With its rich wildlife, Florida offers plenty of ecotourism opportunities. On your next Orlando getaway, spend some time getting to know Florida’s manatees. You can spot these gentle giants congregating in natural springs near Orlando during winter and swimming freely along the Florida coast during summer. As a threatened species, manatees are protected by law, so it is important to maintain a respectful distance when observing them. Boardwalk viewing and passive observation tours are great ways to enjoy the manatees’ company. Here are three places to safely enjoy encounters with wild manatees near Orlando.
Located just under one hour from Orlando, Blue Spring State Park is the closest place to observe manatees in their natural habitat. This designated manatee refuge is home to hundreds of sea cows seeking warmer waters in winter. Swimming with manatees is prohibited but wooden boardwalks offers fantastic views of these gentle giants, as well as other wildlife. During the summer when the manatees are off exploring other waters, visitors are welcome to swim in the springs.
Homosassa Springs State Park
For year round manatee viewing, visit Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, about an hour and a half from the International Drive area. You’ll see wild manatees as well as recovering manatees that are part of the park’s rehabilitation program. You can get an up close look at the Fish Bowl underwater observatory, which will give you a peek into their underwater world. The park offers manatee tours at the observatory from April 1 to November 15. You’ll learn fun facts about the manatees as well as ways to help with conservation efforts.
Three Sisters Springs
If you are hoping to get a little closer to the manatees, venture out to Three Sisters Springs. Since Citrus County is the only place in Florida where swimming with manatees is legal, these crystal clear springs offer the unique opportunity to enjoy being in the water with manatees year round. You can also enjoy kayak and paddle board tours. To respect these animals (and avoid fines), never touch a manatee, follow one, or single one out. Manatees are shy but quite friendly with humans, so it’s best to observe from a distance and let them come closer, if they wish.
When choosing your Orlando hotel, you’ll want to stay near all the exciting attractions. At Rosen Inn, you’ll enjoy deluxe accommodations within driving distance of exciting manatee encounters. After observing them in the wild, check out the conversation efforts at the Manatee Rehabilitation Area at SeaWorld Orlando, just 5 miles from your hotel. To book your Orlando getaway today, call 407-996-4444.