Monday, January 28, 2013

Winter the Dolphin Steals the Show

Now you would think that a trip to Disneyworld would require that DISNEYWORLD would be the highlight of the trip for the kids.  And to a certain extent, it was for C and G - they of the roller coaster ilk.  But for DLG, the trip at the end of our vacation - to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium - was the real highlight.  Winter the Dolphin in all her glory (I assume it is a "she") was just a mere 3 hour drive from our location.  Of course we had to go there!

A quick recap of Winter's life.  As a baby dolphin several years ago, Winter became entangled in some fishing nets and became stranded on a Clearwater beach.  Discovered in time to rescue her, but not in time to save her tail, Winter was brought to the animal hospital that was facing its own issues.  Eventually, to save her life a prosthetic engineer was brought to the marine hospital to fit her for an artificial tale to help her swim.  Despite numerous trial and tribulations, Winter finally accepted the artificial tail.  As a result, both the Aquarium and Winter were able to survive.

Not Winter
Now the interesting thing was what the Aquarium would look like after those formative years.  Now I know that movies fictionalize a lot of these "Based on a true Story" type movies, but I was aware from watching the closing credits that the aquarium was a rescue hospital for stranded marine life.  What I was worried about was that despite DLG's stated intention of becoming a veterinarian when she grew up, watching distressed dolphins and turtles (her two favorite types of animals) might just dissuade her from living that dream.  I guess I was interested to see what it was like.

Well, Clearwater is a very nice area (once you get to the ocean).  The first thing that you actually see when you drive down the hill is the Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure.  This adventure, which contains artifacts, props and information about the movie - and acts as an auxiliary part of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium - is actually housed in a separate building on the mainland.  You must go over the bridge to get to the original aquarium.  Once there, you see that the shoe string budget the hospital/aquarium survived on (as demonstrated In the film) was no joke.  A very modest parking lot gave way to a trailer that housed the bathrooms, which gave way to stairs leading up to a rickety building housing the marine life.  My Mother was horrified.  The kids were fascinated.

Like I said, a requisite wall through the gift shop and up the stairs led to the exhibits.  There numerous dolphins and turtles that were still recovering from catastrophic injuries (usually caused by man) were swimming with trainers in their individual pools.  Winter was among them, but she was being fed at the time so our view of her was obstructed.  What I noticed though was that the artificial tail was not fitted.  The guide explained that Winter was still not that excited to have the tail on so they kept it off most of the time except when training her.  Hmm.

After viewing the animals, we then headed to the dolphin pool to watch a couple of the rescued dolphins perform with their trainers.  DLG was mesmerized.  The boys just wanted to know if we were going to get splashed (a result of our cold appearance at SeaWorld the day before).   Sadly, no splashing.

After the show, we headed back to Winter's pool and we were treated to a show that really was more of an educational segment about Winter.  Hundreds of children were transfixed by the Dolphin with no tail, and I had to admit I was too.  But it was time to go see the Dolphin Tale Adventure.

Actually it was Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure that we visited.  An auxillary part of the CMA, the highlights of the adventure were that you could walk around and watch various scenes from the movie and play the carnival games that were featured in the fundraising portion of the movie.  The kids' favorite part though was to walk through the hurricane zone, where you could experience what it's like to live through a hurricane.  It was a little nerve wracking the first time through since you didn't know what the strong winds and rattling noises were going to lead to, but by the 10th time walking through, we were all experts.  What a great experience.

As we sped home, I asked DLG if she liked the CMA and the Adventure.  Without blinking an eye she asked when we could go there again.

"Not for another 3 years." Mom and the boys told her.  "At least" said the guy holding the cash.

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