A sea turtle proudly displays its intricately patterned shell. A stingray safely brushes its sleek skin against a child?s hand, grazing the top of a 10,000-gallon tank. A bird splashes into mangrove swamps to snatch fish. Sensory experiences like these occur on a regular basis at the 57-acre Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center on Hutchinson Island, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. As the headquarters for the nonprofit Florida Oceanographic Society, the center strives to both educate the public and inspire environmental stewardship of Florida?s coastal ecosystems.
Among the center?s many activities, visit the Sea Star Touch Tank Pavilion and watch a live feeding at the 750,000-gallon Game Fish Lagoon. Educational programs throughout the day explore the lives of sea turtles and explain how to identify local fish that refuse to wear nametags. Just past a colorful butterfly garden and aquariums at the Frances Langford Visitors Center, guests can find nature trails that wend through mangrove swamps and hardwood hammocks. Here, they can see the natural state of a bio-diverse estuary, along with endangered plants and animals that the Florida Oceanographic Society is striving to save through research as well as educational and restoration initiatives.
• For $20, you get a Kemp's Ridley–level membership, which includes a Turtle Walk discount for one, free or reduced admission to 250 Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) organizations, and a subscription to the "Marinelife Review" newsletter (a $40 value). • For $35, you get a Hawksbill-level membership, which includes discounts on a Turtle Walk for two and LMC's programs, summer camps, and birthday parties; free or reduced admission to 250 ASTC organizations; and a subscription to the "Marinelife Review" newsletter (a $70 value).
At SeaWorld Orlando, the world of undersea wonder comes alive like no place short of the ocean itself. From the graceful might of the killer whales in the Shamu show One Ocean to the epic 3D voyage of sea turtles in the 360 TurtleTrek, the park explores the vibrant life that bustles just below the water's surface. The voyage even takes visitors to the cold shores of Antarctica, letting them see the world through the eyes of a the world's best-dressed bird in Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.