LO­CAL LOOKOUTS

RSWLiving - - Explorer - — J. K.

The springs may draw the crowds. But there are plenty of places in South­west Florida where man­a­tees can be spot­ted as well.

On Sani­bel Is­land, walk or bike the ex­ten­sive net­work of trails, roads, and board­walks that ex­plores the 6,400- acre J. N. “Ding” Dar­ling Na­tional Wildlife Refuge ( 239- 472- 1100, fws. gov/ ding­dar­ling). You will find ex­cel­lent ob­ser­va­tion decks where you can search for man­a­tees along Tar­pon Bay, Pine Is­land Sound, and the many chan­nels and wa­ter­ways found through­out the pre­serve.

Large num­bers of man­a­tees can be found at Man­a­tee Park ( 239- 690- 5030, leeparks. org) in Fort My­ers be­tween Novem­ber and March, con­gre­gat­ing in the warm wa­ter gen­er­ated by a nearby power plant. The park of­fers in­ter­pre­tive pro­grams through­out the year and keeps up an ex­cel­lent Web site that de­tails cur­rent man­a­tee sight­ings and wa­ter con­di­tions.

If you’re lucky, you could spy a man­a­tee while ply­ing the Caloosa­hatchee River in a ca­noe or kayak. This scenic river passes Cape Coral and Fort My­ers on its way to San Car­los Bay. You might also catch a glimpse of a man­a­tee in the Gulf of Mex­ico, whether you’re sun­ning on the sand or at the helm of a boat.

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