Often called “sea cows”, these graceful creatures are found abundantly in Belize. These mammals are sometimes described as ancient mermaids; they have a paddle-like tail, round body and a small face – which can be compared to that of a seal. Belize has the highest rate of Antillean manatees in the world; at approximately 1,000 manatees, this number is slowly growing due to all the protection efforts for this species of endangered mammal.
Where to find manatees?
Manatees enjoy spending their time in very warm shallow waters; they are herbivores so they are found in areas with plenty of plant life (mangroves and seagrass). They can be found all over the Belizean coast, but there are 3 main areas in which you will definitely find manatees: Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary, and Gales Point Wildlife Sanctuary. Each of these manatee feeding areas can be accessed by boat from each of the sanctuaries.
Manatee Tours: Gales Point Wildlife Sanctuary
There are many tour guides/companies in Belize that possess the capability and expertise to take you on one of these tours, so it’s easy for you to find a tour operator, no matter where you are. If you are staying in Belize City then most likely you would be going to Gales Point Wildlife Sanctuary; you can either book a tour, drive, or take a private boat charter. This village extends into the Southern lagoon so you will find manatees playing, crocodiles, and the hawksbill turtle – you may even see where these turtles lay their eggs.
Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary
It is only accessible by boat from Belize City, Caye Caulker, St. George’s Caye or Ambergris Caye. Swallow Caye has very shallow waters with bundles of seagrass, making it the perfect home and feeding ground for manatees. The main goal of this sanctuary is to protect the manatees and educate visitors on how important they are; as well you can see many other wildlife such as birds, various fish species and plant species.
You might even spot manatees on a tour of the Belize River or while snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef. Tours operators such as Jaguar Adventures Belize take visitors to see and take pictures of these beautiful creatures in their wild habitat.
Manatees are very carefully guarded by the Belize government, so ensure that your guide informs you of the dos and don’ts of observing them.
Written by Reyann Garcia