One such places is the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach just south of Tampa. The Big Bend power plant sits right on the edge of the water in a little inlet and releases warm salt water used in cooling back into the waters. This lead to manatees wintering in the estuary since the waters were warmer here than elsewhere in the Gulf or Bay. And the viewing center was created.
I read a lot of reviews about it and everyone said go on a colder day since the manatees would be more likely to be close to shore and more huddled together. The weather was still chilly on Sunday so we got in the car, set the GPS and headed out about 45 minutes away to the center.
The whole thing is a bit weird because, well, it's a power plant first and foremost. LOL So it's a seemingly odd place to go for wildlife.
They have all these boardwalks set up and so we started at the entrance. Turns out they didn't have the one plant release tank thingy on that day. The one closest to the short where all the good photos online look to have been taken and the one closest to the manatees had....not manatees.
So we were directed to head out to the "Tidal Walk" instead way out back side of the center. We had to go through a pretty mangrove "tunnel" to get there.
Problem was, this part of the boardwalk is quite a bit away from the opposite shore where the warm water comes out. And the water is deeper. So it became a bit of, "I think that brownish blob over there is one!"
|This was most of the view. The darker blobs in the water? Pretty sure most of those are manatees.|
We took a break and hit the gift shop. It had started to rain and I didn't want to be out there in the rain with my camera if we weren't seeing much in the way of manatees anyway.
After the gift shop, the rain stopped so we headed out the boardwalk once more to see if I could get any real photos. I did luck out into a momma and calf. But, given the crappy weather/lighting, the deeper water and the less than ideal boardwalk, even with editing to try to bring out the manatees in the photos, they're really, really hard to see.
These were the best I got from the day and that's not saying much sadly. :/
I was bummed because I really wanted to get awesome shots for you but everything seemed against us that day. Without the right-next-to-the-shore plant releasing water, there were just so few that came all the way near the far boardwalk and those that did, with the overcast, rainy weather were so hard to photograph.
Love's mom told him about a place in Crystal River to see manatees but that's about 2 hours north of here. Not sure if we'll get a chance to get up there but we will try if at all possible. Willow really DID see manatees, but I just couldn't get any good photos to show off the experience.