Winters Tale - A Visit to Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Winters Tale - A Visit to Clearwater Marine Aquarium

We went to see "Winters Tale" at the cinema in Venice FL and we were surprised to find that the film was set in Clearwater Florida, just 90 minutes drive from where we were watching the film - WOW - that just made the film even more interesting. The film is very captivating and really tugged at the heart strings - so inspirational and we all really enjoyed watching it.

Dolphin Tale the Movie

So no sooner had we seen the film and returned back to our villa, that we checked out to get more details on where Winter was being kept and how to get there. We then planned a day trip to Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) to see Winter the dolphin at her home and to learn more about what is happening at CMA.

On arrival we were stunned to see that it looked exactly the same as in the film - the building, the surroundings...all the same !! At every turn we were constantly you remember this place in the film ?  So wicked to actually be on a real film set and that CMA was not just more Hollywood hype !!

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is very different from the commercialised aquariums like SeaWorld and SeaLife Centres in that their mission mission is marine life rescue and rehabilitation and not just entertainment. That means that all of the animals you see here have been rescued from some traumatic experience in the wild and are recovering with expert care, with the hope that they will eventually be released back into the wild.  At CMA there are injured turtles, dolphins, sea otters, sting rays, sharks and more all being given expert care.

The whole place is very well organised and not over crowded with scheduled displays and educational talks. Shortly after we arrived we saw Nicholas the dolphin who was rescued on Christmas Eve as a young dolphin who had become stranded ashore with his mother - Both Nicholas and his mother Noelle had severe sunburn and unfortunately Noelle did not survive.  Nicholas was badly burnt on his head & back but managed to recover although he now has permanent scarring. Since he had never learnt how to fend for himself in the wild, he has had to become a permanent resident of CMA. Nicholas really enjoys entertaining the visitors of CMA and particularly loves to soak everyone who gets too close - you can see Nicholas on the upper level or through the lower level portholes below water.

Baby Hope is another young dolphin at the CMA who was rescued trying to nurse from it's dead mother - at only 2 months old she did not have a chance in the wild. With around the clock care, she is doing great and still feeding from a bottle when we saw her.

The highlight of our visit was the opportunity to meet Winter, the real-life star of the movie "Dolphin Tale." At the age of 3 months old, she got caught in a crab trap line which got caught around her tail. Just as depicted in the film, a young boy discovered her and she was rushed to the CMA for rehabilitation. Sadly due to the circulation being cut off to her tail flukes, she lost the end of her tail. Rather than allowing her to die (or live without swimming), the researchers at CMA contacted a leading human prosthetic limb manufacturer who made her a prosthetic tail and taught her how to swim again !! She continues to receive physical therapy and will spend the rest of her life at the aquarium. Winter has become a source of inspiration for kids and adults around the country who struggle with their own injuries or prosthetic limbs. Experiments in improved material technology to adapt the new tail for Winter has helped human prosthetic limb wearers as well with more comfortable artificial limbs.

All over the CMA site there are boards showing the various scenes in the film that were shot in that particular location - it really brings the film to life.

Due to the success of the film and subsequent media and public interest, CMA has managed to raise money to build a new much better facility to replace the original humble waste water treatment works facilites they originally started in. 

Check out their website to see the latest news and then pay them a visit - it will be a day to remember.