Kayaking with the Manatees

Ft. Myers, FL

Just a few miles north of our park is Manatee Park, operated by Lee County Parks and Recreation.  The park is located along a discharge canal filled with warm water from the nearby power plant.  The canal empties into the Orange River, a tributary of the larger Caloosahatchee River as it heads to the Gulf of Mexico.  The warm water attracts Manatees, who don’t like to swim in cold water (who does?) and visit the park when the Gulf dips below 68 degrees.  We have been to the park before to watch Manatees from the shore but wanted to get out on the water for an up close and personal visit.  Our friends Steve and MonaLiza expressed a desire to see some of these interesting mammals, so we invited them to join us as we rented kayaks for a cruise on the Orange River.

From the launch site it’s a short cruise through the trees to the river

We followed Steve and MonaLiza to the spot where many Manatee were “hanging around”

The best way to observe is to just paddle slowly around a circle

Sometimes the photographer needs a little help from a professional spotter!

Pretty cool to watch these big guys slowly move past you!

Photographer reprimands the spotter – picture censured to protect children

Manatees must come up for air every three to five minutes, so if you follow one long enough you’ll get a nice view of him when he sticks his nose up to breath.

This big guy swam right at our kayak . . .

. . . then went under us . . .

. . . until only his large tale flipper was visible . . .

. . . then emerged on the other side of us (without touching the kayak)

Then he turned and came back toward us . . .

. . . and came up to breathe like he was sniffing the kayak (but didn’t touch it)

As we began paddling back, something passed us looking like a submarine with it’s periscope up.

At the visitor center we had read that some Manatees that were rescued and rehabilitated were equipped with radio transmitters before being released.

The one we saw was Cheeno, easily identified with the red and white striping.

Returning to the boat launch

While we have seen Manatee many times from on shore, a kayak or canoe is definitely the way to go if you want an up close look at them.  While we were paddling along in the eighty degree sunshine we thought about some of you poor #@&*%s suffering in the frigid temperatures up north.  We hope viewing this post helps warm you a bit. Hey, we’re serious!  We really feel badly for you.  But better you than us ! ! !

Thanks to Steve and MonaLiza for the pictures of us.

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24 Responses to Kayaking with the Manatees

  1. What a fantastic experience! Great photos! Since I don’t know if we’ll ever make it East it’s great to be living vicariously through you!

  2. I was laughing out loud when I saw the caption of the photographer reprimanding the spotter! Cool shots of that adorable mammal, it was huge. Steve and I had a great time and thank you for the invite. That was the highlight of our stay in this area, kayaking with the manatees!

  3. Dave (& Skruffy) says:


  4. Ingrid says:

    You managed to capture some great shots. What a cool experience. 🙂

  5. Sheila says:

    Kayaking is so much fun! Great photos!! Love the Manatees!

  6. Amanda says:

    I love the close up of the nose!!! So cute. I have seen manatees from the shore, but never had that kind of encounter. What a wonderful experience!

  7. pmbweaver says:

    How gorgeous that trip is!
    Those Manatee are HUGE and beautiful. That was one close encounter.
    My goodness, those radio transmitters are huge. I thought they might just be a small chip.
    What an outstanding photo your friends snapped of you two. That is definitely one I would frame!

  8. How COOL was THAT!!! We have only kayaked with Seals and Dolphins. We would love to add Manatees to the list of kayak adventures. I would have been nervous about them swimming underneath me though… for fear of being tipped.

  9. Jean says:

    Wow….you are really there at the right time to see the manatees. We did a kayak trip on the Weekie Wachee thru the Kayak Shack, but in the summer. Saw 1 manatee 😦 Hope to get back to Florida next winter….this looks like a must do! So much fun reading your humorous posts!

  10. Gay says:

    What an awesome time…I love the close up of the nose! Isn’t it great to have friends come along? Makes the day even more special….glad you are having some nice weather.

  11. We enjoyed kayaking there last year, but did not get photos nearly as good as these. I always seemed to click the shutter a few seconds too late.

    It sure is exhilarating to be on the water with the manatees rather than viewing them from the shore.

  12. Erin says:

    That manatee coming up like it was going to sniff the kayak must have been an incredible experience.

  13. Ok, you four are having too much fun and the fun police are coming 🙂 Manatees are so beautiful, I’ve never seen one with the radio transmitter though. Our kayaks are forlorn here in the desert, but we’re headed to San Diego soon.

  14. LOVE this & love your pictures! Next time we are in Florida I gotta find a kayak rental place – your experience has inspired me!

  15. LuAnn says:

    We loved our swim with the manatees. They are such docile creatures. The transmitter that those who have been tagged have to drag along with them seems so large, especially being secured around their tail, but I am guessing it doesn’t bother such a large mammal. It looks like another great day the four of you had. 🙂

  16. RVAGOGO says:

    What an awesome experience. Love seeing wildlife up close and personal.

  17. Janna says:

    Wow, that is up close and personal! Great photos!

  18. Geri says:

    We just recently spent a week at Blue Springs State Park and one day we were there 150 manatee were in the spring run. They rent canoes there but didn’t see anyone taking advantage of the opportunity! Seeing them up close and personal as you did is a real treat. The only enemies these gentle giants have is man and his boat propellers! Enjoyed your blog and photographs were great! Thanks for sharing!

  19. colibabas says:

    Wow…what an amazing experience! Great pics as usual…look forward to your next adventure.
    Safe travels!

  20. RJRVtravels says:

    What a great adventure. My sister lives in Ft Meyers and my parents in Naples. So, we know that area. GREAT pics.

  21. Beautiful manatee pictures!

  22. Sherry says:

    WOW! What a great day. We own kayaks and have kayaked around manatee before but have never had one go under us and come up to take a look. GREAT pictures. I am green with envy. Looks like a PERFECT day to me.

  23. Caleb says:

    Wow, kayaking with manatees. These are amazing creatures and it is so awesome that you were able to get this close to them. Great pictures, thanks for sharing.

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