Those Mild Mannered Manatees


(By Kim Ryan) I’ve recently had the wonderful experience of kayaking on Estero Bay early Sunday mornings for the past few weeks. Each time I’ve been lucky enough to encounter an aggregation of Manatees. These large aquatic animals with their meek and mild disposition are a treat to see in their natural habitat.

Paddling out to the middle of the Bay my excitement builds as I fix my gaze upon the water’s surface surveying the area for swirling water and then a glimpse of those recognizable noses bobbing up and down. Once located, I carefully paddle closer then sit silent and wait.

These gentle giants are hard to catch on camera as they come up relatively unannounced except for the telltale sound of their breath then back down they go. According to the Natural History Museum Manatees typically surface every two to four minutes, but they can hold their breath for much longer.

On this last outing, I was almost upended when to my surprise (and I am sure his or hers) one of the manatees attempted to surface directly under the kayak. The kayak lifted up, tilted slightly to the left and then gently back down into the momentarily roiling water. I am not going to lie here, being new to this adventure it did give me a startle.

Watching these Manatees slowly glide through the water lifting their broad round tails and heads as they frolic was incredible. It’s interesting to note that Manatees have few bones in their neck. So while they can move their head up and down, they need to turn their entire body with their flippers to look side to side. This reminds us all to be careful when boating, go slow and follow the speed limits in the Manatee zones to avoid injuring these amazing creatures.

Here’s a short video of my journey out on the water.


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