As you pull your paddle through the calm waters off the coast of the Rincon Marina, you see a large grey shape take form a few yards away. Your heart skips a few beats as your first thought is ‘shark’ and you start to panic. Before you reach full panic mode and wobble off your board and then subsequently flail around in the ocean, take a deep breath and look again. If you haven’t scared it away yet, you’ll see that most likely, it’s a manatee.
Of the many beautiful things you will see when paddle boarding along our coastline, the manatee or Antillean Manatee might just be the most impressive. The manatee is one of the most famous animals of the ocean waters of Puerto Rico and listed as a ‘vulnerable species’ by The International Union for Conservation of Nature. The manatee has many nicknames – sea cow, sea pig and mermaid just to name a few.
The waters surrounding our island are prime breeding grounds for this ‘subspecies of the endangered West Indian Manatee.’ In areas that are protected from severe wave action, that provide some source of fresh water and harbor aquatic vegetation you are more likely to see a ‘sea cow.’
If you happen across one of these rather large ‘mermaids,’ remember to respect its space, enjoy this special moment and be thankful that the Caribbean Sea provides us with so many wonders.