Manatee Viewing Center
My son and I visit the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. We both love nature and seeing manatees up close is a real treat. Manatees like warm water, so when the gulf temperature drops below 68 degrees they come to seek a warm place to wait out the cold. They survive by taking advantage of Tampa Electric's warm water discharge canal next to the plant.
From the parking lot it is a few stairs (a ramp is available too) to the boardwalk-like elevated viewing platform. Rounded manatee bodies fill the little bay like so many potatoes simmering in a pot. A tail flipper occasionally slaps the water as one of them makes a shallow dive. Every few minutes one of them raises its snout for air. Mothers with babies half their size float gently right under the viewing platform. One day, fish that looked like small sharks were leaping out of the water from time to time. It is best to view the manatees at low tide, otherwise they may remain too deep to get a good look at them.
Another interesting part of the center is the Tidal Walk. This extends out into the bay crossing a shoreline usually hidden in the mangrove thicket. Signs along the way identify plants and habitat. There are pelicans, cormorants, and sandpipers foraging along the shore.
On nice days, we like to walk to the wildlife observation tower. Once at the top, we have a splendid view of the area, from the estuary right below us, to the city of Tampa on the horizon. I marvel that in the shadow of the massive TECO plant, this little local treasure was born.
6990 Dickman Road, Apollo Beach, Florida
Written by Lucy Noe