Swimming with the Manatees in Florida

Ed Forteau's picture

This month, we're focusing on ways to explore nature in Florida, specifically through dolphin and manatee encounters. One cool manatee exploration is called Captain Mike's Swimming with the Manatees. A very reasonably-priced experience, Captain Mike's offers three different tours to experience manatees first-hand. We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Captain Mike - here's what he had to say...

Swimming with Manatees in Florida

WE: Please tell us about Captain Mike's Sunshine River Tours...

CM:  My company has been conducting manatee swim interactions with manatees for over 7 years now. We practice sustainable eco-tourism principles by hiring locals within our community, funding local cleanups of our waters such as Keep Citrus County Beautiful and funding a 2% surcharge earmarked for The Friends of Chassahowitzka specifically for the protection of manatees. My customers have contrubuted nearly $12,000.00 since Sept. of 07 for these efforts.

WE: How can people truly interact with manatees? 

CM: Our policy of passive observation among manatees will allow the best possible interactions. By this we mean, float in the water amongst manatees and keep a distance of about 6 foot or one body length. Manatees are attracted to the passive observer and not the more aggresive in water types.

WE: Can you please tell us more about manatees - are they friendly, endangered, etc.?

CM: Manatees are an endangered species and are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Florida Manatee Sancuary Act as well as the Guidelines of the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service. Manatees are probably the most gentle of creatures on the planet and readily trust humans in their environment and to that end deserve our utmost respect for their space.

WE: How long have you been sharing manatee interactions with visitors? What are their usual reactions?

CM: Manatees usual reactions are to seek humans in the water and they very curious as to what we are. All have different personalities. Some seek humans to a higher degree and then there are a few that are not even interested. Or sometimes you don't really know, they may just be having a bad human day.

WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

CM: My company has enacted a Captains/ Guide agreement signed by all employees regarding our inteactions and how we relate our postions toward the public. In the spirit of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wishes, we do not want to promote our area as a petting zoo. We want to educate visitors to the plight of the manatees and the continued survival of such a great gentle species. My customers leave our area with not only a greater respect and compassion for manatees but also a greater respect for nature itself that is reiterated throughout the country and the world.


WE: Thanks so much, Captain Mike! I can't wait until we can head down to Florida and experience this tour ourselves.

For more information, please see:

Photo courtesy Rhythm Turner - see his article on swimming with manatees here!