Jonesing to see Manatees in Key West
I love manatees and really wanted to see one in the waters off Key West. There's just something about their gentle nature, massive size, and vulnerability that fascinates me. So yeah, as my travel buddy, Joella – other people's psychotherapist — and I explored the beaches and waterways, I had manatees on the mind.
"We want those who come after us to inherit a world where the wild is still alive."
Smathers Beach Stinks
We looked at Smathers beach, which was right next to the airport, and coated with dead sea-grass-like stuff, but saw no manatees. A word of caution, we could have caught it on a bad day, but Smathers was stinky, even more stinky than our Stay on a Boat...with Ferret Essence. So, we didn't stay long. And as we drove away, I had a sinking feeling. Our accommodations were stinky. Smathers Beach was stinky. Are we striking out in the Keys? I couldn't let that sad feeling persist.
Phew, Fort Zachary Taylor, Thank you!
Fort Zachary Taylor to the rescue!! We coughed up some cash to get in ($6), in hopes that its beaches did not disappoint. It was fantastic! I'll never shop around for beaches again in Key West. Fort Zach is full of history, if you're into that kinda thing, which I am, but not when the sun is blazing and the beach is calling. Joella even did a long swim out there, tethered to a pink buoy, while I read in the shade.
Manatees at Fort Zach in Key West
When we first arrived at Fort Zach's beach, I thought I saw a manatee—just a glimpse— by the distant rocks. I pointed it out to Joella and she confirmed it as manatee, but I couldn't decide if it was just a rock or not, and next time I looked over, it was gone. So, we decided it was a manatee. And this is how legends of people seeing mermaids get perpetuated.
Hold up! Manatees aren't Adequately Protected in Key West?
According to my Save the Manatees newsletter, Monroe County — home to Key West — could step up their manatee stewardship game by developing a Manatee Protection Plan. MPPs are coordinated efforts to protect manatees by local, state and federal officials. Monroe county is missing one.
Why do manatees need more protection in Key West?
Because manatees live there. You may have heard that manatees had a horrific year in 2021, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to declare an Unusual Mortality Event for Manatees. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, "A record number of manatees — more than 1,100 — died in 2021, with many of these deaths attributable primarily to pollution of manatee habitat."
Umm, how am I not more informed about the Center for Biological Diversity? The conclusion of their mission statement reads: "We want those who come after us to inherit a world where the wild is still alive." YES MA'AM.
Monroe Country & Key West: Where is your Manatee Protection Plan?
Don't be donkeys. I've seen your tiki-hut-baby-barges off Mallory Square. If you're OK with those existing, then you should be OK with manatees existing too, right? Please step up and help the manatees by establishing a MPP.
What Else Can We Do to Save the Manatees?
That's me in Key West, mid-jog, while looking for manatees at the end of the streets. Found the Southernmost point in my wanderings instead.
Other ways to be connected to the Florida Manatees:
I like watching the live streams from manatee sanctuary in Blue Springs, FL and you may too.
Watch ManaTV (get it?!) Underwater Cam:
Watch ManaTV Above Water Cam: