For the last forty two years, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has been one of the premium non-profit organizations in the rescue and rehab of injured and endangered sea animals. The local aquarium looks to provide a delicate balance between offering a sanctuary for injured animals who need help, as well as providing a wealth of information on animal therapy and history. It’s a brilliant place to visit for those who want to see the remarkable world of marine life that many of us never get a chance to see or for those who want to learn interesting facts about the sea life in the Gulf of Mexico.
CMA first opened in 1972 as the Clearwater Marine Science Center. Over the years the purpose and quality of the aquarium has changed dramatically. The building that houses the aquarium was once a massive water treatment plant, making it perfect for the type of work that has been carried out since. It’s little quirks like these that add up to make the true story of the aquarium a little bit more spectacular.
It was opened by a team of independent volunteers who wanted to create a marine biology lab in the area due to its immense potential as a marine resort. It was in 1978 that the project was first passed over to the group, when the city of Clearwater voted to give them access to the old water storage facilities. By offering amazing, interactive training camps for children to learn about the world of marine life during the summer, the aquarium was well on its way to being one of the most popular venues in Pinellas County.
By 1981, the first public exhibit was installed and opened. It featured a variety of mounted fish used from the Sea-Orama, a previous exhibition from years gone by. With donations flooding in and serious work from dedicated volunteers, by 1984 the aquarium had saved a bottlenose dolphin that was known as “Sunset Sam”. Sunset Sam became a resident dolphin due to liver problems. During his time at CMA, Sunset Sam was taught how to paint as a form of animal enrichment! The peculiar nature of the aquarium and money brought in by Sunset Sam’s paintings helped create an industry that really revolutionized how rescue and rehab aquariums operated.
The most famous resident to ever be a part of the CMA story is of course, Winter. Winter is a bottlenose dolphin that was rescued after she was found tangled in a crab trap. Sadly, Winter lost her tail but thanks to the dedicated staff at CMA, they worked together to create a prosthetic tail for Winter, allowing her to swim freely in the water and save her from further spinal injury.
Even today, Winter is an incredible part of the story of the aquarium. Not only does Winter serve as an inspiration to many of the 750,000 tourists who come here every year to visit, but an incredible amount of goodwill has been passed to the aquarium because of the great success story of Winter’s recuperation. Children and those who suffer from disabilities flock to see Winter every year because of her amazing ability to get just on with it. Rather than let adversity hold her back, she’s become one of the main attractions at CMA!
A large part of CMA’s success is being able to tell their story through the Dolphin Tale & Dolphin Tale 2 movies. Both films centered around the trials & hard work that Winter has been through in her life. The movies highlighted the work done at CMA, which has helped propel its notoriety worldwide.
If you want to see Winter, head over to the aquarium to see her alongside Hope. Hope is a new resident at CMA who starred in Dolphin Tale 2! Many visitors come to enjoy the sun and beautiful beaches that Clearwater has to offer and while they’re in town, join a steady stream of tourists that come to see the world’s most famous dolphin!
Many of the residents of the aquarium are unable to return to the wild, so there are several different facilities at CMA to serve their needs that you can see in action. Whether it’s the river otters, the sea turtles or the sharks, each has its own habitat to live in, allowing for maximum comfort and safety for each resident at CMA.
While the facilities were originally built for the safe living and rehab of sea animals rather than putting on entertainment for the masses who come to visit, the popularity of the Dolphin Tale movies added a new dynamic to CMA. In Dec of 2011, Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure opened in downtown Clearwater, off site from the original CMA. CMA officially expanded into the entertainment arena! This new feature takes you inside the movie where you’ll find re-built scenes, movie images and a variety of the props used in the filming. There is also an awesome interactive kid’s area where you can write to Winter and experience other local sea life. There are so many different species of sea life to see here and so much to learn from the expert guides, you could literally spend hours at CMA.
So whether it’s the celebrity dolphins you want to see or just want to learn more about the various care facilities for each animal at CMA, the choices are vast. Make sure you visit CMA, it’s truly an invigorating learning experience that gives you something different than the traditional aquariums and captures the local spirit of Clearwater FL.
Chauffeured Transportation Services provides limo service to and from Clearwater Marine Aquarium. We have limos, town cars and large SUVs to accommodate any size group. Visit CMA in style! Make Your Reservations