So exciting! We couldn't believe our luck with this wildlife-watching moment! We've seen manatees in the wild multiple times, but we have never seen one nursing before! And as if seeing a manatee nurse its calf wasn't amazing enough in its own right, this Mama had another surprise for us!
Manatees Are My Favorite Florida Mammal!
Manatees, also known as sea cows, are large, gentle marine mammals that are native to the coastal waters of Florida. They are known for their slow, graceful movements and their friendly, curious nature.
If you're lucky enough to spot a manatee in the wild, you'll be treated to a truly unique and unforgettable experience.
In Florida, manatees are often found in warm-water springs and shallow, sheltered areas along the coast. When the water temperature drops on cold winter days, manatees often seek out the warmer water of canals and other man-made waterways.
An Incredible Sighting
Today was a chilly December morning in Satellite Beach, Florida, but that didn't stop us from making the trip to DeSoto Park. In fact, we went out there, braving the bitter cold, because we knew these would be prime manatee viewing conditions.
We were not disappointed!
As we walked along the canal, we couldn't help but notice a small crowd of people gathered at the water's edge. Upon closer inspection, we saw that the cause of the commotion was a group of manatees swimming just a few feet away.
Well, swimming is a big word for what these creatures were doing. Most were hanging there in the water, like giant rocks.
Can you spot them in this photo?
Whatever a manatee does, it's amazing to watch. Yes, even when it's nothing. They are just so huge. They have full bragging rights for the title: "gentle giants."
Did you know an adult manatee weighs approximately 1,000 pounds on average?
And they can get much larger than that, actually. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee, a fully-grown adult manatee can weigh more than 3,500 pounds!
So, yeah, it's almost like watching an elephant or something. It is always exciting to be in the presence of such a huge mammal.
For more marine must-sees in Florida, take a look at this comprehensive guide.
Then This Happened
As we watched in awe, one of the manatees caught our attention. It had a radio tracker collar on its tail. That in itself was fascinating.
The whole crowd was debating the strange apparatus. Some considered calling some manatee watch organization or other, but then we all agreed it probably wasn't needed. That manatee looked happy enough with what was clearly a transmitter.
And as we watched, we noticed a little flipper attached to that large manatee. In fact, look closely, and you should be able to see it in the photo above!
The First "Awwww Moment"
Yes! That manatee was a mother with a calf nursing at its side. It was heartwarming to see, and the whole crowd went "awwwww" in unison.
But little did we know that the surprise was far from over!
Now We're Talking OMG Awww!
As we continued to observe the mother and her calf, we couldn't help but notice that there was another calf swimming alongside them.
Mama Manatee had two offspring, and both were taking turns nursing!
It was clear that the two calves were siblings, but I don't think they were twins. One appeared to be larger than the other. I'm not a manatee expert (and would love to hear from one in the comments if they come across this post!), but I think maybe the older calf was her 2021 offspring, and the younger one was a 2022 baby.
We were struck by the rare and incredible sight of a mother manatee with two offspring.
We couldn't wait to share our experience with others. We captured the entire scene on video, and we invite you to take a look and share in our surprise and joy at this special Christmas Day outing.
DeSoto Park in Satellite Beach is a great place to start if you're planning to visit Florida and want to see manatees in the wild.
Keep in mind that they come into the canal mostly during very cold winter days. We visited the park at other times and did not see manatees there then. But if you happen to be in Florida for a winter break, it's a popular spot for manatee viewing.
By the way, if you're looking to view Florida wildlife in its natural habitat, I bet alligators are high up on your list. If that's the case, you're in luck. As a fellow wildlife viewing fan, I know where you can see gators in the wild - and do so safely.
Check out my thorough guide (with photos and videos!) on where to see alligators in Florida. There are no zoos or gator parks - just raw encounters with majestic Florida animals in the wild!