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Discover the gentle giants of Belize's underwater kingdom

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Manatees or sea cows are herbivorous marine mammals, endemic to the Caribbean. Belize is home to about 1,000 of these gentle giants, it's the largest manatee population in Central America. Unfortunately, these endangered mammals are declining. You can volunteer at the Manatee Rehabilitation Center on Ambergris Caye to help save Belizean manatees. Volunteers feed orphaned and injured manatees and release rehabilitated marine mammals back into the wild.

Visitors can also spot manatees in three protected areas off the Belizean coast. Northern Lagoon in Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, not far from Ambergris Caye and San Pedro, is the northernmost spot. In the central part of the country, manatee tours to Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary depart from Belize City and Caye Caulker. Finally, Gales Point Manatee Wildlife Sanctuary can be reached from Dangriga in South Belize. Manatee Lodge on Gales Point offers several options to experience the manatees all year round.

West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus) live in rivers and shallow coastal waters. They reach 13 ft (4 m) in length and weigh about 300 lbs (590 kg). Their main cause of death is pollution and human activity. Motorboats and ships are especially dangerous for these curious sea mammals.

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen