Manatees are mysterious animals from the get go and one thing I never had on my bucket list! They are aquatic mammals belonging to the Sirenian (Sea cows) family. Sirenians are slow and passive mammals of tropical and sub-tropical waters. Their large thick bodies betray their heritage as relatives of elephants. There are only five living species of sirenians, known collectively as “sea-cows,” including the dugong and the manatees. Manatees can measure up to 13ft in length. To me, they are a cross between a hippopotamus, walrus, dolphin and some-kinda-sad-dog-face, lol.
Again, I’d never in my life imagined that I’d ever be stroking the heads of manatees but then beautiful Guyana is full of surprises. We walked into the opportunity and literally grabbed it, lol.
It was a sunny day in Georgetown and we were driving around. Georgetown is a city full of historical monuments and beautiful architecture ranging from Gothic to Elizabethan buildings along wide tree lined avenues. There’s much to see, from the colorful Stabroek Market to the many museums including the Walter Roth museum with its display of Amerindian artifacts (remember the Guiana/Guyana territories were initially inhabited by Amerindians – mainly the Caribs, Arawaks, Warraus and Wapisianas). Queen’s Park is one spot for many athletic activities and entertainment events. It is smaller than its similarly-named counterpart in Trinidad but it unexpectedly contains… Manatees!
After ascertaining our interest in seeing them, Orrin our guide drove into Queens Park and walked us to a murky looking pond. Once there, he started making some sort of noise while plucking grass from around us and tossing into the pond. After a while, there were ripples in the waters and I beheld large shapes converging towards us. If I wasn’t with the guide, I’d’ve run away, lol! It looked like smooth, slinky snakey alligators were coming to climb out and gobble us up!
However, soon there were five or six heads bobbing up and down along the banks right beside us and vacuuming up the freshly plucked grass into their funny mouths. Many more peeked out at us but not all came to say Hi and eat free grass. 😸
When Mr. Orrin suggested the animals could be touched, I was like “Nawwwww!!! No way Jose!” Adventurous as I am, I wasn’t looking to offer up my deliciously soft n’ sweet limbs to some huge animals to gorge on!
But after two minutes, I was dare-ready and “wanting to touch it”…🙈. It still took some persuading before I did my first manatee “tap”, lol! (I love Life and wasn’t keen on being pulled into those murky waters 😄.) Anyway I touched a couple of them and survived, lol!👏🏽
My fear and shock even inspired me to imagine falling inside and becoming a mermaid in deep eerie murky waters 🧜🏾♀️.
Overall, this was an amazing experience and one I highly recommend. These animals are facing extinction in many countries so I commend the GY government for conscientiously ensuring a peaceful lifelong “retirement” for them. There are three manatee species worldwide – West Indian, West African, and Amazonian. All three are listed as vulnerable to extinction. So what has caused manatees to become endangered? There are three major threats: hunting for food or money, loss of habitat and collisions with boats and ships. In Nigeria and many countries, manatees get butchered because their meat, fat, skin and bones are of high value. Nonetheless, there is now a push to protect manatees globally.
Bucket list: Weirdest rarest animal I’ve touched = Manatee. ✅
Thank you for reading! It is estimated that about 14 to 16 manatees live in the Queen’s Park conservation pond so go check them out! (The Guyana Botanical Gardens also has some sirenians.) Next post will be my last on Guyana and will cover the City Tour as well as links to tourist attractions to try out! Remember to follow and subscribe. 🤗
Photos: my iPhone. All Photo Credits: Mr. Orrin and I.