MIRAMAR BEACH — What was first thought to be an alligator was later identified as a manatee off of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort on Monday. Brock Ellis, beach service manager for the resort, said a child saw the creature and called it out.
“A kid said, 'There’s a gator in the water,' but I saw its shape and knew immediately what it was,” Ellis said. “I grabbed a paddle board and paddled out there.”
Ellis said that he sees manatee in the Gulf of Mexico at least once a year, usually in late-April and early May.
“About five years ago, I swam with seven manatees out here,” Ellis said. “Actually, it was crazy. I got on Facebook yesterday morning and the memory thing popped up with the manatee swim as five years ago, and a year ago I got to kayak alongside a manatee.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission indicates on its website that manatee occasionally visit Northwest Florida waters during the summer, and sometimes even mate here.
Ellis’ coworker Ryan Hershberger caught a short video of the manatee as it swam past Sandestin Monday. The pair said the manatee was making good time and swimming toward Destin out near the second sandbar.
“We see them a few times a year, but the day that we saw them was pretty much the same day almost as last year,” Hershberger said. “This one was just a single one. We saw him right out in front of us and we went down the beach a little ways because he was moving pretty quickly.”
Hershberger said that once he posted the 10-second phone video online, the post got a lot of attention.
“A lot of people that aren’t from here have probably have never seen one,” he said of manatee. “They are pretty rare in general.”