The number one movie a few weekends ago was “Dolphin Tale.” While it is an inspiring story, and is “true,” there are a few details that the movie-makers changed to appeal to a wider audience. I know this, because I regularly fish where Winter, the star of the movie, began her life with humans. I fish in the Mosquito Lagoon quite often and see the porpoises living there every time we’re on the water. I have seen the gentleman, not the young boy as the movie features, that found the injured dolphin. However, these details are irrelevant to most people who view the movie. True, it is a story of a brave dolphin and the compassionate strangers who banded together to save her life.
Injured marine life are found all too often in our waters. Winter was lucky. Now she is inspiring. A true symbol of courage, perseverance and hope to millions of people. So many people have been touched by her remarkable story that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s business is up six-fold from last year. Lines form outside the ticket office waiting to see Winter at her new home. While many of these people are from Florida, there are a few who are vacationing in the Central Florida area and have decided to check out the aquarium because of the movie.
If you are interested in seeing Winter, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is located at 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL 33767-2244. It is easy to get to, just travel west on 60 (Clearwater Memorial Causeway) and turn right (north) on Island Way, then left at the first road which is Windward Passage. The aquarium is on the left. Although there are a lot of other things to see at this aquarium, Winter is the star. You’ll also realize that this place is more of a rescue and rehabilitation aquarium, than a vast display of marine life. It is very educational and especially heart-touching.
The hours of operation are Monday – Thursday 9am-5pm; Friday & Saturday 9am – 7pm and Sunday 10am-5pm. They are not open on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or on Christmas day. The cost for admission is adults $14.95; children (ages 3 – 12) $9.95; seniors (60+) $10.95. They do offer a Sea Life Safari package and a Eco Combo package which costs more, but will certainly educate and entertain your group for the better part of a day. For more information, visit their web site at SeeWinter.com.
If you’ve seen the movie but can’t make it to the aquarium, you can still purchase some really neat items from their online store. They have plush toys, t-shirts, jewelry, video games, art and more. Net proceeds from every purchase go directly back to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to help restore and preserve the marine environment. If you want to help in another way, they have several options – some really great ones. See their suggestions on ways you can support their mission.
Both able and disabled people are finding “Dolphin Tale” an inspiration. If you are near Clearwater, Florida, go see the real thing. Winter will be there waiting to touch your heart.