Florida Manatees

Crystal River, Jan 2006

Photos by Destin Bradwell, Captions by Karen and Destin

Florida Manatees

At 5am on a chilly January morning, Karen and I met at a local dive shop to prepare for an unforgettable adventure...  Geared up in full-body wetsuits, hoods and booties, we journeyed out through the dense fog to nearby King's Creek, which is part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.  We arrived just before sunrise, and the air temperature was hovering in the 50s.  With the cold weather, hundreds of manatees were expected to be in the sanctuary, where the water was the warmest.  We were the first boat to arrive, and had the whole area to ourselves.  Now, all we had to do was take the plunge... 


Traveling out to King's Creek at dawn


'Hanging around' at the sanctuary


A display of affection between mother and calf


Manatees love attention, and all wanted to be scratched


Manatees have been known to hold their breath for as long as 20 minutes, 
but they usually surface every 5 minutes to breathe


Having no natural predators, manatees are gentle, peaceful, and curious creatures


Manatees have such an adorable wrinkled face and whiskers


Adult manatees can reach lengths of over 13 feet and weigh over 3,000 pounds


Manatees are completely herbivorous and can eat 10-15% of their body weight daily


The manatee’s seal-like body tapers to a flat, paddle-shaped tail



A young calf obediently follows it’s mother to the river bottom for a rest


Manatee calves are 3 to 4 feet long at birth and weigh approximately 60 pounds.
Calves stay with their mothers for several years.


Waving goodbye with their powerful tails

Manatee sanctuary at King’s Spring


One of our new friends followed us to the boat for a final farewell


Currently, there are six manatee sanctuaries in the Crystal River's headwaters at Kings Bay that protect approximately 39 acres of essential manatee habitat. The sanctuaries were created to provide manatees areas where they could retreat from people during their winter-long stay in the area. According to the USFWS, Kings Bay is the most important winter refuge for manatees on Florida's west coast. More than 250 manatees are known to winter here.

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