Manatee: The Gentle Giants of Marco Island

As frequent visitors and part-time residents, we often find ourselves looking for manatee on Marco Island. Although there are several of these gentle giants on the island, it is often hard to spot them. Look for large dark spots in the water off the beach areas.

Eco boat tours touring through the 10,000 island Gulf waters offer guests a good opportunity to see a manatee up close and personal. Especially during hot weather, they can often be spotted in Marco Island canals and in the warm shallow waters around Tigertail Beach.

Manatee Love Warm Shallow Water

Manatee Behavior

The Florida Manatee (commonly known as a sea cow) is a gentle, slow moving giant of the sea.  They can weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds, but are not “fat”.  Like other mammals, their organs and bone structure take up most of their body weight.  In fact, they have very little body fat and, depending on water temperature, can easily be the victims of hypothermia.  They rarely venture into waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

The manatee is a large aquatic relative of the elephant.  They are grayish brown in color and have thick, wrinkled skin. Their front flippers help them steer, or sometimes crawl, through shallow water.  Manatees also have powerful, flat tails that help propel them through the water.  Although they rest and feed often,  manatees also body surf or barrel roll when playing.  Despite their small eyes and lack of outer ears, manatees are thought to see and hear well.  They communicate by squealing under water to demonstrate fear, stress or excitement.

The Florida manatee play an important role in influencing plant growth in the shallow rivers, bays, estuaries, canals and the coastal waters they live in.  Their diets consist mostly of sea grasses and freshwater vegetation.

Manatee calves are born weighing between 60 and 70 pounds and measure about 3-4 feet long.  They nurse underwater.

They are mammals and must surface to breath air on an average of every three to five minutes. Because of having to surface for air frequently, manatee stay close to the surface of the water. Unfortunately, this makes them easy targets for boat propellers. From April 1 through November 15, seasonal manatee zones require boaters to slow down in certain areas to protect these beautiful sea creatures.

How to Spot Manatee on Marco

The best way to see manatee in the water is by wearing polarized sunglasses to help see through the glare on the water. Manatee also make large circles on the water called “manatee footprints”. Also, look for a manatee’s snout sticking up out of the water or a large dark spot in the water.

Manatee prefer waters that are aoub 3-7 feet deep like the Marco Island canals and the surrounding 10,0000 island area. Often times, it is best to drive by some of the island’s canals and make a stop to look for the manatee.

Of course, if you fail to see a manatee on either your eco boat tour or on your canal tour of the island, you can always spot the many manatee shaped mailboxes on the island.

Manatee Mailbox on Marco
Manatee Mailboxes are Common on Marco Island
Sea Mar Condo Logo

Visit our website at  Our “Top 10 List” provides information on bird watching, sea life, and fishing on Marco Island. We recommend several tour companies to make looking for manatee on Marco Island more enjoyable.