Thursday, February 21, 2013

Manatee Mania

Sarasota, FL     High:  81    Low:  61

We'll get to the manatees in just a minute...Before we got to see them, we went to a Del Webb community this afternoon, not too far from Sarasota, called Southshore Falls in Tampa. Del Webb' Southshore Falls is a 24 hour gated, over 55 community with a VERY active lifestyles commitment to their development.  Southshore Falls is an oasis in the middle of a rather nondescript community outside its gates. It's located between Ruskin and Apollo Beach right on highway 41. The Del Webb community has tropical landscaping everywhere, lakes, nature preserves, and walking trails. It has a beautiful 14,000 square foot clubhouse with a lagoon style pool, resistance pool, putting green, state of the art fitness center and more.....
Del Webb clubhouse greeting area
There's a library, a ballroom, bocce ball, crafts room, pickleball courts, tennis courts, and an active internet cafe where they serve free coffee every morning. There are LOTS of clubs in the community, everything from crafts to biking. It's a great location--25 miles from the Tampa airport, 20 miles from downtown Tampa, and you can hop on I-75 in six minutes to get anywhere. There are four golf clubs within a short distance of the community. We enjoyed looking at it today....We're still looking and exploring, still RVing...don't worry!
View from electric power plant up high
The Big Bend Power station in Apollo Beach is a known area for some of the best manatee viewing when the weather has been cold and the Gulf temperatures drop below 68 degrees. It was about five minutes from the Del Webb development, so we stopped by. When it's cold out in the Gulf, the manatees come into the discharge canal where the waters are warmed from the electric plant. Sometimes there can be as many as 300 manatees in the canal, but today there were only about 50 or so.

The manatees started coming into the canal back in 1986 when the Big Bend station opened. The discharge canal is now a federally and state designated manatee sanctuary. They have a wonderful boardwalk viewing platform to see the manatees up close and personal.
We saw lots of action today....Sparky thought maybe it was mating season with all the roiling waters and showing of fins, flippers and close encounters with each other!
It turns out that this was entirely possible, as Sam and Al, two great volunteers with lots of interesting information to share, said that manatees can mate at any time. Sparky peppered them with questions, so many that one of the guys said, "If you have any more questions, we're gonna have to start charging you to answer 'em."  :-)

The fellas said that most of the time the manatees are alone out in the Gulf, so when a BUNCH of them come into the canal, it's PARTY time, and the hormones get going! We saw lots of tangled up manatees having some kind of fun!
And some were just relaxin'....rolled over on their backs, like, "Hey, I'm in Florida..I've got nothing better to do than hang out here and chill." Or warm up, as the case may be.....Or relaxing after an encounter with the mate of choice.....In case you can't tell, this one is on his back and stayed there gently rolling back and forth on his backside.....

We saw them up close...It was cool! A mama and her babies....
A face only a mother could love......
We saw severely scarred manatees....
We learned about some bad practices...People letting manatees drink from water hoses at their docks. A great photo opportunity, and Sparky admits she would be the first one taking a photo of that, but that makes the manatees get familiar being around boats and that's what causes them to get hurt. Manatees have no known predators, man is their worst enemy. It was really sad to see how badly injured some of these manatees had been.....

We saw a buoy boogeying across the water. Eldo said, "Do you see that? That buoy is moving fast! Then we saw a line attached underwater to the tail of a smaller manatee. A buoy tracker system was attached to his tail. He was recently rehabilitated from cold stress and turned back into the waters. They want to keep track of him for awhile.

At the viewing center, you can see an educational display of the role Tampa Electric plays in conservation of energy and protection of nature and the manatees....the center also has a skeleton of a manatee inside, and a hurricane simulator, and a pretty butterfly garden! And then, there's the Tidal Walk...a trip along a boardwalk out alongside the discharge canal....Visible signs accompanied by an audible narrative talk about the life in the tidal and berm areas....
We saw some BIG tarpon hanging out by the boardwalk as we walked to the end and back....
A wonderful ending to a wonderful day and it didn't cost a dime! (Uh, she didn't tell you that it cost me dinner for two at Woody's River Roo bar and grill in Ellenton on the way home, chides E. But they do have a fantastic fish dip and great sandwiches at moderate prices. Just sayin'....)

Tampa Electric doesn't charge a thing for you to come see the manatees..Pick a day when the weather has been cold for a few days and the Gulf temperatures have dropped below 68 degrees. There's a cold spell (60's for you Floridians) coming in the next week, that might bring more of them into the canal. What a wonderful opportunity to learn more about them! Don't miss it!   Bye for now......


  1. Was that Sun City Center you were talking about?

    I think it's wonderful that TECO built the manatee viewing center. Years ago they had problems with manatees being caught in the warm water gates, so they had to modify their plants. I think that's about the time they got interested in helping the manatees. They also flock around the power plant in Tarpon Springs.

  2. No, it's not Sun City Center...It's Apollo Beach..Eldy says that Sun City Center is on the other side of I-75.

  3. Love those manatees. They were definitely feeling pretty frisky.

  4. Thanks for the great tour with the Manatees. Love the pictures.