Manatee Tours in Fort Myers, Florida
When water temperatures along Florida’s coast fall below 68 degrees, manatees head inland to find warmer waters where they can bask throughout the winter. In springtime, the manatees return to coastal areas, lingering around the shoreline to munch on seagrass.
If you’re in Fort Myers, take a tour for your best chance at spotting the great beasts — local guides can steer you to the manatees’ most frequented haunts.
Paddle Up the Orange River
Take a three-hour kayak tour with Manatee Guides on the Orange River at Manatee Park. Your guides will regale you with facts about the animals as you paddle in search of them. You also may see alligators, otters, turtles and local birds.
The tour continues upriver through changing natural habitat, covering a total distance of 4 to 6 miles. The paddle is an out-and-back, meaning you’ll head up the river 2 to 3 miles and then have a much easier paddle back downstream to the park.
Manatee Park and Wildlife Refuge
Calusa Blueway Outfitters also runs a tour out of the park. Your guide will help you spot manatees as you paddle through the park, as well as relating interesting facts about the animals.
The tour continues down the Orange River and across the Caloosahatchee River to Caloosahatchee Creek Preserve. Take a guided walk of the preserve before heading back to Manatee Park by van. In addition to tour charges, you’ll need to pay a per-hour fee to leave your vehicle at the park.
Summertime in the Bay
You can visit manatees in their summer surroundings between March 1 and December 9 on a guided tour through Manatee Guides. The three-hour kayak tour departs from New Pass Bridge in Bonita Springs, 24 miles south of Fort Myers.
The tour explores areas of Estero Bay where manatees commonly feed and rest when the water temperature is 68 degrees or above. Lovers Key State Park and Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve provide manatee-friendly habitat where you can see the animals among the seagrass.
Rent a canoe or kayak to explore the Great Calusa Blueway that covers 190 miles of waterways around Fort Myers and is frequented by manatees. During winter, you’ll see manatees enjoying warm waters on the Caloosahatchee River below the warm outflows of the Florida Power and Light Company.
Continue upstream to explore more than a dozen side creeks and animal sanctuaries. In warmer months, paddle around Pine Island or Estero Bay to see the creatures feeding on seagrass. It’s illegal to follow them in your boat or by swimming after them. It’s also illegal to touch them.