Every fall/winter, when the water temperature in Tampa Bay gets to 68 degrees or less, hundreds of manatees gather in the warm water discharge canal of Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach. Since 1986, visitors have flocked to the site to see the majestic sea cows up close.
This year, however, Tampa Electric has decided to delay the opening of the award-winning Manatee Viewing Center until January 2021. This move was made to help protect the health and safety of visitors and the community. A tentative opening date of Wednesday, January 6, 2021 has been set. However, if pandemic conditions persist, the date may be delayed further.
“The health and safety of our visitors and our employees are our number one priority,” said Stan Kroh, manager of Land and Stewardship Programs for Tampa Electric.
“For hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to the Manatee Viewing Center every winter, we look forward to seeing you when it is safe to do so,” added Kroh.
While the Manatee Viewing Center remains closed, manatees will continue to gather in the federal and state-protected sanctuary. Visitors who want to visit can still experience parts of the Manatee Viewing Center in several ways.
First, it has opened a brand-new online store. The store was opened thanks to a partnership with the University of Tampa and the MacDonald Training Center. Secondly, the Manatee Viewing Center has live web cameras that became functional as of November 1. Thirdly, teachers and students who want to will be able to schedule ‘virtual field trips.’ The plan is to reveal this new and unique opportunity in the coming weeks.
When the Manatee Viewing Center does reopen, you need to plan a trip. There is an educational building complete with colorful displays that immerse you in the world of the manatees and their habitat. You can also stroll in the butterfly garden, walk along the habitat loop trail and visit the wildlife observation tower.
The Manatee Viewing Center is located at 6990 Dickman Rd. in Apollo Beach.
For more information, please visit www.tampaelectric.com/manatees.