Flipper Training School
At the time we took the Florida vacation, the TV show Flipper was one of our favorites. My parents found out that there was a facility where they trained Flipper and you could visit it. It also turned out there were 6 or more dolphins who played Flipper and they used different ones depending on what special trick was needed for that moment in the show.
Because I was tall for my age, my mother brought along a copy of my birth certificate on our vacation to show in case we got a hassle about whether I was young enough to get the kids discount. When she offered it here they laughed and said don’t worry. You should have been here this morning. We had a family with the father who was 6’7”, the mother was 6’ 3” and the 12-year old boy was 6’ tall and the 10-year old girl was something like 5’ 8” tall. We believe you.
They put on a show with the dolphins like you might see at Marine Land or an aquarium. Then they let the kids, one at a time, jump in and get pulled across an enclosure by one of the dolphins. We had worn bathing suits in anticipation. They gave us instructions about how to do it. They said to let the dolphin swim by you and you grab the dorsal fin and let it drag you. Don’t kick or try to swim. If you grab the dorsal fin high, it hurts the dolphin so only hold on right where the fin comes up from the back.
I was upset because a lot of the kids didn’t listen and grabbed high on the fin or tried to kick while being pulled. I made sure I did it just right. The dolphins skin was an interesting texture. I think I remember it being kind of rubbery. Anyway, a fun time and a high light of the trip since I was obsessed with things marine and Jacques Cousteau etc.
Sanibel near Fort Myers had a reputation as a beach that had exceptional shells that you could pick up. I understand that it is rather picked over these days. But we went there and did get some pretty shells and had a nice swim. Probably still have some of the shells someplace.
Tarpon Springs is a bit north of Tampa on the coast. It was a location where small boats went out sponge diving. The divers were using the old hard helmet type of suit with a hose going back to the boat, not Scuba. They were mostly older Greek guys. (At least they seemed older to me at the time as a kid.) We went out on a glass bottom boat and went over reefs and saw all the coral and sea fans and fish. Then watched through the bottom of the boat as the diver went down and collected some coral and sponges. Probably not allowed today. I wonder what kind of condition those reefs are in.
Weeki Wachee Springs is a bit inland and is the deepest natural spring in the US. Besides other attractions, they have a “mermaid” show which my father wanted to see. It is pretty incredible. There is a large room where one wall is glass and you can see the limestone walls of the spring. Girls (young women) dressed with fins to look like mermaids put on a performance under water while you watch. When they run out of air, they take more in from hoses that are bubbling air out constantly. At least that is how they did it when we were there. Apparently the current in the spring can be strong and they have to be good swimmers.
I believe from here we started heading back home but decided to stop and see a plantation on the Edisto River along the way. That is for next time.