With wind in your hair and a splash of salt water you can cruise the calm waters of Sarasota Bay or venture out in the great blue Gulf of Mexico in a boat, kayak or jet-ski.
Summer is best for Kayaks and Jet Skis but, there’s one word of caution… MANATEES!
YES, there are lumbering “sea cows” living in these here waters!
During warm summer months, these gentle, slow-moving, BLIMPS often venture out with their calves and munch on the sea grasses of the inter-coastal waterway and Sarasota Bay. On average Manatees weigh in at about 900-1200 lb (410-545 kg). You do not want to collide with one of these giants!
Known as Florida’s state marine mammal, the manatee is a large aquatic relative of the elephant. They are grayish brown in color and have thick, wrinkled skin with growths of moss looking algae. Their front flippers help steer or crawl through shallow water while their powerful flat tails propel them forward.
Like all mammals, manatees breathe air… AND… as a marine mammal, they must rise to the surface to take a breath. While resting this happens every 20 minutes, but when actively moving… they need to take a breath every 3 to 5 minutes.
That’s why we all need to be cautious especially around sea grass…their favorite munchie food.
So, keep your eyes on the water and watch for a coconut floating on the surface. That’s a manatee’s head… coming up for a breath of fresh air.
Manatees are the only marine mammals that are herbivores. Just to keep their big bodies warm, they have to eat up to one tenth of their body weight every day. For a typical manatee that means more than 100 pounds of water plants! WOW… That’s equal to more than 200 heads of lettuce!
Plan a visit to the hidden lagoons, beaches and hiking trails of the Jim Neville Marine Preserve. These islands in Little Sarasota Bay are accessible only by water. This 35-acre preserve provides opportunities for great bird watching while exploring a maze of waterways. The rookeries, (baby nurseries), are home to roseate spoonbill, great blue heron, great egret, brown pelican, osprey and many other birds. The beds of sea grass are home to marine animals…that include the manatee. With a low elevation, the islands make for a wet hike during high tides, but the variety of coastal birds, plants and wildlife make a visit here well worth it!
For a great full body workout or afloat with the current, you’ll certainly enjoy a kayak adventure on Siesta Key.
Boat Rental Information:
Rentals can be found on or near Stickney Point Road at the South Bridge on Siesta Key…
CB’s Saltwater Outfitters at 1249 Stickney Point Rd., Siesta Key Marina and Siesa Key Watersports, Parasailing & Jet Ski Rentals at 1265 Old Stickney Point Rd.
Are you planning to bring a boat on your next vacation?
The lagoon at Turtle Beach on the south end of Siesta Key will accommodate your every need. This park has a very natural beach and is a prime location to witness sea turtles nesting. There are two separate concrete double-lane boat ramps with docks as well as sandy drop-in areas for small crafts. This 17-acre park features the following park amenities:
- bay access
- beach access
- boat ramp
- boating destination
- picnic shelter – reservable
- rest rooms
- scenic vista
Interested in swimming with Manatees?
Although Manatees are wild, they are slow moving docile creatures and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife have sanctioned human encounters with manatees in Crystal River. This is a two hour drive north on Interstate 75. Your tour guide will provide snorkel gear and wet suits for several hours of Manatee interaction.
On a sultry summer day, four friends and I went when most manatees were out in the Gulf. It took a while to locate one munching away in open water. Donning wet suits we grabbed noodles (floating devices) and slipped in the water. I found this creature, rather shy at first but, as my hand rested on the water a coconut head rose up to be petted. Contact was brief each time as it enjoyed engaging with all of us. Like a slow moving submarine this gentle giant introduced itself and stayed as long as we were there.
Not only did we see other manatees, there were bald eagles, cormorants, pelicans, blue crabs, grebes and raccoons, herons, ibises and bass… Well, you get the idea. Go for the whole experience and you will not be disappointed.
Guides will take you to the populated areas for viewing and mingling. Once in the water, these curious creatures will slowly come near for a scratch on the head or tummy massage. Believe me, there is no theme park that can capture the experience you are about to encounter. And, bring your underwater camera.