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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Fun

While my family were visiting, I knew we had to go down to Clearwater to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  I am not normally an advocate of Aquariums, because most of them take perfectly normal and healthy animals from nature and cramp them into tiny tanks and use them solely for people's entertainment.  CMA is different because every animal in the aquarium has been rescued from near death or an unfortunate situation of some sort.  Most can be rehabbed and re-released, but some that would not be able to survive in the wild, become permanent residents.  

It is also home to some of the most famous rescues, Winter and Hope, the Dolphins as well as some of the other members of the Dolphin's Tale movie.  The aquarium isn't huge, but it took us a couple hours to see everything including getting to go on a 15 minute boat trip to the heart of Clearwater to where some of Dolphin's Tale was filmed and where most of the sets and props are located.  

We started out walking through the aquarium room.  Obviously I was attacked by a Great White.  

There were some Sting Rays and other fish living in the tank with the Nurse Sharks.  

This is a bad picture because the tank was foggy but these are the 7ft nurse sharks, Thelma and Louise.  A man caught them several years ago to keep as pets and didn't know that Nurse Sharks keep growing no matter the size of the tank and can grow to 14ft.  After being take to a few different places, they eventually ended up at CMA, there forever home.

We then went to see the Stingray Beach where we learned about several different kinds of Rays and I even petted a few!  They are so soft and sweet!

Across the loudspeaker came the announcement that there was going to be a presentation and introduction to some of the animals in the Aquarium as well as the story of how Winter lost her tail.  Unfortunately, we were a bit late coming in so there was n't much of a place to stand.  I snapped some pictures of Winter and Hope, listened to some of the presentation and we continued on our way.

If you aren't familiar, Winter is the dolphin that at just three months old, got caught in a crab line off of Cape Canaveral.  Some how she managed to survive and was found and brought to Emergency at CMA.  Unfortunately, they were unable to save her tail but they did save her life.  Since she cannot swim without a tail, a special prosthesis was created to replace her tail and flute so that she can swim and adapt to her life at the aquarium.   Dolphin Tale movie is tyne story of her life.  I have to mention I have tried to watch this movie and I am such a bawl baby I can't finish it, but it is a great movie and great story.

Hope was found almost five years to the day after Winter, and almost in the exact same location.  She was found at about three months old as well, trying to nurse from her mother who had died.  CMA took her in and rehabilitated her and today she is a normal, active dolphin.  Because of her young age when she was rescued, she is not able to be released because she did not learn enough survival skills from her mother.  Her and Winter and best friends and live together at the Aquarium.

Nicholas is also at the aquarium, but I didn't get a picture of him as his home is being renovated and I didn't see him.  He was found in 2002 beached with his mother and both were near death.  They were taken to CMA but sadly his mother Noelle, passed away.  Both had horrible sunburns all over their body but Nicholas managed to pul through.  Again because of his age he could not be released.  He loves people but since he is a male he is more solitary and does not socialize with Hope and Winter.

There are quite a few sea turtles that are unable to be released for different reasons.  Bailey is believed to have been caught in a fishing net, and when the fishermen let the net down he fell on his back and was paralyzed.  He also has a buoyancy issue so he stays at the top of the water but loves the trainers and people at the aquarium.  

Another resident is Cocoa, who was hit by a boat propeller as many of the rescued sea turtles have.  It caused him to go blind and even though he can swim and dive normally, he cannot forage for food.  So everyday a volunteer goes into his home and feeds him.  

The are two really cute otters at the Aquarium as well.  Walle, in the top picture was taken to be kept as a pet when he was a tiny baby.  After the owner discovered that a river otter was really hard to take care of, he took him to Fish and Wildlife Conservation and then to CMA.  because he never learned survival skills from his mom he can't go back into nature.

Cooper was hit by a car as a baby and is rear end is paralyzed.  It is really sad but he is adorable and drags himself around on land very well.  He has to work extra hard to swim too but does a very impressive job.

We then made our way to the marina to get on the boat to head to downtown Clearwater to Winter's Dolphon Tale Adventure.  The boat ride was beautiful and it was such a gorgeous day.

These aren't real people. it is a billboard looking over into the construction site across the street, pretty cool.

The adventure area house a ton of sets and props from the movie.

If you have seen the movie you know that there is a hurricane.  The newest area of the building is the Hurricane Experience and it is actually really scary.  you walk into a house that is in the middle of a hurricane and the floor shakes and you can hear things hitting the sides, then you walk out into the wind which is actually hurricane force winds with screens of storm surge playing.  It was kind of dark, so it was hard to get good pictures!

There is also a Puffer Fish Experience where you can feed them.  We missed this but we got to see them.  I love these guys!

A screen where the dolphins come and peek out at you.  So fun.  The kids all loved this.

Some of the sets and props.

Winters prosthetic tail.

A Hammerhead hanging from the ceiling.

They also have a really awesome gift shop in both locations.  I wanted everything!  We took the Jolly Trolley back to the Aquarium for a change of scenery and then hung out a little longer there before heading down to Clearwater Beach for the afternoon.  I found out later that I missed some of the animals in the Aquarium, so if you go, make sure you do your research and see everything it has to offer!    It was the day after Christmas and it was INSANE busy but I just love this area.  I bought a Hulk Shirt (He lives in Clearwater and has a store right on the beach), we did some gift store shopping and had an awesome lunch at Frenchy's.  This Seafood salad is one of my favorite salads of life.  I also just have to have this fleece kitty jacket!

And, to end the day, a bit of a walk on America's Best Beach.  I LOVE this place.  It is so amazing and so beautiful and we had an awesome time exploring the Aquarium and the area.

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