Magical Memories – A little “off-park” adventure

Winter – The Tailless Dolphin

Only about 1.5 hours away from Orlando, in the city of Clearwater, lives another celebrity.  Winter is a tailless dolphin that lives at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (originally called the Clearwater Marine Hospital).  After reading the story in a children’s magazine, my son and I decided to visit this little marvel in 2009.  We fell in love with her and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium instantly.

Many of you may know the story – “A Dolphin’s Tale” – a movie released September 2011.  For those of you that don’t, here it is.  Winter was found in December 2005, off the coast of Florida in Mosquito Lagoon by a small fishing boat (yes that is the real story – not the Hollywood version).  Her tail had become entangled in a crab trap.  A team from Florida’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and SeaWorld took her to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  Winter was 2.5 months old at the time.  Even though she survived her ordeal, the tail did not.  Due to prolonged lack of blood circulation, the tail flaked off.  She did learn to swim without a tail using a side to side motion that would eventually lead to spinal damage.  So with the help of Kevin Carroll and several other experts, a prosthetic tail was designed just for Winter.

News of her triumph and amazing tail was sent to NBC’s Today Show and the story quickly spread worldwide.  Eventually, you all know the rest, the movie “A Dolphin’s Tale” was created.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly recommend it.  Have the tissues close by – you will cry.  After you visit the aquarium, you can take the trolley to downtown Clearwater to another attraction – Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure.  Here you can see recreated movie sets and many of the props on display.  Robert had a great time seeing and recognizing these things from the movie.

There one thing about this whole story that truly amazes me – Winter’s connection to individuals who also have prosthetics.  It has been reported time and time again, that an instant bond/connection is formed when Winter comes into contact with others who have a prosthetic limb like her.

The next time you are in Florida looking for something to do (other than Walt Disney World) – venture over to Clearwater and visit their aquarium.  It is a small facility.  Originally, it was design for animal rehabilitation and research.  There are a wide variety of animals at the aquarium that your family can see and learn about.  Another one of my favorites to see is Bailey.  Bailey is a green sea turtle whose rear flippers are paralyzed.  He also has a buoyancy disorder.  They created a simple contraption that helps Bailey to live out his years comfortably at the aquarium.  Your family can also pet string rays, watch otter play, see other dolphins perform, and even see Ruffus the pelican – another star from the movie.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium offers a variety of other animal adventures that your family can add to their visit – dolphin photo opportunities, animal encounters, kayak adventures, behind the scene tours, trainer for a day programs, and a Sea Life safari boat tour.  Check out their link at www.seewinter.com.

If you have any questions and would like to use a planner for free – contact me at Robyn@travelwiththemagic.com or call me directly at 1-800-670-4312 ext 125.  I have an unexplained passion for Disney and making sure that everyone is getting the most that they can out of every visit

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