Volume 4 | April 2021
April Piece Of Paradise:
Mote Marine Aquarium
Sarasota's aquarium didn't make it on Travel Channel's list of Best U.S. Aquariums - and that's just fine by us! (If you're looking for more "wow" factor, the nearby Florida Aquarium in Tampa is on the list.) What we love most about this piece of paradise is that the full name of the facility - Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium - honors its core purpose: using science to "help our oceans heal, thrive, and continue to be havens of sustainable life, life-improving science, and life-giving solutions."
The Mote Marine Laboratory has been a cornerstone establishment in Sarasota since 1955. Today the organization encompasses more than 200 employees in five locations, including a coral reef research center in the Florida Keys and an aquaculture research park in eastern Sarasota County. They have too many research programs to list here, but we've enjoyed supporting and learning about their coral reef restoration. They are also extremely involved in red tide research - an issue that has had major and direct impacts on Sarasota County.
If you're heading to Lido Key from North Sarasota, be prepared to spend some time in traffic. We clocked 30 minutes to get from the US 41 & 10th Street roundabout to the aquarium (not enough to deter us!).
Between the downtown artwork, architecture, and landscaping; the beautiful views from the bridge (this picture is looking toward the aquarium), and the jaw-dropping estates on St. Armand's, there is always something to appease the eyes along the way.
The displays include a healthy blend of traditional tanks, hands-on experiences, and immersive technology. One of the most impressive aspects offered to visitors is the passion and knowledge of Mote's volunteers. You'll spot them by their blue shirts.
Note the blue shirt of a volunteer on the left, and two visitors listening intently on the right.
The volunteers - spanning a wide range of ages and backgrounds - are full of information about the progress Mote is making outside the aquarium, and stories about the many creatures who call the inside of the aquarium home. Here is a super brief and not at all exhaustive look at some of the Mote residents waiting to greet you.
Our family is always keen to visit "the big tank," touch the stingrays, say hello to the manatees and watch the otters play. New attractions for us this visit included the Wild Kratts Ocean Adventure and the Virtual Reality Experience. The Wild Kratts is really geared toward young children - maybe ages 3-6 - but the VR experience was a hit with all ages. There are five simulations to choose from, each costing $6. Our five-person group split up to try a shipwreck dive, swimming with the sharks, and searching for humpback whales.
The Shark Dive Pico Virtual Reality experience gets you up close and personal with tiger sharks.
The aquarium has also partnered with Sarasota Bay Explorers to offer eco boat tours. Highlights of previous tours include learning about the dolphins in Sarasota Bay (like, not just dolphins in general - literally, THE dolphins that live in Sarasota Bay) and seeing what critters got pulled up in the net. Boat tour prices are discounted for Mote Marine members. Another perk of membership is the subscription to Mote Magazine, which features stories about their ongoing research.
And, give it a few more years. When construction on the new Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA) within Nathan Benderson Park is completed, we won't be surprised to see Sarasota's aquarium on that Travel Channel list.
A rendering of the future Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA), which will be positioned on a strip of land among the lakes at Nathan Benderson Park..
Nearby Considerations
We've probably done Sarasota a serious injustice. It took us until newsletter number four to include a photo of a beach??! We chose to spend some time at Lido Beach on our way back from Mote Aquarium. There is some strategy to that plan - by the time we arrived (4pm), parking spaces were starting to open up. Just barely starting. Pulling into the parking lot we thought we might have to turn around and head home, but we did find an empty space within a couple minutes.
The dune vegetation opens to a spectacular view of Lido Beach.
Overcast skies can't spoil this beach experience.
Up until recently, there was a lot less "beach" to Lido Beach. We were surprised by just how much space the 2020-2021 beach re-nourishment project delivered between the dunes and the water. Good thing, too, because there were plenty of people (like us!) wanting to spread out a blanket and relax by the gulf.
Our beach time was cut short by cooler temps, a strong wind, and a sour-looking thunderstorm on the horizon. Next time we'll be sure to check out the City of Sarasota's recently renovated facilities, and try the food at their new concession, The Lido Island Grill.
One more photo for good measure: the historic Lido Beach Casino graced Lido Key from 1940-1969. Its famous seahorses (video minute marker 3:37) can be spotted in downtown Sarasota and are replicated in several venues throughout town - including at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.
Homeowner Tip
Home Watch Reporter Certification
The International Home Watch Alliance offers a Home Watch Reporter Certification. The exam tests the foundational skills as well as knowledge, proficiency, and aptitude in general household operations and the performance of the home watch visit. Coastal Haven Home Watch of Sarasota is proud to say it is a IHWA-certified Home Watch Reporter.
Coastal Haven Home Watch of Sarasota delivers peace of mind... for your piece of paradise. Share your Sarasota pieces of paradise with us! We'll include them in an upcoming newsletter for other Home Watch clients to consider during their next stay in Sarasota.