Sarasota, Florida is home to many fine institutions. It is home to among other things the Ringling Museum, The Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Facility and Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium.
After decades of trying I can now cross off the second of the items on my things to do whilst in Sarasota wish list as I finally took the plunge and explored Mote Aquarium. Perhaps next time I am there I will tackle the Ringling experience in addition to another trip to the Orioles Spring Training stadium.
As mentioned before my grandparents lived in the Bradenton/Sarasota area for about three decades so visits to that part of Florida were quite frequent when I was growing up.
Still, despite that frequency of visitation it wasn’t until last week, after the grandparents were no longer there, that I was able to see the great little aquarium that they were always talking about taking me to.
That is not to say that visits with the grandparents weren’t full of other fun activities, it is just that to build up the excitement of an aquarium year after year without delivering on the visit can be a little upsetting for a small child. Of course as mentioned before I maintained my own home aquarium with items my grandparents and I caught in the Gulf so I guess in a way I had my own mini Mote.
But in terms of promising to take me to the real Mote the exchange usually went something along the lines of, “look Ryan there is Mote Aquarium. We will take you there sometime.”
Of course that statement was usually uttered as we were driving to Big Olaf’s in St. Armand’s Circle to get ice cream so my mind soon switched from seeing swimming fish to eating a homemade waffle cone and pistachio ice cream.
Still, on my recent trip back to the coast of my grandparents I was able to see the swimming fish and have my Big Olaf’s ice cream, too.
Mote Aquarium is relatively small by aquarium standards but it is just the right size for a quick day trip to see what lies beneath the surface of the waters of Florida.
Mote is also an active research facility and has made great breakthroughs in marine biology and species preservation. And through the aquarium they raise awareness and funds to continue that work.
Sea World to the north also does things for marine animal rehabilitation but few can argue that Sea World is about entertaining guests first and research second. The roller coaster free Mote seems to have the priorities in the right order.
Both institutions, and many others like them, serve a great need in marine preservation and the men and women dedicated to marine biology are to be commended for their work in protecting the undersea world and helping to ensure that it can be enjoyed for generations to come..
Mote allows visitors to see several species of fish as well as sea turtles and manatees. There is even a shark tank to allow visitors to watch the feeding of the predator of the deep.
The manatee exhibit was my favorite part of the day. I have been a fan of manatees for about as long as I can remember. I even had a “Save the Manatee” license plate for years when I lived in Florida.
I have seen manatees in the wild before and I have seen them swimming in captivity but this was the first time I was able to see them swim from below.
Watching the graceful rolling and playfulness of these gentle creatures reminded me once more of the need to protect them as much as possible from the damage done by boat propellers and other factors that are leading to a decline in their numbers.
Watching them swim also made me think that those early sailors who mistook them for mermaids must really have been out in the sun too long.
The aquarium also taught me that the Mollies that I had in my own home aquariums for years were actually native to some Florida waters.
I am not sure how I never knew that. I really thought guppies were the only aquarium fish found in the wild waters near my old stomping grounds.
So I guess it is true that one really does learn something new every day.
After leaving the aquarium it was time for a seafood dinner. I do not believe that the aquarium inspired the need to eat fish as I do not recall looking into the various tanks and saying, “Hmm that will be tasty later with some butter and Old Bay Seasoning on it.” But there is definitely a lot of fresh seafood to be found along the coast of Florida.
Of course time will tell if the seafood remains as abundant in the years to come as the affects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are probably decades away from being fully realized.
I am hopefully optimistic that the seafood will remain as fresh and abundant in the decades to come as it is today.
Although my visit to Mote was decades in the making it was certainly worth the trip. If you do ever find yourself in Sarasota I highly recommend stopping in to see the various creatures of the sea.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have a hankering for some homemade ice cream for some reason.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson