Manatees at Tampa Power Station
For anyone who wants to see Manatees in the wild then a trip to the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Centre is highly recommended. It is situated at Apollo Beach close to Tampa and opposite the outlet of the Big Bend Power Station. The warm water surrounding the power station means it is ideal territory for these beautiful but endangered animals and they flock there in the hundreds when the water in the bay turns chilly-below 68 degrees F.
The manatees make their way to the warm water and simply enjoy themselves swimming around in the high temperature. They share the water with other species -the day we went we saw lot of Spinner Sharks-these creatures -as their name suggests- they leap from the water and spin before their re-entry making a beautiful sight as they shimmer in the sunlight. Another species we saw in good numbers were Tarpon ,large fish that are abundant in the area. Swimming slowly close to the bottom of the inlet we saw many Ray hoping that we would catch sight of one of these beauties leap but unfortunately they were lazy on the day we went.
In addition to standing and watching the soothing motions of the Manatees there is a short pier that goes out into the headland a little way .Walking along here amongst the mangroves you can see birds flowers and trees native to Florida as well as creatures that live on the beach and shoreline ,crabs of various types being amongst them.
The viewing centre is also a source of information for learning how the manatees are endangered, their life cycle and the difficulties they face out in the open sea. There is a small refreshment kiosk and a shop that helps keep the centre viable as well as a Hurricane machine so you can experience the weather phenomenon as well as exhibitions of how various sources of power are obtained and used and the advantages of each.
During the centre’s season from November 1 to April 15. Center volunteers and staff, many of them Tampa Electric retirees, answer questions and provide additional educational information making a good place for school groups but as it is not a very big place you will not be over run with school children.
This is a great day out and can be combined with a trip to the Tampa Aquarium or Ybor -City if wanted but the best thing of all is that it is entirely free of charge for both parking and to see the Manatees of course donations are welcome.
To get to the viewing centre which is at Big Bend Road Take I-4 to I-75
Take I- 75 to Apollo Beach, Exit #246. Turn west on Big Bend Road (C.R. 672). Travel 2.5 miles west to the curve intersection of Big BendandDickman roads). The Manatee Viewing Center entrance is on the right.
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