Manatees, also known as sea cows, are large aquatic animals that inhabit the shallow, rivers and estuaries of Florida during certain months. They are gentle, curious animals that are a beloved part of the ecosystem in the sunshine state.
We share our experience in this article and tell you if you can see plenty of these fascinating creatures in March.
Tour Tips | Book in Advance
Best Time | Including March
March is a good time to see manatees in Florida. Visitors can spot them and swim with them between November and April. The largest population is there from December to February. Sometimes it can be too late in March, depending on the temperature at that time.
Visitors can see manatees in Florida’s waterways throughout the year, but the population is much smaller from late spring to fall (May to October).
Here are five key facts about manatees in Florida that you should know:
- Manatees are Florida’s official marine mammal. Florida was the first state to declare them as a protected species in 1893.
- Florida is home to the largest population of manatees in the world. The most recent estimate of the population is over 6,500 individuals.
- The best place to spot manatees in Florida is in the warm-water springs and rivers along the Gulf Coast. Some of the most popular spots are Crystal River, Blue Spring State Park, and Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
- The best months to spot manatees in Florida are from November through March, sometimes until April. During this time, the manatee population increases as manatees migrate southward to warmer waters.
- The best time of day to spot manatees in Florida is early in the morning
Why Early Morning?
The best time of day to swim with manatees in Florida is in the early morning on a weekday because it is less crowded and much more peaceful. Also, manatees are most active and very playful during that time.
You will also have a great experience around noon and in the afternoon. However, the morning is definitely the best time of day to encounter these gentle giants in March and their unique and truly amazing attributes.
Thus, we highly recommend you book an early morning tour for the best experience. We always make a reservation for the very first tour of the day, not the second or third one.
Are Sightings Guaranteed in March
Although it’s a good month, there is still a chance that you might miss the manatees in March. Once we went to Blue Spring State Park in late March and the Manatees were already gone. Another time we saw only six of them in mid-March.
At other times we saw over 20 of them when we went at the end of the month. The earlier you go in March, the better your chances are of seeing more manatees!
The Best Places
The best spots for Manatees during March are:
Crystal River, Three Sisters Springs
Located on Florida’s west coast, Crystal River is the only place in the world where you can legally swim with manatees. Usually, the manatees flock to the warm, spring-fed waters of Kings Bay from November to March.
Crystal River is open 365 days a year, from dawn to dusk. You can get to Crystal River by car and there are plenty of marinas in the area that offer boat rentals. When you swim with manatees, it’s important to remember to stay quiet, remain still, and never touch or chase them.
Blue Spring State Park
Located near Orlando, Blue Spring State Park is a popular place to observe manatees during the winter months until late March. Blue Spring State Park covers more than 2,600 acres and features the largest spring on the St. Johns River. It’s a designated manatee refuge!
Manatees start to arrive in early November and you can see them during the peak season. Sometimes even into late April, depending on various factors.
Blue Spring State Park is open 365 days a year, from 8 am to sunset (subject to change). To get to Blue Spring State Park, take I-4 east to State Road 472 and head south.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
This state park is one of the best places in Florida to observe manatees. The park is open 365 days a year, from 9 am to 5p m (subject to change), with later closing hours during the summer. To get to the park, take US 19 to Homosassa Springs and follow the signs to the park.
When visiting the park in March, you can take a boat tour to observe the manatees in their natural habitat or visit the park’s underwater observatory to get an up-close look.
Swim With Manatees Without a Tour?
It’s not advised to swim with manatees without a tour, but it’s possible. You need detailed knowledge of the location, experience, the right gear, and a thorough understanding of what to do and how to act. We don’t recommend doing it without a tour.
If you don’t follow the law and the rules, you might end up paying a large fine, being arrested, or receiving other severe sanctions.
A group tour is a convenient, safest, and most secure way to swim with manatees. With the right boat, you will get into the water faster and have a dry area to rest and store your belongings.