When and Where to See a Manatee in Marco Island

Wild manatee in Marco Island

Dreaming of white sandy beaches, tropical climate, and romantic sunsets? Look no further than Marco Island, an oasis located at the southern tip of Southwest Florida, only 15 miles south of Naples. The island is flanked by miles of palm trees, postcard-worthy turquoise bays, and pristine white sand. With the Gulf of Mexico on one side and mangrove estuaries on the other, the natural environment provides ample opportunity for nature lovers to observe a wide array of wildlife, such as hundreds of birds, the zoo in Naples, or the beloved manatee (or sea cow), which is native to the region.

What is a Manatee?

You may know the manatee, sometimes called “sea cow,” as a large, gentile cow-like creature living underwater. But did you know that the manatee is not at all related to a cow, but it’s distantly related to the elephant? Like their cousin, manatees are grayish-brown in color and have thick, wrinkled skin. They live in shallow water and survive on grass beds growing in Florida’s many waterways.

Manatees are mammals and must surface for air very frequently. As a result, they live close to the surface of the water, which makes them vulnerable targets for boat propellers. At one point, manatees were endangered as a result of human boat activity in Florida’s waterways; thankfully, measures have been taken to protect these docile creatures, and they are now listened as “threatened” instead of endangered.

When is Manatee Season?

Manatees enjoy the warm water and rely upon a steady food supply that only grows in such conditions. As a result, when water becomes too cold, manatees will move upriver to places such as just south of Marco Island. However, manatees don’t enjoy extreme heat either, making summer a less likely time of year to spot them in the Marco Island area.

Technically, manatees can be spotted at any time of the year. But considering manatees migrate to water that is warm, but not too warm, winter months tend to be the ideal time to spot manatees in Southern Florida. Tours are especially available from late December through February.

Wild manatee in Marco Island

Where Can I See a Sea Cow?

Manatees are most likely to be found in water with a depth between 3 to 7 feet. This means places like the Marco Island canals and the surrounding 10,000 Island area are likely places to spot them. If you are going independently, take a boat by some of the island’s canals. Otherwise, manatee eco-tours are always available, and some even have a no-see, no-pay policy.

Wearing polarized sunglasses will be helpful for spotting manatees between the glare of the water. Manatees are also known for making “footprints,” large circles on the water, making it easier for observers to identify them. Since manatees must surface frequently to breathe, you might catch a glimpse of a snout sticking out of the water!

Protecting Manatees

Manatees have no natural predators, so the greatest dangers to manatees’ survival have always been humans. Even though they have made it off the endangered list, their continued survival depends on proper education and regulations to make sure they remain protected! When selecting an eco-tour or local guide, make sure they adhere to local boating regulations, slowing down as necessary in manatee zones, and if you go boating independently, be sure to educate yourself on best practices for responsible manatee watching.

Vacation Rentals

In the Marco Island area, there are plenty of opportunities for you and the family to appreciate these gentle sea creatures responsibly. While staying in the area, consider Marco Island vacation home rentals with Clausen Housing. Whatever services your family may require, Clausen Housing provides a wide array of sales and rentals, including vacation homes and condos on Marco Island. Beach-front properties are available as well as pet-friendly rentals and rentals with pools. Friendly and knowledgeable staff are available seven days a week to assist you with the perfect booking. Considering a vacation in Southern Florida? Hoping to catch a glimpse of our local gentile underwater giants? We invite you to explore our Marco Island vacation rentals.