TECO Manatee Viewing Center

We are not the only ones that want to get to warmer places – the manatees do too and take refuge from the chilly water in the power plant cooling water canals.   TECO has developed the south shore of their cooling water discharge canal into a very nice viewing center, museum with interactive exhibits and of course a snack bar and gift shop.  It is a popular  spot for both people and manatees when the Florida winter weather turns a bit more chilly than we would like.

The dark blobs in the water are the manatees.  LOTS of manatees!  None came closer to the viewing area than what you see here but it was fascinating to watch one effortlessly float to the surface of the water and stick up a bit of snout to catch a leisurely breath and sink again.  Now and then you spot a bit of the paddle-shaped tail as one dove a bit deeper or the scarred sides as one rolled in the water.  If you were observant, the leaping rays or tarpon wouldn’t catch you by surprise.  If you were looking in the wrong direction the only signs visible were ripples in the water and other onlookers pointing where you were NOT looking.

Tarpon are fascinating to watch jump.  Not only do they leap into the air, but they spin like a thrown football at the same time.  I did hear some gasps of “shark” one time after a tarpon exhibition…

The spotted rays were gliding about near the viewing areas and I enjoyed watching them seemingly “fly” through the water.

Don’t see it?  About the middle of the image, just about where the color has turned to blue you see a dark smudge.  Look closer and you can almost see the spots on it’s back.  Almost.  I promise, it is there.

OK – NOW do you see it???  Even I had to go back and resize a part of the image to remember where the ray was swimming.

wow…look at all the manatees – I think I did use a bit of the telephoto setting to get a bit “closer.”

There is also a nature walk and self-guided tour of the estuary to show more about the animals and plants that inhabit the area.  I do love going here, and based on the FULL parking area, so do a few other people!

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