Everglades National Park in the US offers some memorable encounters with subtropical wilderness. A biosphere reserve, this massive protected wetland in South Florida is home to rare species, such as the West Indian Manatee, American crocodile and the Florida panther.
From the many activities at Everglades (the third largest National Park in the U.S.), we find swimming with the manatees the most… endearing. Here is a small description of these gentle giants from the park service:
“While some claim the West Indian manatee is ugly, with a face only a mother could love, most people are drawn to this marine creature, describing it as homely and having the appeal of a plump grandmother with flippers like oven mitts, outstretched as if inviting a hug.”
Listed as an endangered species, the Florida manatee should be treated with constant care. Every tour in the region requires a previous training, where tourists watch a video on “passive observation”. They learn how to peacefully “coexist” with these gigantic, but friendly mammals.
While you are there, they can either feed on aquatic algae, go up to the surface for air, or simply sleep. In each of the cases, the small training is aimed to make the experience a comfortable one for both manatees and human visitors.
If you are lucky, you will find manatees that will swim extremely close and check you out, sometimes rather insistently. Baby manatees are known to get closer and “kiss” visitors for us many times as they are allowed.
Best time to take a boat tour in the Everglades at Crystal River is early morning, 06:45 or 07.0 (the swimming with manatee season is considered to start from November and last until April). The smaller the tour, the better. Be sure to ask the operators in advance about your real chances of meeting a manatee.
Read more about this experience on Bohemian Trails and have a look at the travel offers for Everglades National Park. If you met these placid, but fantastic creatures up close, we would love to hear more about it.