Where can you see 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 from 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 as we journeyed out into the channel to where we could expect to see manatees.
Manatee Zone: Idle Speed, No WakeBefore 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.
The Art of Manatee SpottingCaptain 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!
The manatee calf came right up alongside us!
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Did you know that Naples is less than a 2 hour drive from Miami? Once you've gotten your fill of Florida wildlife, why not get an architecture fix in the Miami Beach Art Deco Historic District.
Manatee FootprintsCaptain 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.
Where to See Manatees Among Florida's MangrovesWe 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!
Developing a Good Eye for Spotting ManateesIt 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.
Sure enough, two adult manatees were speeding along.
Manatees in Your BackyardAs we were headed back to the Port of the Islands Marina after our 90 minute manatee sightseeing 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?!
Use Insect Repellent When Looking for ManateesAs our manatee spotting 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 set out to see manatees. Future you will thank you :-)
Thanks to Captain Storm for a Memorable Day Looking for 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 in Florida up close. They truly are gentle giants.
If you're looking for more nature and wildlife adventures in Florida, the mangrove swamps near the beaches of Pelican Bay in Naples are also a wildlife and bird lovers dream.