The Clearwater marine Aquarium (CMA) is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured marine animals. The aquarium was opened in 1972 at it’s current location. The site was donated to the aquarium which use to be an old water treatment plant.
Over the years the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has made many improvements at the site. Currently there is a big expansion underway. It is said to double the their education space. Give them the chance to rescue more dolphins by tripling the dolphin habit.
It is also said that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium will be able to care for twice as many animals including possible new species. This is a good thing since the aquarium has been busy this year with rescuing, rehabilitating and release sea turtles. I don’t remember how many they released so far as of August 2019 but the tour guide said higher than normal.
If you ever heard of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium before I am going to bet it was from a movie. A movie called Dolphin tale. Am I right?
Well Winter the Dolphin star of the movie is also one of the resident dolphins at the aquarium. People have come from all over to see the dolphin that beat the odds and pushed to survive.
Winter has inspired many people while she has called the CMA home. From children to wounded vets. Winter has been an inspiration to many all over the world. Since Winter doesn’t have a tale. She will never be released.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium like many places in Florida try to release these animals back into the wild once they have been rehabbed. Winter however, can never be released since she wouldn’t survive in the wild.
Same thing goes with Hope. Hope was rescued 5 years after Winter and was found at a similar young age. Hope was rescued and than rehabbed.
However, since she was discovered at such a young she never learned the necessary skills to survive on her own. She was than paired with Winter. At times you can catch both swimming around together.
Nicolas is another dolphin that calls CMA home. He has been at the aquarium since 12-24-2002. Found the day before Christmas, you wonder why they call him Nicolas. He was also too young to release once he was healthy.
Nicolas currently lives outside on the dolphin terrace. If you get the behind the scenes tour you can view Nicolas from an underwater viewing location.
The last permanent dolphin is PJ. PJ was rescued in August of 2018. She was much older when rescued than the other 3 dolphins at CMA. She is believed to be around 30 years old.
But her age is not the reason for why she can not be released back into the wild. She also suffers from vision loss, hearing loss and numerous other medical issues.
PJ lives in the Winter Zone along with Hope and Winter.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is home to many sea turtles. Currently 12 sea turtles call this aquarium home. The most famous would have to be the green sea turtle named Harold.
Harold played the turtle Mavis in the Dolphin Tale 2 movie. He currently lives with 6 other sea turtles along with stubby. I think it is really important for anyone to learn stubby’s back story.
The short story is stubby lost both of his front flippers and a little piece of one of his rear flippers. He was caught in some fishing line that was tossed in the ocean.
CMA currently cares for 3 different sea turtle species. The green sea turtle is the most common one found at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Harold and Stubby are both green sea turtles.
They also care for a few Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles and 1 Loggerhead sea turtle. Each permanent resident has an interesting story. Found out why each turtle can not be released back into the wild.
CMA also cares for many other sea turtles. They are cared for and rehabbed back to health so they can be released back in to the ocean. The tour guide we had for the behind the scenes tour said that this year (2019) they released more than at that point in past years.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium has 2 nurse sharks that call this place home. There names are Thelma and Louise. These two sharks were taken illegal when they were young by a private collector.
When the sharks out grow their tank and become too much for the collector to take care of he donated them to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. They now live in a much larger tank that gives them both plenty of room to swim around.Save up to 35% on Tampa Attractions! Check it out
This is an important lesson for anyone to remember. Just because you got the animal small in the wild. Doesn’t mean it won’t grow to full size. Besides taking most animals from the wild and making them pets is considered illegal.
Four Great White Pelicans live at Rufus Beach at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. These birds are very big. They can have a wing span between 7-11 feet.
Ricky is the rock star of this exhibit. Not only did he play Rufus in the Dolphin Tale movie he also played in Zohan with Adam Sandler. You can get up close and personal with the Pelicans here.
There is a separate paid experience where you can feed them and get a picture of you feeding them. It definitely is something that is unique to do.
ANIMAL CARE EXPERIENCES
There are several different animal care experiences you can do while you visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. We already went over you can feed the Pelicans. You can also feed the aquariums Otters too.
You can also sign up and pay extra to have a photo with one of dolphins at CMA. These 3 experiences are pretty quick. Each one you will get a photo of you that is included with the price.
For a longer experience of about 30 minutes you can help feed and care for either one of the sharks or one of the dolphins. Again you get a photo of you doing this experience.
If you do the dolphin care experience you will also get a t-shirt. Just note for all of these experiences you have to be 7 or older. For the photo with a dolphin you need to be at least 5.
Now for the ultimate experience the Dolphin and Animal care Assistant is for anyone 10 and older who dream of becoming a marine biologist or wish they would have. My daughter for one wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up (or a dolphin trainer as she calls them).
Now this will cost a pretty penny ($299) and will be around 3 hours long. But for me in a year or two when she is old enough I will take her to do this experience.
You will help with animal enrichment, food prep, record keeping, and exhibit maintenance. You will assist an animal care staff member during one session with the dolphins, one with the otters and one with the pelicans. I’m sure it will be something you will talk about for the rest of your trip and maybe even lead your kids towards their career.
There is also a behind the scenes tour that is available for an additional price. See the tools of the trade for when CMA staff go out on rescues. View Nicolas from his underwater viewing area. Go backstage and see open-air critical care facility.
Also view the food prep area for all the animals in the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. See which foods are the different animals favorites to eat. Each have a favorite food. Just like you and me. Winter has a thing for silversides.
The tour last about 45 minutes and shows all the things going on behind the scenes. It is worth checking out if you have any interest in doing this for a living.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is unlike any other aquarium I have visited and it’s a good chance unlike anything you ever visited. It is more of a learning center than a place to check out exotic animals.
Learn different ways you can help make the worlds oceans cleaner and safer for these beautiful marine animals. Get inspired by Winter and Stubby. Even with their missing limbs they still survived and thrived.
CMA is currently doing a major expansion. It is supposed to be done in mid to late 2020.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is part of the Tampa CityPass. It is one of the best deals you will find out there. It is the best deal to see the great attractions in the Tampa Bay Area. Visit the Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa, Busch Gardens Tampa and MOSI or Chihuly.
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