What Are Florida Manatees?

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Florida manatees are marine mammals with elongated round bodies that taper to flat, paddle-shaped tails. The large, docile aquatic animals are gray-brown in color with a thick, wrinkled skin, a wrinkled face and head with whiskers on the snout, a powerful flat tail, small eyes and no external ears, two forelimbs (called flippers) and 3 or 4 nails per flipper. The front flippers steer manatees through shallow water while the tail propels them through deep water.

Where are they found?

Florida manatees are typically found in the warm and shallow, slow-moving waters of estuaries, rivers, bays, coastal waters and canals. Since they rarely get into waters with temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, they are usually concentrated in Florida during the winter. When summer comes, the manatees can migrate as far north as Massachusetts and as far west as Texas, though they are commonly sighted in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. While there has been no precise census of the animals, their current population is estimated at 6,000.

How do they behave?

An adult Florida manatee is roughly 10-13 feet long and weighs between 800-1,200 pounds. The gentle, slow-moving mammals spend a large part of their time eating, traveling and resting. Being predominantly herbivores, they eat a wide variety of floating, submerged or emergent plants, such as freshwater vegetation and sea grasses. In fact, a manatee consumes up to 10-15 percent of its body weight in vegetation every day.

Although manatees can remain underwater for a long time, they are mammals and must go to the water surface periodically. When resting, Florida manatees will remain submerged at the bottom or slightly below the water surface for up to 20 minutes. However, when engaged in activities that require a lot of energy, the manatees come to the water surface to breathe after every 30 seconds. A manatee can swim at a rate of 26 miles per hour, but doing so only in short bursts. Ordinarily, a manatee will swim for roughly 3-5 miles in one hour.

Reproduction and lifespan

Since manatees have a gestation period of 13 months, give birth after every 2-5 years, rarely give birth to twins and are usually not sexually mature until they reach the age of five, their rate of reproduction is very low. After giving birth, manatee mothers nurse their calves for 1-2 years, with the calf almost fully dependent on the mother during that period.

Florida manatees have no natural predators and can live for as long as 60 years or more. Although a small percentage of manatee deaths can be attributed to natural factors like gastrointestinal disease, pneumonia, cold stress and other factors, a huge number of fatalities are from human-related factors such as watercraft collisions, ingestion of fish hooks, drowning in canal locks or entanglement in trap lines.

An amazing attraction

Despite their stubbly snout and large size, Florida manatees are cute and cuddly, drawing many visitors to the springs of Crystal River and beyond annually. They tend to hang out in areas where spring-break visitors and nature lovers can easily see them. They are also very curious and will draw closer to check on the divers and even interact with them.

Are you thinking of coming to Crystal River, Fl., for a manatee tour? Would you like a wonderful and memorable experience that gives you the most value for your money? Would you like to work with a world-renowned, reliable and meticulous manatee tour provider based only a few minutes away from manatee sightings? If so, then Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees is the right provider for you. For more information, visit the “Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees” site.


Swimming with the Manatees boasts the best water adventure in Crystal River, Florida with lots of things to do for you and your family. For more information, contact us online, or call us at (352) 571-1888.

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