Information and GuideCredit: Victoria DeLone
The Apollo Beach Manatee Viewing Center is one of the best manatee sanctuaries in Florida. Manatees come to the viewing center to swim in the warmer waters there. It's free admission and parking so it's great for anyone on a budget. Make sure to go November to April because in the summer these animals go back out to sea in order to eat the vegetation that grows there.
The Manatees and Tampa Electric
Tampa Electric uses hydropower and pumps clean, warm water from their factory into a canal near Apollo Beach. Since manatees like to swim in warm water, they flock to the canal next to Tampa Electric. The federal and state governments have built the viewing center next to the electric company so that the public can learn about and appreciate these lovable gentle creatures. The manatees are not swimming in a dirty environment, but instead they are protected by the factory because boats do not come in, threatening them. The sanctuary keeps an eye on the manatees. It actually works together with Lowry Park Zoo if they see any manatees that might be sick or hurt.
What There Is To Do
There is a lookout tower over the canal where you can find the manatees swimming around in the water. It's easy to spot them, as they are pretty big creatures. If they are in the canal, you won't have any trouble finding them. This sanctuary boasts the largest population of manatees in Florida. They park themselves in the canal when the water gets cold and only leave to eat occasionally. Besides the manatees there are also birds, fish, and sharks that can be seen from the lookout.
The Walking Path
There is a half-mile path at the viewing center, which stretches parallel across the canal. The path goes through the mangroves, which are so important to Florida's ecosystem. Here you might see fiddler crabs, many different species of birds or snakes.
Learn About Manatees
There are many knowledgeable volunteers who are more than happy to tell you about the manatees. What do they eat? How much do they weigh? How fast can they swim? How many are there? Are manatees still endangered? They know all of the answers to these questions and more. They even know how many bones manatees have. There is also an educational room where you can go and see exhibits.
The Butterfly Garden and Cafe
If you're hungry and need a quick break there is a little cafe at the sanctuary. They sell sandwiches, drinks, and snacks. The cafe is right above a pretty little butterfly garden. There you can find more information about butterflies and flowers that live in Florida.
Check It Out
The Viewing Center is great for families with young kids, anyone looking for something fun to do on a budget and of course, people who are interested in manatees. These animals are really fascinating. It's a great activity if you have a free afternoon.
If you have fun learning about the manatees, you might decide that swimming with the manatees is something else you might like to try. This area of Florida is proud of their manatee population and offers a lot of different ways to enjoy these amazing animals! But to get your flippers wet, the Apollo Viewing Center is a great place to start.
6990 Dickman Rd
Apollo Beach, FL 33572