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How many of you have seen the movie Dolphin Tale? If you haven’t, I’m sure you’ve at least heard about the dolphin who lost her tail, underwent rehab and uses a prosthetic tail. The movie is a heartwarming story, which I’ll dive into later on. The dolphin in question however, is real and lives at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
If that’s not reason enough to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, I’ve got a few more for you. We visited the CMA and learned about their rescue, rehab and release philosophy.
Our visit was sponsored by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, however all opinions here are my own. I would not recommend anything I haven’t personally vouched for.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium Mission
The CMA states they are not your typical aquarium, which is precisely my number one reason why you should visit. They are a rescue, rehab and release marine aquatic center which happens to sustain their mission by opening their doors to the public.
This means you’re not going to see the aquatic animals perform for the sake of performing. You will however hear talks from the trainers and caretakers about why they do what they do.
For example, during our visit we did see trainers work with Winter the dolphin. They explained to us the nature of the exercises she did, as well the purpose of massage. All to strengthen her tail muscles.
We also met Walle and Cooper, the resident river otters. Because they are social, playful and intelligent animals, games and rewards stimulate their brains and keep them active and healthy.
These animals and more are part of the rescue side of CMA. The aquarium also works to rehabilitate and release healthy animals. A majority of the aquarium is devoted to this rehab and release effort and open for viewing.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium Animals and Exhibits
What you will see at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium are sea turtles, Winter and Hope the dolphins, pelicans, stingrays, otters, sharks, and a few other “tank” animals such shrimp, seahorses and an eel. What you won’t see is large tanks full of colorful fish, whales or exotic species. The animals here are part of either rehab and release or permanent residents who wouldn’t survive in the wild.
You’ll also find education stations throughout the building, such as shell identification, sea cavern where you may be able to do touch tanks and the surgical suite, where you may glimpse the veterinarians keeping the animals healthy and happy.
There are a lot of movie related facts scattered throughout the building as well as the house boat used as part of the set still sits in the water adjacent.
At its heart, CMA is a place for children and adults to learn more about the aquatic animals while their focus is on saving the animals around the area.
Tickets are $21.95 for adults, and $16.95 kids age 3-12.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is part of a $99 per person Tampa Bay Attraction ticket. Visit here, The Florida Aquarium, Busch Gardens, Lowry Park Zoo for this price. I have visited all these locations and this price can’t be beat!
We toured both parts of the facility (included in the admission) in about 4-5 hours. We packed snacks and a small lunch counter is available to purchase items such as hot dogs.
Movie Fact & Fiction
Spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen the movie, read no further.
We watched the movie prior to our visit, which certainly made it more enjoyable. Knowing the facts vs. fiction doesn’t take away anything, in my opinion.
- Winter did lose her tail
- She does use a prosthetic – created by two people Dan Strzempka & Kevin Carroll, one of whom does wear a prosthetic leg.
- Dr. Haskett is based on David Yates, the CEO of Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
- No one lives on a houseboat on site
- Winter was rescued on the opposite side of the state
- There is no Sawyer. He represents all kids who are fascinated by Winter.
More info can be found here.
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