by Bridget Jackson
Florida is known for its sunny skies and warm weather therefore it’s the ideal place for manatees to live. The manatee prefers to reside in warm shallow rivers that are slow moving, where plant life is abundant. Since manatees can’t survive in water where the temperature goes below 60 degrees, they will migrate in search of waters that are warm during the winter. A favorite spot the manatees seek refuge is Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River. The water at these springs is 70 degrees year round which is perfect conditions to keep manatees warm during the winter months. When a chill was in the Florida air I headed toward the springs to pay homage to this beautiful mammal.
I have always been fond of the gentle creature that is nick named “sea cow”. I heard Three Sisters Springs was a hot spot to see the manatees, so I kept my fingers crossed that I would be able to catch a glimpse of a few. When I stepped foot on the boardwalk I was captivated by the beauty of the crystal clear blue water. I strolled further along the boardwalk and found a resting spot of over 100 manatees. I was in manatee paradise! I stood in awe and tried to count them, but I eventually lost count.
I was just happy that this beautiful mammal is now a flourishing species thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, The Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, and Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. Crystal River, which adjoins to the springs, is the only place where people are legally allowed to swim with the manatees. If you decide to jump in the water and swim near them or boat alongside the manatee, remember there are strict rules to abide by. The manatees are in the springs to survive undisturbed, so please don’t bother resting manatees. Passive observation is how manatees should be viewed; a violation of harming a manatee can result in steep monetary fines or imprisonment. I observed the manatees from the boardwalk and along the Shore of Crystal River and was able to see them without difficulty.
My next visit to the springs I plan to be a tad more adventurous by bringing my wet suit and a kayak to view the manatees in their habitat. One bit of advice, if you plan to visit Three Sisters Springs during the winter months, you will not be alone. Many people will have the same agenda as you; to get a glimpse of the manatee. I suggest going early in the morning to the springs to beat the crowds which will allow more quality time to watch them. Most important, don’t forget your camera; there will be plenty of photo opportunities of nature’s beauty and most importantly the graceful Florida manatee. Safe travels!