Mote Marine Aquarium

By Laurén Ettinger

The Sarasota rain led me to seek out indoor activities. It seemed like the perfect day to visit the Mote Marine Aquarium. Upon arriving, it appeared that many other locals and visitors had decided to visit as well. No matter, we trekked on through the visitor center where we purchased tickets and entered the main indoor hall of the aquarium. This area, called From Rivers to Seas & Convict Fish displays a mixture of fresh and salt water marine life.  All of the exhibits are beautifully done to reflect the natural habitat of its inhabitants. Visitors can see a fresh water sting ray, a scary and large Moray Eel and the black and white striped Convict Fish who spend their adult lives hidden in coral tunnels. Moving on, we enter the area called Grass Flats, Reef Fish & Jellies where you can see all sorts of beautiful reef dwellers. I have always found Jellyfish particularly interesting to watch and was not disappointed with the ones on display.

My favorite was the upside down jellyfish that produce algae with their tentacles.

Transitions from inside to a covered outdoor space, visitors have the opportunity to see a preserved giant squid. Once 500 pounds, “Molly the Mollusk” has now shrunk to 300 pounds and 23 feet long because of the preservative liquid she is in. Regardless of a little bit of shrinking, she is still positively fascinating and reminiscent of creatures found on the pages of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Next, you find a variety of shark species as well as Goliath Grouper, Tarpon, and Snook.  Mote Marine Aquarium is the only congressionally designated Center for Shark Research! Favorite among both children and adults, are the Touch Pools in Contact Cove where you can touch tame starfish, sea urchins, crabs, and even a variety of sting rays. Towards the exit the laboratory is currently hatching seahorses, which are tiny and absolutely adorable.

Following the painted manatee and sea turtles on the sidewalk, we headed towards the detached building across the street which houses the manatees, dolphins, and turtles. Mote’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program is the world’s longest-running dolphin research program – more than 40 years and Mote has been rehabbing dolphins and whales for over 20 years.  They have also treated and released more than 100 sea turtles! Mote monitors sea turtle nesting in the Sarasota area in addition to providing a rehab facility. Luckily for us, the Manatees, or sea cows as they are often called, were indulging in a lettuce lunch so we were able to watch them swim around and chomp on large heads of romaine.

At an adult weight of 1,200 pounds, manatees are certainly interesting creatures.

In addition to the fantastic marine exhibits, Mote performs world-renowned work in its Research Laboratory.  All in all Mote Marine Aquarium and Laboratory was a wonderful way to get up-close and personal with wildlife and learn more about our ocean friends. Mote is a great rainy day – or any day, family fun Sarasota attraction.

Mote Marine Aquarium is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, 365 days a year and is located at 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy., Sarasota, Florida. For additional information please call 941.388.4441.

Written by: Laurén Ettinger | Author Website

Laurén Ettinger runs the travel and vanlife blog Flit Float Fly Away where she shares travel tips and stories from life on the road with her dog. She is the Assistant Editor at Siesta Publications for Must Do Visitor Guides where she manages social media, writes blog articles, and assists in editing print and online copy. Laurén also works as a freelance copy editor and proofreader. She holds a M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution and a B.A. in Anthropology and a B.A. in Global Studies from Appalachian State University. Follow her adventures on instagram or her blog