When a Manatee Loves an Alligator

*This tale may or may not be true, we shall never know all the facts.

Once upon a time there lived a manatee who loved an alligator.



Their love was forbidden by all those who believed in logic and science and rules and all those stark structures of society.

But out in the wild waters of the Everglades where wonder lit the skies, there lived a manatee and alligator who defied the odds and fell in love.


These old souls came from such different worlds:

The lonely alligator who lazed in the sun all day and scared everyone with her sharp teeth and ferocious gaze; such a contrast to the gentle manatee who played pranks with his brothers and danced with fish in crystal clear bays.

A mammal and a reptile. The two seem destined to live as prey and predator, yet for centuries the alligator yielded to the manatee, and only rarely caught a young calf to feast upon.


Snout of the elusive manatee, difficult to photograph.
Both alligator and manatee are known to mingle in the same waters between the Everglades and Biscayne Bay in south Florida.
Seeing them together is very rare, though we try.

They say it happened like this:

One day a manatee came too close to a fishing boat in Biscayne Bay, tangling himself up in a net, much to the fisherman’s regret. Everyone loves manatees, even though their numbers are dwindling for reasons created by those humans who love him.

There happened to be an alligator nearby on that fateful day, a strange one who preferred swimming beneath lily pads rather than taking in the sun and scaring tourists like all the others. Finding a bit of sympathy for one so different from herself, she swam to the entangled manatee and put her sharp teeth to work.

Boats near Biscayne Bay.





Moments later the manatee was free, and the rest, you might say, is history.

From that day on it’s said you may see a manatee swimming with an alligator, dodging fishermen and kayakers in those waters where swamp meets sea in the wild lands of southern Florida. A few fortunate ones may capture video like this one, showing the delicate bond between the two (at minute 1:53).

If you do see them, take a moment to enjoy a wonder. Not everything is set in stone, and all you think you may know, you may not know at all.

Maybe it’s possible in this great big world for a manatee to love an alligator.

Who are we to say yes or no?

*photos and illustrated posters are from our time in Everglades and Biscayne National Parks. Click on the posters to see more details about these works in Hike & Draw. 




  1. I LOVE this post – so sweet and wonderful; it needs to be turned into a children’s book about friendship and the importance of embracing differences. Well done – thank you. Love the new posters, too!

    1. Thanks Erin! Just a little bit of fun for Valentine’s Day we thought 🙂 Yes we hope it shares a message of acceptance between people, I think we all need that. So happy you like the posters too!

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