I had been hoping to see a manatee when I visited for a few years before that spring in May of 2004. My husband and I had ventured out to many an attraction, boasting manatee viewing in their natural habitat. Luckily, this year my husband was looking on the Internet when he found information about Homosassas State Park. When we got there we found that there was a boat ride on the Homosassas River from the Visitor Center (where there is a small museum) to the West Entrance of the main park area (where the park animals live).
As boat rides go it was short but pleasant and it was an added bonus. As with many small boat rides, on rivers in Florida there is wildlife to be observed in their natural habitat. The setting is immediately inviting, as only old, beautiful, unspoiled Florida can be. You feel welcome and relaxed. All exhibits are supported by educational documentation presented in ways that do not detract from the views. The plant life is varied but native to Florida. All types of birds and animals live in the park and most in natural surroundings. These are also native to Florida by design, except one.
He is a very large extremely passive looking hippo who (according to the information supplied) has been there long before the state of Florida took on ownership of the park. He is an attraction that was added by the earlier owners when the park was privately owned. His name is Lucifer, Lu for short I believe. He draws quite a crowd of adoring fans. When we got to the manatee viewing area, I was pleasantly surprised. There is a large room under water at the edge of the spring. The room is made of windows like a Fish Bowl (as it is sometimes referred) open to the underwater world of the spring. The twist is that, in this fishbowl you are the fish.
The temperature in the room is surprisingly cool but based on the fact that the spring has a constant temperature year round in the low 70s, I guess it should not be. On a hot day in Florida this cool atmosphere in itself, could be an attraction for such an outdoor activity as a walking around a state park. There are schools of fish swimming in front of the windows around the room. They are all sizes as well as they are both fresh water and salt water I understand. The manatee swim around the floating room as well, due to the fact that the feeding area is right outside the windows. Four or five were swimming in the area at the time we were there. There is no swimming with the animals here, as this is a recuperative park where the goal is to rescue, heal and return injured animals to the wild. Human interaction could really hinder the ability to achieve the goal of releasing them back to their natural environment. We really enjoyed it.