On Sunday afternoon, my family and I took a one-tank trip down to the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach.
The Manatee Viewing Center is a manatee sanctuary sponsored by TECO (Tampa Electric Company). The Big Bend Power Station empties warm water into an adjacent canal, which attracts thousands of manatees during the winter months.
Since admission is free to the center, it relies on donations and retired TECO volunteers to operate the center. Its sole mission is to offer a safe spot for visitors to observe manatees in a natural setting and educate the public on protecting Florida’s gentle giants.
Two decks offer amazing views of over hundreds of manatees on any given day. Visitors can also spot several types of stingrays and a variety of fish, like Tarpon and Snook.
Along the canal, visitors can also explore a half mile nature walk along a pier that identifies plants and animals found in a typical tidal estuary. Red, white and black groves offer welcomed shade above the sunny pier.
While at the center, guests can visit a small hands-on museum that teaches basic facts about manatees and why the Big Bend Power Station brings the manatees back each winter. An oceanic diorama displays a small sample of Florida’s sea life complete with a manatee skeleton and other native sea creatures. Vintage photos of Tampa also decorate the museum while teaching a brief history of TECO.
With several picnic benches around the facility, packed lunches and lengthy visits are always welcomed at the center. Eating lunch while watching manatees play will make this one-tank trip a memorable one.
During the winter months, this is one of our favorite family outings, but like a bad momma blogger, I forgot my camera. So, although I have no pictures to share from Sunday’s family day, here are some of my favorite pictures from our past visits.