SeaWorld Orlando releases manatees in Eddy Creek:

See them yourself in the Merritt National Wildlife Refuge

m5Most people think of SeaWorld Orlando as a place to see animals performing, like the One Ocean killer whale show or the dolphins and birds in Blue Horizons, or a theme park with habitats for creatures like stingrays, sharks, sea turtles, and flamingos.

While it’s true you’ll see all those animals, and many more, at the park, SeaWorld Orlando also has a busy rescue and rehabilitation program going on behind the scenes. It rescues many different species, from birds to pilot whales to sea turtles. By July of 2013, the park had already rescued 13 manatees for various reasons, like injuries and cold stress, since the beginning of the year.m2

On July 18, four of the rescued manatees returned to the wild in the waters of Eddy Creek by the Canaveral National Seashore. SeaWorld aims to rehabilitate as many of the animals it takes in as possible so they can be re-released, although some live out their lives at the park if their injuries are permanent.

Three of the four manatees had been trapped in a mosquito impoundment, and the last one was having buoyancy issues. SeaWorld’s animal care team was able to get the quartet back to good health and ready for a return to the creek in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

You can see other rescued manatees still living at SeaWorld, but if you prefer to view them in the wild, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a great place for a day trip. It’s only about an hour away from Orlando, and manatee spotting is just one of the many activities offered there.

If you’re unfamiliar with the area, stop at the visitor center on State Road 402, which is just five miles off US 1 in Titusville. It has maps, displays, educational resources, and a book store and gift shop. At the center, you’ll learn about the beaches, walking trails, fishing, bird watching, photography, and spots for water sports like canoeing and kayaking.

m3The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is truly a place to enjoy a peaceful day, surrounded by miles of wilderness and the sparking ocean water. It’s well worth the drive to take some time to commune with nature as you swim, hike, and otherwise enjoy something that’s sorely missing from the city.

There are several different places where you’re likely to see wild manatees, but one of the most popular is the manatee observation deck 10.5 miles north of the visitors center, off State Road 3 at Haulover Canal. The Bairs Cove boat launch is another good spot to observe the large but gentle creatures.m1

If you don’t have any luck in the wild, you’ll always see manatees at SeaWorld Orlando. They’re in the Turtle Trek attraction habitat, along with a variety of rescued turtles. You can watch the manatees both above and below the water as you learn more about them and the park’s overall rescue program.