Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Visit with Winter in the Summer

Sugar Plum Fairy adores Winter from "A Dolphin Tale", so when we began planning our vacation, I looked into visiting her in Clearwater Beach, Florida. 
 We would be docking in Port Canaveral and the distance across Florida was not too far.  We rented a car and made the drive.  Now, fitting 5 bodies and the accompanying luggage into a rental vehicle that was not a semi, was challenging, but we made it.  
Again, the drive across Florida was along pretty, clean and green highways.
Very nice.
I was very pleasantly surprised at the Aquarium as well.

I was worried that it might have changed because of the tourists and feel cheesy.  It seems as though the people in charge are doing a great job in the transition.  They are adding on to to the facility thanks to the attention and donations that stemmed from Winter's story and movie, but the aquarium is still, first and for most a working rehabilitation center and hospital. 
 The main goal remains to help injured animals return to their natural habitat.  
There is a small hurricane chamber outside facility that was fun for a $2.00 donation.

There are touch pools with coral, anemones and the like.

There is a touch pool with Rays that Sugar Plum Fairy adored and visited twice.
We were able to visit Lucy and Rickey, who were the pelicans who played the part of Rufus in the movie.
There were presentations scheduled throughout the day...on Sea Otters, Sea Turtles and of course, the reason we were all there, dolphins.
If you have seen the movie, you would recognize the larger rectangular shaped pools where much of the movie was filmed.  This is where a single row of benches have been placed around the perimeter.  There is room for children to sit on the ground in front.  Young volunteers assist is keeping a space between the children and fence.  Is it perfect viewing?  No, but this is not an aquarium that was built to offer ideal views from every seat.  It is an aquarium that is allowing visitors to learn something as they continue to work.
We watched as the trainers explained to us how the training of each dolphin is adapted depending on its needs.  We were reminded that feeding wild animals is harmful to them, as in the case of Beggar Dolphins, who have can not survive in the wold because they do not know how to find food unless they are begging it from humans.
We watched as the trainer stretched Winter's body to accept the prosthetic and to aid in her health.  The new tale will have white dots applied on the black portion in order to study her movements more closely and determine when a new tale is needed. 
There are no dolphins performing tricks and stunts for the enjoyment of the crowd. Now mind you, I enjoy places like Sea World, but this just is not that place.
The personal connection that these trainers and care givers feel for the animals is obvious. After the dolphin presentation, we meandered back into the building and were able to get a view of Winter from under the water.  
Very cool.

Included in the general admission ticket is either a boat ride or trolley ride to the facility that is home to all thinks "movie".  

There are props, movie posters as well as interactive exhibits.  

The set in which the hurricane is re-enacted is here and you can walk through it.  I was wearing a dress and opted out.  
The movie is running throughout the building and seating is available.  

Kids, big and little, can color a picture, write a letter and mail it to Winter.  Some will be chosen as winners and featured on the website.

The carnival that raised money in the movie was recreated and had games to play...bean bag toss, ring a bottle, football throw.

We spent about 2 hours in the Aquarium and about 45 minutes in the Dolphin Tale Movie area.
 It was well worth the trip and made a little girl extremely happy.


Michelle said...

Looks like a wonderful trip!

Cheltz said...

You weren't kidding about the freeways in Florida -- pretty! That aquarium also looks wonderful. My kids would've loved it.

Country Gal said...

Totally cool! I didn't even know it existed!