See a Manatee in Naples and Marco Island

By Susan Finch

Manatees are known as the gentle giants of the ocean and Florida’s official state marine mammal. Although their size is awe-inspiring, they’re also slow-moving creatures that mesmerize visitors as they glide through the waters. On a lucky day, you’ll see their wrinkled, whiskered face rise to the surface and release water from their snout. 

Manatee Boat Tours Naples and Marco Island, Florida.
Photo courtesy Manatee Sightseeing & Wildlife Adventures

Manatees are common throughout Florida’s waterways, where they play, glide, and graze for food. During the winter months, these gentle creatures tend to head for warmer waters or basins. Fortunately, Naples and Marco Island count manatees as year-round residents!

Beyond these 3,500-pound friendly manatees, Naples and Marco Island are filled with hundreds of species of wildlife living along the shoreline, wetlands, tall grasses, and nearby Everglades. It’s common to see dolphins swimming near the piers around Marco Island and spot sea turtles and American osprey. The mangrove forest canopying the nearby Everglades is home to shorebirds, herons, egrets, and of course, resident alligators. 

Roseate spoonbill birds wading in water near shore in Marco Island near Naples, Florida
Photo courtesy Manatee Sightseeing & Wildlife Adventures
Alligator resting on a log on the bank of mangrove and water in Naples, Florida
Photo courtesy Manatee Sightseeing & Wildlife Adventures
Dolphins playing and jumping out of the water near Naples and Marco Island, Florida
Photo courtesy Manatee Sightseeing & Wildlife Adventures

Take a Manatee and Wildlife Tour

To make the most of Southwest Florida’s wildlife, turn to experts knowledgeable about the area. The owners of Manatee Sightseeing & Wildlife Adventures offer four different tours in the Naples and Marco Island area, and all are senior and kid-friendly. Book a cruise or eco-tour with them for an opportunity to see resident manatees, Everglades waterfowl, alligators, dolphins, and bull sharks. Sunset cruises and family-focused outings are also available. With multiple boats, the company is currently the only manatee sightseeing tour in the world that sees manatees daily in their natural habitat. 

Woman kneeling on a tour boat deck looking down into the water at manatees swimming in Naples, Florida.
Photo courtesy Manatee Sightseeing & Wildlife Adventures

Where to See Manatees in Naples and Marco Island, Florida

Manatees tend to follow the coastline, looking for their next meal of seagrass. It’s not unusual to see them swim just feet from their human neighbors. However, it’s advised not to interfere with passing manatees and allow them to move freely, rest, and enjoy the space they need.

Manatees also love drinking fresh water and are often found along the Faka Union waterway. This natural freshwater watershed is among the last in the Everglades area, and its canal creates a downstream hydrological refuge for manatees. The cooler winter also provides unique conditions to sustain a salinity gradient known as a halocline. The results trap warm water along the bottom of the canals, making it an appealing place for manatees. 

When other manatees move on as the weather warms, it’s not uncommon to see mother manatees and their calves nibbling on aquatic plants and seagrasses. Beyond manatees, you’ll also see wading birds, black bears, and the endangered Florida Panther roaming around the waters of the Faka Union Canal and the Port of the Islands. 

Manatee swims near the shore near Naples and Marco Island, Florida
Photo courtesy Manatee Sightseeing & Wildlife Adventures

The 10,000 Islands are also among the best places to see manatees. Among its more remote islands, the relatively undisturbed seagrass beds provide peaceful feeding grounds for manatees. The mangrove islets of the islands also welcome water birds roosting on the coastline and loggerhead sea turtles looking to nest. There’s little boat traffic, making it a tranquil eco-tour or stop on your wildlife adventure. 

Southwest Florida is more than beaches, shopping, and dining. Make wildlife part of your Naples and Marco Island experience for an incredible vacation you won’t forget.

Make sure you see manatees on your next vacation by booking a cruise or eco-tour with Manatee Sightseeing & Wildlife Adventures today. 

Save $20 off group fare – coupon!

Naples and Marco Island, Florida Manatee Boat Tours.
Photo courtesy Manatee Sightseeing & Wildlife Adventures

Written by: Susan Finch

Susan Finch is a travel writer and content marketer for the tourism industry who spends her time obsessing over the latest travel trends, wrangling her small kids, and planning her family's next big adventure.