Swimming with Manatees
During the summer, manatees
wander widely in warm seas.
Manatees throw fall and winter parties
in warm springs near seventy degrees.
Hundreds of manatees socialize in Kings Bay
near Three Sisters Springs on November days.
These marine mammals enjoy each other’s company.
They don’t compete for territory.
Vegetarians, they live on sea grass…
How peacefully, how gracefully their days pass!
Nursing calves swim beside their mothers.
They have no predators, no fear of others.
Though manatees bear the scars
of encounters with boat propellers,
they still seek humans as their playmates.
Snuggles and belly rubs are appreciated.
As I climbed down the boat ladder,
a manatee waited in the water.
A thousand pounds of curiosity
and sweet manatee eyes greeted me.
The moment we came face to face,
I knew there was hope for the human race.
At that moment it was clear to me
that people could learn from manatees.
How happy life would be
if we could live in harmony
with nature and our fellow creatures.
Manatees are charming teachers!
West Indian Manatees
West Indian Manatees are endangered marine mammals whose closest relatives are elephants. They require a minimum water temperature of sixty-eight degrees. Interestingly, they have no front teeth, only molars for chewing tough sea grass. They swim gracefully at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. At 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, they have no natural enemies, but many are injured by propellers of fast-moving boats. Boaters can protect manatees by observing posted speed limits in manatee areas.
Personnel at Kings Bay in Crystal River tag and monitor injured manatees. They are transported to a manatee rescue center in Homosassa Springs for rehabilitation if they are unable to recover on their own.
Florida has numerous hot springs where manatees spend the Fall and Winter months. Kings Bay has a constant year-round temperature of sixty-eight degrees and some manatees are year-round residents there. Other springs may be a little warmer, about seventy-two degrees.
When you swim with the manatees, you are instructed not to disturb resting manatees. As you would get to know a strange cat, you should let them approach you. Ellen had a manatee hug her arm. A manatee wanted Katey to pet it and give it a belly rub. One manatee swam up against me, and another manatee put its nose against my mask and gazed into my eyes. These are moments we will always remember!
Manatees have been called “sea cows” because they graze on sea grass and other aquatic plants. Very lonely mariners in the early days are said to have mistaken them for mermaids. There is another species of manatee in Africa.
Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia
For more information about swimming with manatees and boat tours, you can contact: