Oh say can you M-V-C? Free environmental fun awaits at Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center!

Anybody out there? Whoa, it's a whole bunch of people having a great time on the viewing platform!

Anybody out there? Whoa, it’s a whole bunch of people having a great time on the viewing platform!

By the dawn’s early light, manatees paddle into Big Bend Power Station’s clean-water discharge canal to find warmth when local waterways are 68 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Some have been there through the night. They’re there in the daytime too, enjoying the communal atmosphere and leaving sometimes only to eat.

Manatees love Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center. It doesn’t have to be cold for them to arrive, but it helps. Sometimes they even need its warmth, and the warmth of places like it, to stay alive – critical protection that appears to be working, with approximately 6,620 manatees counted around Florida in 2017 (up from about 1,270 manatees counted in 1991). Hundreds of manatees, in fact, have ventured to the Manatee Viewing Center’s discharge canal at one time.

Another species loves the Manatee Viewing Center too: creatures that also often enjoy a sense of community, find water sports enjoyable, take note of fish and other aquatic life, tolerate the cold but like the warmth, and appreciate snacks.

Visitors have a lot more than just manatees to enjoy at the MVC.

Visitors have a lot more than just manatees to enjoy at the MVC.

We’re talking about humans, of course, like the more than 5 million visitors the center has hosted since 1986. And one of the best things about the center is the fact that even if manatees are out enjoying other bodies of water, everybody can enjoy what this environmental treasure offers.

From now through April 15, 2018, Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center is waiting for you. So come for the free parking and admission, stay for the fun!

…and the butterfly gardens.

And our rays touch tank featuring the real, live Tampa Bay Rays (marine-life mascots, not actual players).

And the 50-foot observation tower with spectacular views.

And the tidal walkway.

Plenty of opportunities to get a good look at the rays.

Plenty of opportunities to get a good look at the rays.

And a great gift shop.

And self-guided nature trails that immerse you in an idyllic side of Florida.

And the (aforementioned) snacks at our SouthShore Café.

And the education building with games and displays.

…and so much more than we can list here.

Tampa Electric is proud to bring the Manatee Viewing Center to the community. Not only to help protect manatees, but to enrich the lives of people who live in this area and those just passing through. Like all years, TECO volunteers put in a lot of hard work to get the center ready for you (and children of all ages…from nine weeks old to 90 years young). So if nature is in your nature, pay us a visit – again, it’s free! Or find us for the first time.

Either way, we’re eager to watch your smiles unfold in a place like no other.

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