Slow-moving manatees, nicknamed “sea cows,” are not the most elusive marine mammals. They float in shallow waters and are pretty easy to spot if you know where to go and when to look. However, they are aggressively protected due to their endangered status and their inability to defend themselves.
The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, near its namesake town about an hour and a half north of Tampa, is a major destination for manatees migrating during the wintertime. Several park programs allow people to snorkel alongside the manatees, but you can also see them from viewing points along the roads and on the bridges inside the refuge. Since they float near the surface of the water, manatees are very easy to see from land without the aid of binoculars.