Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Nicholas the dolphin jumping at CMA

While in Florida we visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  If you have small children, you have probably seen this place in the Dolphin Tales movies.  It was all new to us.  This is a wildlife rehabilitation center that rescues and releases marine animals.  There are a few permanent residents that couldn’t return to the wild due to their injuries.  The most famous is Winter the dolphin, who has a prosthetic tail.  When she was about two months old she was found with her tail flukes wrapped tightly in a crab trap rope and they ended up having to remove her tail.  Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics worked with the aquarium personnel to develop a new tail for Winter to help her swim normally.

Winter the dolphin enrichment
The staff engages the dolphins with enrichment activities daily.

Nicholas is another rescued dolphin who came to CMA when he was a tiny baby with severe sunburn on his back from beaching himself next to his mother.  Dolphins must be taught survival skills by their mother and unfortunately, his mother didn’t survive.  He did recover from his injuries and is now a permanent resident at CMA.  He lives in an outdoor tank.  You might see him here on his webcam.

There are many educational presentations going on during the day.  One of these is Tail Talk with Nicholas.  If he feels like participating, he does some high leaping out of the water-the first three rows are a splash zone.

Nicholas the dolphin

Nicholas the dolphin

There are also resident otters, sea turtles, stingrays, pelicans, and sharks at CMA.

Because this is a working animal hospital it is unlike other aquariums.   You can observe medical procedures through glass windows.  When we visited there were many cold-stunned sea turtles in the surgical suite.  Since our visit, they were able to release several of those turtles, as you can see in this video:

We took a Sea Life Safari boat tour after lunch.  (We packed along some cold cuts and cheese and ate in the parking garage). You can get a combo ticket for a boat tour and CMA admission.  This tour goes through the intracoastal waters where they do a net pull to collect sea creatures (they identify them, pass them around, log them and put them back where they were found at the end of the day).  We cruised out to a tiny shell island and hung out for about 15 minutes, collected a few shells, then headed back.  It was a very fun and informative trip.

Sea Life Safari Boat
This is the boat pulled up to the tiny island.

Puffer fish Sea Life Safari
A couple of puffer fish gathered during the net pull. They had settled back to normal size at this point.
Critter from net pull, Sea Life Safari
Another critter from the net pull.
Sea Life Safari Tank
This is the tank they put critters in after they are removed from the net.

If you visit the Tampa Bay area, don’t miss this aquarium.  They are in the process of expanding the facility.  The staff and volunteers are obviously very dedicated and are focused on educating visitors.  It is also kid-friendly, but there are a lot of stairs.  The Sea Life Safari was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it as well.

CMA can always use financial support, so if you would like to donate to help support wildlife conservation, go here.

 

 

 

 

 

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