It’s hard for me to love a manatee. It’s as hard to love a manatee as it is an ox or a rhino. These lumbering creatures surely have their purpose, but they aren’t the cuddly creatures of the animal world. You don’t tend to see a manatee gracing the covers of magazines or being held as little Olivia’s favorite stuffed animal. No, Olivia has a vicious bear that she snuggles. (Ironic, yes?) However, there are a few diehard manatee lovers out there. “Cute sea cows,” they say. My sister finds them endearing, but she has the animal loving gene in the family that I somehow missed. Her 4th grade class adopted an endangered one back in the day. My missing animal loving gene is quite out of place on Sanibel or Captiva where activists and nature lovers have created a safe haven for wildlife.
If you’re a fan, summer is the best chance to see them up close – well, from the shore that is! As the seasonal visitors leave and the waters warm, the manatees move closer. Visit the bayside beaches by the Sanibel Lighthouse and pier to get a good look. You can even find them roaming the canals and backwaters. Just don’t get too personal with them. They’ve got barnacled bodies, and being endangered and all, they’re pretty much protected. Vacationers or residents can rent a boat from one of the many marinas around the islands, like Jensen’s Twin Palm Marina, Beach Bums at Tween Waters, or the Boat House at the Sanibel Marina. As you boat, note that the no wake zones have been expanded for these gentle giants. I may not be a huge fan, but it’s hardly polite to enjoy their home without courtesy.
In the shallows along the bay, they snuffle along eating seagrasses, their snouts breaking the surface with a whiff as they come up for air. Their powerful bodies, though not as sleek or sexy as their compadres the dolphins, move the water above them in giant circle patterns. Often, our family spots them by these disturbances on the surface of the water before we see the brown/gray of their noses or before we hear their snort of air. My three year old will stand still (a miracle!) in patient attention. Sometimes, we are rewarded with the sight of their massive backs breaking the surface. There is something magical in that even if I can’t find it within me to buy the T-shirt and join the fanclub.
Manatee fans can definitely find prime viewing spots for sale all along the bayfront or in the canals of the islands. Let John R. Wood Island Real Estate Inc. help you find your manatee watching paradise!