Manatees are curious and playful creatures and will happily interact with humans if you stay quiet and let them initiate contact. The best experience is actually snorkelling or swimming with manatees as the bubbles created during scuba diving can scare them away, also they tend to be in water a matter of metres deep so there is no problem viewing them from the surface or free diving down.
Manatees are sensitive to movement and sound, which is why the scuba bubbles scare them. You should also never get beneath these gentle creatures as this behaviour also frightens them.
The main point to remember for manatee encounters is passive interaction. Quietly observe and do not chase or bother the manatee if it is resting and especially do not try to touch them. The manatee if comfortable will come to you and sometimes can be very curious and get very close, but it is their decision. This can be a very exciting experience but you have to remember to follow the rules put in place as they are there to give you the best encounter and allow these encounters to continue for others. Most tour operators will explain all the rules and inform you of how best to act before they take you to swim with the manatees.
Manatees are large aquatic marine mammals commonly known as sea cows. They can reach 4m in length but on average tend to be around 3m long and between 400-550kg in weight. They can live up to 60years old.
There are three living species, the Amazonian manatee located in the Amazon basin, the West Indian Manatee located in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea and the West African Manatee in West Africa.
Manatees spend most of their time in shallow coastal waters 1-2 metres deep and have to surface for air few minutes depending on activity they can stay under up to 20mins if sleeping. About half of their day is spend sleeping and the other half grazing for food. They have a very low metabolism so cannot tolerate cold water below 20C and prolonged exposure to the cold will kill them. An example of this is the West Indian Manatee which congregate at Crystal River, Florida from November to March to take advantage of the year round water temperature of 22C.
Manatees have few predators, sharks and alligators have been known to prey on them, but do not significantly affect their population. Manatees main worry are humans and human related issues. Habitat destruction, ship strikes, hunting and accidental deaths due to fishing entanglement or ingestion of fishing line are all causes of death. They are now listed as vulnerable to extinction. Florida have made it illegal to harm or injure a manatee and Brazil have outlawed hunting.
Manatees tend to breed every two years and have a gestation period of 12months, giving birth to just one calf at a time. This means that the populations cannot quickly recover from loss due to human impact.
More detailed information about Manatees can be found here.
The most popular of Belize’s diving destinations, with access to the second largest barrier reef in the World and one of the most famous Blue Holes! Ambergris Caye has some great relaxed, fun diving to match its peoples laid back relaxed attitude. Ambergris...Go>
For hundreds of years the Timucuan Indians made the Blue Spring area one of their home sites. The spring run, river and the surrounding swamps and uplands provided food, clothing, shelter and materials for tools and weapons. Snails gathered from sandbars...Go>
Crystal River offers opportunities to swim with the West Indian Manatee, known as the Gentle Giant of the sea. Freshwater diving options are also available. Also known as the place "where man and manatee play," it is one of the world's...Go>
The Okinawa Prefecture is an archipelago in southern Japan that covers the southern two thirds of the Ryukyu Islands. The islands are divided into three geographical archipelagos called the Okinawa Islands, the Miyako Islands and the Yeyama Islands. The Kuroshio Current...Go>
The Belize barrier reef, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the second largest barrier reef in the world and boasts an incredible spectacle of marine life. The Sapodilla Caye is made up of 8 small beautiful islands located 35 miles from mainland...Go>
Tulum is famed for its beaches, ocean-side archeological sites and collection of cenotes. It's popular with divers, families and travelers alike. Divers visit the area for the cenotes, with visiblity of over 100 meters. Underground rivers and caverns are filled with stalacites,...Go>
Palm Beach County Florida is famous for it’s great year round weather, many golf courses, diving, shopping on Worth Avenue and City Place and an abundance of activities for all ages. As a tiny island located just north of Fort Lauderdale and...Go>