In addition to following local, state, and federal laws that protect manatees and their aquatic habitat (such as never harassing or feeding manatees), program participants must follow these principles.
Many manatees are injured by boat strikes.
Principle #1: Prioritize education for guides and guests to create a true ecotourism experience.
Guides and staff must complete initial training workshop and annual continuing education provided by Save the Manatee Club.
Learn all about manatees and be able to answer questions from guests.
Learn to recognize and report sick, injured, orphaned, harassed, tagged, stranded, and dead manatees.
Guides will educate guests about manatees and the threats they face if the tours are in manatee habitat, regardless of whether manatees are sighted. Guides provide a briefing on how to responsibly view manatees and avoid harassment during tour orientation.
Participants’ advertisements and social media posts should only show manatee-safe tour activities that follow the Guardian Guides principles. Advertisements and social media posts should eliminate guest expectations of tour activities and close interactions that may disturb or change the behavior of wild manatees.
Principle #2: Vary times & locations of tours and prevent over-crowding to allow manatees the ability to rest undisturbed.
Allow manatees enhanced undisturbed time at select springs. In the winter, this may include mornings when temperatures are lower and late afternoon when temperatures once again begin to drop.
Prevent over-crowding & help create a high-quality experience for visitors while avoiding manatee disturbance. If one tour group of at least 6 guests is already in/on-water observing manatees, wait for that group to move out before entering the area. Be mindful of any waiting groups, limiting visits to 15 minutes.
Principle #3: Look, No Hands! No touching or disturbing
Swimmers should remain still in the water and observe manatees passively.
manatees. Responsible ecotourism requires nature to remain in control of all experiences.
Guides Get Wet: In-water guides have better control of guest conduct, thereby lessening the potential for manatee disturbance. Guides must accompany their guests in-water while the captain remains on-vessel. Follow snorkeling guidelines of no more than 12 guests: 1 guide at all times. The experience level of guides & abilities of patrons, as well as environmental conditions, may necessitate smaller group size.
Guides will require all swimmers to wear a wetsuit & utilize a flotation device such as a swim noodle or PFD.
Freeze as soon as a manatee is visible. Manatees may choose to approach and make contact with swimmers. Swimmers should remain still in the water and observe manatees passively, not reach out to touch them. Swimmers should avoid making loud noises and splashing.
Swimmers will try to maintain 1 human body length away from manatees when visibility & conditions allow.
Guides should not use a trailing rope to attract manatees to boats or kayaks. This creates a dangerous association for manatees, encouraging them to approach boats that could harm them or ropes that could entangle them.
Paddlers and guides will not approach, paddle over, or chase manatees and practice passive observation by calmly observing manatees from a distance. Paddling over manatees could prevent them from surfacing to breathe air.
Paddlers and guides will try to maintain 2 kayak length’s away from manatees when visibility and conditions allow.
Paddlers and guides will use surface paddling to gently paddle near manatees. Guides will demonstrate this during tour orientation.
Paddlers and guides will not touch manatees with their bodies or paddles and will not get out of their vessels to swim with manatees.
Paddlers and guides will avoid making loud noises and splashing.
Rental outfitters will educate their guests on these practices prior to launch in whatever way they deem effective.
Principle #4: Foster Stewardship
Stewardship of natural resources is a key component of ecotourism. Ideally, there is a symbiosis among the environment, tour operators, & tourists, whereby each component benefits from the others.
Complete a certain amount of hours of annual service by your business for manatee and aquatic habitat stewardship. 25 hours per boat per business (for boat and swim tours), or 1 hour per paddlecraft per business (for paddling tours). Examples include participation in manatee rescues & health assessments, coastal cleanups, continuing education, native vegetation planting or invasive plant removal, nature education events or providing education to local schools and groups.
Reserve $1 from every guest to donate towards manatee and aquatic habitat conservation efforts. This donation does not have to go to Save the Manatee Club, but can be allocated to habitat conservation, manatee or wildlife conservation, environmental education, or other related causes of your choosing.