The Florida manatee is one of the most endangered marine mammals in coastal waters in the United States. It is a large animal with dark gray, wrinkled skin, paddle-like forelimbs, no hind limbs, and a large flat tail. The slow-moving manatee lives in fresh, brackish and marine habitats, and prefers floating sea grasses and other vegetation. It has been listed as an endangered species since 1967.

The major threats to the manatee are watercraft colliding with the animals, and destruction and degradation of habitat caused by widespread development throughout the species' Florida range. Little Sarasota Bay is home to seagrasses which are a major Manatee food source. This is one of the few coastal areas where young manatees can swim without the threat of boat traffic.

Who swims day and night, eats 72 heads of lettuce a day and is trained to participate in marine mammal research?

Why, that would be Hugh and Buffett of course.

These guys are very famous manatees that were born at the Miami Seaquarium and brought to Mote Marine Aquarium in May 1996. While their move to Mote was originally temporary, state officials decided that they could help teach the public about sea cows by keeping Hugh and Buffett at Mote Aquarium. Today, Hugh and Buffett are the only manatees in the world that are trained to participate in research. If you’re really smart, you will visit them at Mote Marine Aquarium.

Check It Out!

LeBarge Sightseeing Cruises
U.S. 41 at Island Park Circle (near Marina Jack)
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-366-6116

Daytime Narrated Sightseeing Cruise: 2-4 p.m. daily: adults $20, children 4-12 $15, children 3 and under free
Sunset Entertainment Cruise: 7-9 p.m. daily (depending on time of sunset): $23 per person.
Dolphin Watch Tour: Tues./Thurs./Sat. morning at 11 a.m. narrated by marine biologist (guaranteed to see dolphins or free pass for any regular scheduled cruise): adults $20, children 4-12 $15, children 3 and under free
25-mile trip on Sarasota Bay. Daytime cruise features running commentary on points of interest and wildlife, sunset cruise takes you out to the Gulf to see a spectacular Sarasota sunset and enjoy live entertainment. Food and drink are additional. Private charters available. Call for schedule and reservations (recommended).

Mote Marine Aquarium
1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy.
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-388-4200

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily 365 days a year
Admission: adults (over 12) $17, seniors (over 65) $16, youth (4-12) $12, children 3 and under free
Have you ever seen a giant squid? Come and see Molly Mollusk, Mote Aquarium’s 25-foot specimen of the Giant Squid, so rare and elusive no one has ever seen one alive! Molly is the centerpiece of Mote’s newest exhibit, “Mysterious Mollusks,” featuring cuttlefish, scallops, green mussels, octopus and various shell exhibits.

Also at Mote is the Shark Attack Theater, Remarkable Rays Exhibit, and 135,000-gallon shark exhibit. Displays at Mote Aquarium explain more than 45 years of research conducted by Mote scientists and encourage understanding and appreciation for aquatic environments. Don’t miss seeing the sea turtle exhibits, and Hugh and Buffet, Mote’s resident manatees. Knowledgeable guides are ready to answer questions about the exhibits and the work of scientists at Mote.

Also available are tours on the Sarasota Bay Explorer for a relaxing one-hour-and-45-minute tour of Sarasota Bay waterways. View nesting sea birds and see firsthand the fascinating creatures living in local grass flats.

More From What to See & Do in Sarasota County

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