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When it comes to some of Florida’s great, undiscovered gems, the new-look Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater Beach is right up there with the best of them. And rightly so. It is a fascinating supporter of marine rescue and rehabilitation, not to mention Hollywood style in the form of their real-life movie star, Winter the tail-less dolphin.
It shouldn’t be surprising, therefore, that it is one of our highlight tours, offering the chance to enjoy a real in-depth (no pun intended!) experience with this wonderful marine life center.
A recent $80million expansion project has created a fresh, new vibe to the Aquarium, and visitors are always amazed at just how much there is to see and do here, starting with the rehabilitation work for a great variety of animals, from dolphins to otters, and continuing through a wide range of experiences, exhibits and additional programs.
With the fact this is a working animal hospital, some of the animals can change on a regular basis, but you will always find rehab viewings of sea turtles, dolphins, stingrays and even sharks, as well as pelicans and the always-playful otters. Some of the animals cannot be released back into the wild, hence they have become ‘mascots’ for the Aquarium.
The big attraction in every sense, though, is the all-new Ruth and J.O. Stone Dolphin Complex, a series of pools and working areas where the center cares for its complement of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
The arrival of Winter in 2005 caught the attention of the movie world, in the form of the box office hits Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, and the Aquarium has been dedicated to Winter and her soul-mate, Hope, ever since. Today, they are the headline banner-carriers for the center, and the daily showcases for their care and attention make for must-see experiences, notably through the huge underwater viewing area of the Window of Wonder.
Yes, there’s a lot to do in Clearwater Beach (and lunch is also included), but we think the CMA is top of the lot!
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