Are you looking for the not quite elusive Fort Myers manatees? More specifically, are you looking to kayak in Fort Myers with the wild manatees? Well, look no further than an estuary tour at Lovers Key State Park! And if you’re not a full blog reader and need to see the video of a baby manatee approaching my kayak – which I can’t fault you for – scroll to the end!
I have visited Florida multiple times but somehow the manatees had still evaded me. This, was heartbreaking because I desperately have wanted to encounter them. Adorable sea cows who just happily swim around being adorable and harming no one or nothing but some sea plants? Sign me up to see these cute flubbery babies.
Anyway, that was a tangent about manatees so let’s get back to business. I decided I was going to experience some Fort Myers manatees, damnit. So after some research (and having to map out the closest drive because Fort Myers can be a traffic nightmare) we decided on this estuary tour at Lovers Key State Park. But there are a few considerations that went into this that I’ll share below, before I get into the full day (AND VIDEOS!) of my Fort Myers manatee excursion.
Things to Consider
How far are you willing to drive?
- Manatee Park is in Fort Myers too and super well known for being a natural environment for the manatees but for us, it was a bit of a farther drive so we settled on Lovers Key
- If you’re willing to drive hours inland, you can go to some of the natural springs but you may not need to
What time of year is it?
- Depending on the time of year, you may be lucky or not in seeing manatees
- During the winter, the manatees stick closer inland in the warmer springs, so if the water is still cold you may not see any
- However, I did my kayak tour in Lovers Key State Park in February and saw almost a dozen manatees, so it’s really just dependent on the weather
What time of day can you go?
- Like most animals, manatees are easier to spot early in the day
- The less kicked up sediment from boat and other water traffic, the better chance you have to see these adorable creatures
How do you want to experience them?
- Manatees are a protected species, so you are not allowed to touch them, but in key areas throughout the state you can swim with them
- You can also go places and potentially walk to see them from above
- Or, choose like I did, and kayak with them
Fort Myers Manatees in Lovers Key State Park Estuary Tour
The tour itself is great. It’s around 3 hours and you join a guide to kayak around. The guide will know where they’ve seen manatees that day and will take you to those spots throughout the tour. Our guide had his dog with him on his paddle board and it’s safe to say I fell in love. With the dog… not the guide. The guide was lovely but I’m here for the dogs.
Initially, we kayaked toward an area that had had manatees earlier in the day but we didn’t see them there. Once we spent a few minutes there and didn’t see these Fort Myers manatees, we turned around and headed down the estuary toward the sea. Along the way our guide taught us a ton about local wildlife; animals, flora, fauna, and the history. Despite not seeing any manatees yet, I was definitely enjoying myself.
However, then it happened. We saw our first 2 manatees; a mama and a baby. I was thrilled, they were just chilling in the water and were so sweet. As we were heading back inland, we kept hearing from other kayakers and paddle boarders that there were a bunch farther up where we initially looked. Our guide was amazing and told us we were free to kayak for as long as we wanted after the tour was done. This proved to be incredible because we headed back up to the manatee hot spot and got to hang out with a bunch for another hour.
I can describe how great it is, OR I can simply share the videos, which I’ll do instead. BECAUSE LOOK HOW CUTE THEY ARE. Also ignore how excited I am. I thought about just dubbing music over these videos but I wanted you to truly feel how excited I was!
So there you go, my amazing experience kayaking with manatees in Fort Myers. If you’re in town and an animal lover like me (I mean, look at all my animal-based activities blogs) then you’ll LOVE kayaking with them. As always, feel free to holler at me with any questions. And check out my southwest Florida Instagram story highlights for more on-the-ground action. Cheers!