Well, I may not have made it to St. Augustine, but I did get to meet a couple of celebrities while I was in Florida. Sean has lived in Tampa for ten years, and tells me he never heard of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium until I asked him about it after seeing the movie.
Monday afternoon we packed up the Michelle and my camera and headed over the bridge to Clearwater. We found it easily, it was behind a fancy seafood restaurant where Sean took Shannon and me to dinner on our first trip to Florida in 2002.
If you've seen the movie, the aquarium is easily recognizable. There's now a ticket tent in the parking lot, and there has been some remodeling inside, but it felt familiar.
Photographic proof of my presence there! What I wouldn't give to be in 85 degree weather again. . .
We wandered around the pools, wondering what we were looking at. This is a rescue and rehab operation, not a place where the dolphins put on shows. I finally asked one of the staff where Winter was, and she pointed to a dolphin in the tank I was looking at.
I learned that they would have a session with her later on, so we wandered around. I watched a training session with a young rescue dolphin, saw some river otters, and stood entranced by a tank of sting rays. I had no idea those creatures were so graceful when they swam. Finally, we decided to snag our seats for Winter.
I thought she wore the prosthetic tail most of the time, but that is not the case. Staff put it on her 3-4 times a day for about fifteen minutes, and run her through a series of exercises to strengthen the muscles that don't get used with her side-to-side swim motion. It was fascinating to watch.
This is one of the exercises they did with her after the tail was attached.
It was so interesting watching the staff interact with the dolphins.
For those with deeper pockets than we had, you could meet Winter up close and personal. I don't think this little boy knew quite what to think or do!!
I bought some tee shirts to help support the aquarium programs, and took tons of pictures. It was a fascinating afternoon, one I'd gladly do again.