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Clearwater Marine Aquarium: A Movie in the Making

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the world’s most watched marine life rescue center. CMA is host to Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, river otters, stingrays, sharks and more. At CMA, you can find yourself in the water with a dolphin, feeding a stingray, watching its world-famous dolphin shows, sailing on its Eco-boat tour, or having your picture taken with a dolphin. Take a behind-the-scenes tour to see how the animal hospital works or visit the aquarium’s theater to watch footage of its team rescuing and treating injured marine animals.

You won’t want to miss Winter, the world’s most famous dolphin and star of “Dolphin Tale,” featuring Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Winter herself. “Dolphin Tale” was filmed at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Winter lost her tail in a crab trap but is now healthy and swimming freely with a prosthetic tail. Winter’s incredible story has also been seen on Oprah, “NBC Today Show,” “ABC’s Good Morning America” and others. Her story has been chronicled in the documentary, “Winter: The Dolphin That Could” and a Scholastic book, “Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again.” Winter may have lost her tail, but she will capture your heart.

249 Windward Passage, Clearwater; 727-441-1790; www.SeeWinter.com

About the CMA
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium was established in 1972 when a group of volunteers decided the area needed a permanent marine biology center. Six years later, the city of Clearwater donated an abandoned water treatment plant to the volunteers, and the Marine Aquarium began to blossom in its new, ideal environment. Remodeling was conducted around classes and camps, and in 1980 the CMA earned a research facility permit, which allowed the organization to prepare facilities for rehabilitating dolphins, whales and sea turtles. In 1981 the first public exhibit room was opened, and in 1984 the CMA rescued its first permanent dolphin resident, Sunset Sam.

Today, it remains the mission of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to restore and preserve the marine environment, and the CMA strives toward that goal through education and research, as well as through rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine animals.

Visitors to the CMA today will see a host of marine creatures, each lovingly cared for by CMA staff. The aquarium houses such adorable residents as Cooper, Oscar and Webster, three male river otters; nine sea turtles including loggerheads and hawksbills, each with inspiring survival stories; 12 stingrays you can hand-feed; two nurse sharks, and a host of brilliant fish. While these residents are all attractions in their own right, the undisputed celebrity of Clearwater Marine Aquarium is Winter the dolphin. One of four dolphins residing at CMA, Winter is truly extraordinary. At only three months old, Winter was found near Cape Canaveral with the rope from a crab trap wound tightly around her tail. Unable to free herself, Winter lost use of her tail. Rescuers at CMA amputated the tail and removed two vertebrae, fitting the dolphin with a functioning prosthetic tail. Winter has been featured on several news broadcasts, and her theatrical debut, “Dolphin Tale,” was released in theaters in September 2011.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium aims to expose people to marine life, not just to educate them about it. That’s why you can take your experience at CMA to several different levels. You can come just to observe, if you like, but there is so much more to CMA. The Making Waves Speakers Series brings educational lectures to the CMA on a variety of topics; in November, don’t miss a lecture about “Dolphin Tale.” Take a 2-hour boat safari through the intracoastal waters, learning how CMA researchers do data collection and getting up close and personal with the bay creatures. Embark on a half-day kayak adventure or a behind-the-scenes tour of the CMA, where you’ll see the animals’ food prep kitchen, the vet’s lab, the surgical suite and rehab areas. Or, choose from five animal interactions, including Trainer for a Day, Dolphin Encounter or Feed a Stingray.

Visit CMA today and see how this global presence in marine research has remained true to its original spirit of a community aquarium.