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It’s been chilly in Southwest Florida recently (well, chilly for US).  January and early February tends to have cooler weather, with brief periods when artic winds reach all the way down here.  Nighttime temperatures dropped as low as the high 30s on Sanibel last month, with some days barely cracking 60 degrees.  Somehow, our guests are not bothered by our definition of “extreme cold” and can be easily spotted as the one NOT dressing in layers.

But the colder weather DOES affect us, especially the wildlife.  You probably heard stories about iguanas being so cold they go into hibernation and fall out of trees.  Many weathercasters have used the images of iguanas as a “barometer” to gauge the weather:

Another group that is affected by the winter chill are our precious manatees.  Despite their bulk, their bodies do not protect them from cold waters (below 68 degrees) and they naturally seek warmer waters during these months.  Locally, they have found a haven that’s become a fun family attraction.  Following the Caloosahatchee, the sea cows found their “pasture” near a power plant in Fort Myers, where clean and warm water is released into the Orange River.  Over the years, the area has become a city attraction called Manatee Park, where people can come to see dozens of creatures converge, graze, and even raise their young.  Though we don’t usually talk about *off*-island attractions, this is a great place to enjoy watching manatees.  There are also walking trails, a gift shop, tours, picnic tables, and even kayak rentals.  (Dogs are not allowed…and that’s just ruff.)

Parking is available at either $2.00 per hour or $5.00 for all day.  Manatee Park is open from 8am till dusk seven days a week and is located across from the Florida Power & Light (FPL) plant on Palm Beach Boulevard (Route 80).  To see if it is a good day to see sea cows, you can go to  We’ll discuss spring and summer locations to spot manatees in an upcoming blog.

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