Despite the presence of many large buildings and trophy homes near St Armands and Lido Key, very close to downtown Sarasota, many acres of mangroves have been preserved here and apparently there is still enough sea grass in the coves to keep the manatees happy. We had an awesome kayak encounter with a mother manatee and her calf who seemed to be seeking our affection (we remained stationary and sang gently to them for a while), wrapping her flippers and tail around my kayak. I know it's not a good idea to have direct contact with manatees, as they are already in so much trouble from boaters; almost all of them seem to have scars from propellers. We want them to avoid people, for their own protection, but I must admit that this was one of the most touching wildlife encounters I have ever had, (and I have had a few). I suggest renting with one of the knowledgable and very pleasant local kayak and canoe outfitters, who will escort you through the mangrove tunnels. The cormorants are also very friendly here, and like to hitch rides on the kayaks while they look for fish.
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