselves in for a boat tour with Manatee Sightseeing Eco-Adventures (aka Manatees Guaranteed). At $58 USD per person, the 90 minute tour is expensive but very, very worth it. The boat only holds 6-8 people. The tour operator will often give an internet discount if you mention that you saw the tour on their website (we took advantage of this for $20 off per person).

The manatee watching tour launches for the Port of the Islands dock in Naples near the edge of the Florida Everglades.  'Captain Storm' was at the helm and he was every bit as much of a character as his name would suggest.

Captain Storm led us out onto the narrow dock. We were soon aboard our open-air vessel which was equipped with a canopy to protect us from the harsh Florida sun.
Manatee Sightseeing Eco-Adventures boat in Naples, Florida at the edge of the Everglades

Manatee Zone: Idle Speed, No Wake

Before we knew it, we had cast off to look for manatees, those gentle giants of the river systems around Florida.  Warning signs sternly told us to go at 'Idle Speed'.  Manatees are most often injured or killed by propellers on speed boats going too fast in the waters where they live. You can read more about this sad reality from the Save the Manatee Club.
Sign warning: Manatee Zone, Idle Speed, No Wake

The Art of Manatee Spotting

Captain Storm gave out polarizing sunglasses to make it easier to spot the manatees in the water. Soon we saw something lurking below the surface and before we knew it, we were face to face with this cutie.  This young manatee was swimming with its mom and was super curious about our boat!
Manatee in Naples Florida
Manatee in Naples Florida
The manatee calf came right up alongside us!
Manatee in Naples Florida
We also got a good glimpse of the manatee's mama.  She was huge!
A manatee spotted near the Florida Everglades
Manatee spotted in Naples Florida
A manatee spotted near the Florida Everglades
At one point, the manatee calf started hovering really close to the surface and stuck its snout out of the water to say 'hello'.
Playful manatee in Naples, Florida
Manatee snout peeking out of the water
Our Everglades river tour was definitely off to an auspicious start!
Manatee seen below the surface of the water near the Florida Everglades in Naples

Manatee Footprints

Captain Storm told us to keep an eye out for a manatee's footprint, a telltale sign of their presence.  You can a manatee footprint here...a series of circles in the water.  The manatee is just ahead of the footprint.
Manatee footprints in the water on the Florida Gulf Coast
Manatee footprints in the water on the Florida Gulf Coast

Manatee Watching Among Florida's Mangroves

We soon moved on and left Mama Manatee and baby to go about their business.  We cruised down the main channel admiring the mangrove forest as we went. It was a spectacular day to be out on the water!
Mangroves near Port of the Islands Marina in Naples, Florida
Boat wake along a channel through the Florida Everglades.
Our boat was equipped with a very small motor to be mindful of the safety of the manatees living in these waters. When we thought we were close to manatees, Captain Storm would turn off the main engine and we'd glide slowly and silently using the power of this little motor.
Tiny motor on the boat used to spot manatees near Naples, Florida

Developing a Good Eye for Spotting Manatees

It turns out that I have a pretty good eye for manatee spotting :-)  I was the only one on our boat to see this footprint in the distance and Captain Storm took us over to have a look.
Manatee footprint among the mangroves in Naples, Florida
Sure enough, two adult manatees were speeding along.
Pair of manatees near Naples, Florida

Manatees in Your Backyard

As we were headed back to the Port of the Islands Marina after our 90 minute tour, I noticed this lovely home nestled right along the channel.  How cool would it be to have manatees so near to where you live; in your backyard, really?!
House along a channel at the edge of the Florida Everglades

Use Insect Repellent 

As our tour came to a close, we drank in the sunshine.  The only downside of the trip was the stinging flies that seemed to take a liking to us.  Captain Storm offered us some insect repellent at the start of the trip but those of us that declined got bitten quite badly.  A word of advice, use the insect repellent before you depart on the tour.
Shallow channel near Port of the Islands Marina in Naples, Florida

Thanks to Captain Storm for a Memorable Day with Manatees!

The dock came back into view and it seemed like we were disembarking all too soon -- this trip was so much fun! We highly recommend a visit to Port of the Islands Marina in Naples for a chance to see manatees up close. They truly are gentle giants.
Port of the Islands Marina in Naples, Florida
For more on our adventures along the Florida Gulf Coast, see: Highlights from a Road Trip Up the Gulf Coast of Florida from Naples to Tampa. The mangrove swamps near the beaches of Pelican Bay in Naples are also a wildlife and bird lovers dream.

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Sidewalk Safari: Where to Find Manatees in the Florida Everglades
Where to Find Manatees in the Florida Everglades
Read about a manatee viewing tour at the edge of the Everglades in Naples, Florida with Manatee Sightseeing Eco-Adventures.
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Sidewalk Safari
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