Since the Button bridesmaids are all from out of town, we realized that the easiest plan for bachelorette festivities would be to hold the events a few days before the wedding. That way, each maid only had to purchase one plane ticket (what can I say… I like to save money when possible)!
The girls all arrived on Wednesday; MOH E’s flight was in the morning; we grabbed lunch, and then spent the afternoon packing things up for the beach house. After picking up BM K and A later that evening, we stopped by the Cheesecake Factory to share some appetizers, drinks, and (duh) cheesecake while we waited for BM L to arrive. Side note: their new Stephanie’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake is seriously TO DIE FOR. 2 layers of red velvet cake, 2 layers of classic cheesecake, cream cheese frosting, and white chocolate shavings. Just… look… at… it:
It was so great to catch up with everyone… and it was almost as if no time had elapsed since we were last together. Once all of the girls were packed into my car, we drove to the beach house to settle in for the night. However, we did have to go dip our toes in the ocean before we did so!
The next morning, we woke up bright and early (well, I did at least), as we had a fun trip in store! The ladies and I took a trip to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for a special visit!
Now, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is probably not what you would consider the “typical” aquarium; it is definitely not Sea World. However, it stands for an awesome cause. The aquarium focuses on rehabilitation of the animals it takes in; unless the animals are unable to return to the wild for some reason, they are rehabilitated and released. Look at these cutie pie otters!
We took a “behind the scenes” tour of the facility, and learned some interesting facts! Did you know that sea turtles can be “stunned” by cold water? We had an incredibly cold winter in Florida this past year, and with the cold water temperatures, many sea turtles went into shock. Their bodies freeze up, and they appear to be dead. The aquarium received many calls from concerned beach goers who came upon cold stunned turtles and thought they were dead. However, once the team at the Clearwater Aquarium brings them in and warms them up, they “unfreeze” and can be returned to the wild!
The volunteers at the Clearwater Aquarium also babysit sea turtle nests; during nesting season they scout and mark the nests that they find, and when it is close to hatching time, a volunteer babysits, especially at night time. When a sea turtle hatches, it naturally heads towards the light (which, originally was the moonlight… reflecting off the ocean). However, now that the beaches are filled with hotels and houses, there are lights everywhere. The baby turtles can get confused, and sometimes head away from the water (towards the hotels and houses) instead of to the ocean! Poor little guys… I’m glad that there are volunteers that are at the ready to assist them to the sea!
After our tour, it was time to see the dolphins! There are a few resident dolphins at the Clearwater Aquarium; each of them was unable to be returned to the wild for different reasons. Nicholas was found on Christmas Eve in 2002, stranded with his mother Noelle. Noelle passed away, and Nicholas suffered severe sunburn (yes, did you know they can get sunburned? Dolphin skin is very sensitive). He has to remain at the aquarium because of his dependent status at the time of his stranding. Indy was found with both shark and dolphin bites on his body. See the marks?
He was unable to be released to the wild because they were unsure if he could survive since he was stranded at such a young age, and he refused to eat live fish while in captivity. These two dolphins put on a show for us; we were able to sit right at the edge of the tank!
However, there is one very very special dolphin that resides at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Her name is Winter… have you heard of her before? As a 3 month old baby, Winter was discovered tightly wound in a crab trap line. They were able to rescue her, and after many nights and days of volunteers holding her up in the water so she could breathe, she survived. However, due to the injuries she sustained, her entire tail and a few vertebrae were lost. Yes… Winter is a dolphin without a tail. See?
However, she has amazingly adapted to a new swimming pattern. In doing so, trainers at the aquarium realized that by moving her tail from side to side to swim (similar to a shark) instead of up and down is bad for Winter’s back, so they began the process of creating a prosthetic tail!
Winter is first fitted with a stretchy plastic “sleeve,” similar to those found on human prosthetics. Then, her tail fin is attached. Winter has training sessions where she learns how to properly use her tail; how awesome is that?
We were able to get our hands on her prosthetic tail. BM K was especially intrigued by Winter’s tail – she currently works with human prosthetics herself, and apparently Winter is a big celebrity in her field!
Winter’s favorite “toy” is her floating mat in her tank. She shimmies onto it and floats around.
She is so cute! The entire time that we were there she was vocalizing… a LOT! Winter’s chirping is adorable, and it seems like she has such a spunky personality.
What a cute little dolphin…
After the aquarium, the girls and I chowed down on a delicious lunch at Frenchy’s (ummm blackened fish tacos? Yes please.), then spent the afternoon frolicking on the beach.
Yep – that’s us out there in the water!
Our plans for the evening: a night out on the town! But, I’ll get to that later…
If you would like more information on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and/or Winter the dolphin, visit their website: HERE. They are a nonprofit organization and they work hard to not only help injured sea creatures, but also to educate about respect for marine life and our environment.
Did you take a fun and/or educational trip as a part of your bachelorette festivities, or am I the only nerdy one out there?