Closed for over a year, Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach finally reopens

With cooler days ahead in Florida, those who are manatee fans can once again get a closer look at the beloved sea cows. Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center is finally reopening.

It’s been closed since March 2020 because of the pandemic. At 10 a.m. Monday, it will reopen after about 19 months. It’s located right across from the Big Bend Power Plant in Apollo Beach.

This time around, there will be safety protocols in place. There will be a limited capacity inside the gift shop and visitors are required to wear masks in all indoor areas. The Manatee Viewing Center will be open through April 15, except on holidays. 

Before the pandemic, the 50-acre Manatee Viewing Center drew nearly 400,000 visitors every season. In February 2020, the center welcomed its 6 millionth visitor, which was a milestone. Admission is free.

READ: Manatee Awareness Month highlights need to protect as population faces alarming number of deaths in 2021

As for the manatees, when the weather cools, they will flock to the clean, warm-water discharge canal of the plant – sometimes by the hundreds. 

LINK: For more information please visit: or call 813-228-4289

Manatees cannot tolerate temperatures below 68 degrees for long periods of time. Usually, those temperatures start to cool in Florida in November, which also happens to be Manatee Awareness Month.

MORE: Rescued baby manatee gets bottle-fed by ZooTampa staff around the clock

Their instincts kick in, and thousands of the gentle giants head to warmer waters, which includes the state’s springs or the TECO plant’s discharge canal.

Manatees have been gathering at the plant since the early 1970s. It has since become a designated manatee sanctuary.

READ: Proposed bill would re-classify manatees as endangered

Back in 1975, the manatee was designated as Florida's official marine mammal. In 2017, they were reclassified from endangered to a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. However, the population has since faced a record number of deaths. 

A proposed bill would reclassify the manatees as an endangered species.