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Florida's Fin-tastic Friends: Celebrating Sharks in the Sunshine State!


Us at SharkCon in a shark cage

During my journey to receive my Marine Biology degree, my passion of sharks grew stronger as I continued to learn more about them and how important they are. The issue is that many people fear sharks, in reality they should fear us. Regrettably, media portrayals in movies like Jaws and Sharknado have fueled a negative perception of these magnificent creatures. In truth, sharks play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of our ocean ecosystems, and their absence would severely impact the health of our seas. My main goal here is to give you all shark activities or events here in Florida that potentially make you understand sharks better and realize you do not have to fear them. Some of these events may be seasonal, but others are throughout the year. Lets celebrate sharks in Florida, I am happy to guide you through them!

 

Between now and July 28th, SeaWorld Orlando is offering a brand new Ultimate Shark Experience! This includes an immersive and unique experience for all the shark lovers or anyone curious to learn more! This experience includes getting up close, feeding, touching, and the main part of learning more about sharks and conservation. You will also receive a quick queue to Mako, shark swag, a cocktail/mocktail and lunch or dinner (entree & non alcoholic beverage) at one of the quick service locations. The best part of this tour is that $25 of every ticket goes directly to shark conservation! We had the opportunity to experience this and you can read all about that here. If you cannot experience this experience, there is a sharks up-close tour year-round! You can also see all the amazing sharks on your own time in the Shark Encounter, including two great hammerheads! You can also feed the sharks if interested! If you are feeling more adventurous, you can head over to Discovery Cove to swim with the sharks! You can purchase a combo tickets to experience both SeaWorld Orlando and Discovery Cove. Also if you are an annual passholder you do get discounts (subject to change). You can read more about our adventure at the Ultimate Shark experience here.

 

From between now and August 27th you can swim over to SeaLife Orlando at Icon Park and join in with the Summer of Sharks! This fun experience helps you dive into understanding sharks and their conservation. Currently they have a scavenger hunt happening that if you find all 5 species of sharks, you will receive a special prize in the gift shop! Not only this but their behind the scenes tour has transformed into the Summer of Sharks Tour where the tour has a shark twist. Here you will learn how all the sharks and other sea life is taken care of. You'll learn all about the sharks and how they are helping. Also you will be taken above the aquariums to see how the aquariums works and see the sharks from the top, SeaLife Orlando does celebrate sharks year round as well, so if you cannot attend during this time that is perfectly okay! Sealife Orlando shares shark conservation throughout the year and always has a behind the scenes tour to learn more. You can learn more about our fun time here!

 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater is known for having rescued animals which includes a nurse shark named Thelma, She was taken in after a private collector purchased her not realizing the size that she would become. You can visit Thelma year round and if you are interest, CMA also offers a Shark Care Experiences. This is where you can meet Thelma and learn all about how CMA cares for her. It will teach you about conservation and education about sharks so you can receive a better understanding of sharks. CMA is also a nonprofit and all proceeds go directly back into their main goals of rescue, rehab and release.

 

Tampa Bay Watch in St. Pete does have seasonal shark activities, however they were earlier in the month, these included shark dissections and shark themed sensory hours. I did want to still mention Tampa Bay Watch because they offer many Eco Tours. One I wanted to point out is the friendly fishing. Why does this relate to sharks? Great question! Let me answer. Sharks are often victims of bycatch with bad fishing practices and sometimes sadly do not make it. These fishing trips will help you learn the best techniques to keep fish alive while doing catch & release which casting a responsible line. They will also go over appropriate tackle, fish handling, how to help any entangled wildlife and how to protect your favorite fishing stops. Trips like these indirectly help sharks with learning proper education with fishing. They also offer other great ecotours to help understand the local wildlife in Tampa and how help.

 

The Florida Aquarium in Tampa will be hosting an event called Shark-Cuterie Night on July 27th from 6:30pm - 8pm. This is a fun way to learn about sharks all while building your own charcuterie board. One yearly tour they have running is the SeaTREK, this is a guided underwater walking tour designed for non-divers. With this tour you'll experience fish, spotted eagle rays, a loggerhead sea turtle, and one of my favorites; bonnethead sharks. Bonnethead sharks are apart of the hammerhead family and are the smallest of them all. Fun fact: they are the only sharks known to also eat seagrass! This is a great way to get into the water to see them and understand that they poses no harm.

 

Mote Aquarium in Sarasota plays a crucial role in shark conservation, after all their founding Director, Dr. Eugenie Clark, was called "The Shark Lady" for a reason and was a great inspiration for not only shark conservation but women in science. They are offering Breakfast with the Sharks, this is currently happening on day per month until December! You'll have a chance to see the sharks prior to the public and have a light continental breakfast while learning all about Mote's amazing shark research and learning ore about sharks. You'll also have an opportunity to watch a feeding for the bonnetheads. If you cannot meet this, you can visit the aquarium to meet all their resident sharks. They are also currently in the process of building a new aquarium, which is super exciting!

 

Now I have the ultimate shark experience for those who want to have an immersive experience with sharks. I am taking about Shark Tours in Riviera Beach, FL. Now this is your opportunity to go on an ecofriendly shark sight seeing boat tour in the ocean. Better yet, you can select to go in the water with the sharks! The sharks will change per season with their migration patterns. They offer tours year round and do tend to book up pretty quick! While I have not been able to do this myself yet, it is on my list for 2024 to do! I prefer to go during the winter months because there are better chances of seeing Great Hammerheads and Tiger Sharks. Yes, I want to be in the water with them and experience this. Afterall, I didn't get my degree in Marine Biology for nothing!

 

One additional event to notate even though it just happened is SharkCon that's hosted in Tampa. While it did already happen, it will be back next summer on July 13-14! We had the opportunity to go this year and its perfect for all shark lovers and those who want to learn more. All of these I have spoken about on this list were at Sharkcon as well. This is a great way to learn more about shark education and conservation. There was also amazing ecofriendly shark vendors there selling amazing items! You can view all the amazing vendors and sponsors still on their website if you would like to support any! I had amazing opportunities to talk to amazing scientists, researchers, and shark enthusiasts and grateful for the knowledge I obtained during this. I also had the chance to try diving for free! I cannot recommend SharkCon enough.


Now looking at other organizations to support, I highly recommend supporting Shark 4 Kids, Gatorland, ZooTampa, Ocearch, FWC, Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy, Brevard Zoo, Disney Conservation Fund, Saving The Blue, and Bimini Shark Lab.

 

In Florida, there's no shortage of shark-themed activities and locations to explore, and the ones on my list are the ones I'm familiar with and confident truly prioritize shark conservation and protection for the future. Of course, there are countless more I haven't mentioned. One crucial tip when planning a visit to a zoo or aquarium is to check their accreditations. Look for ones like AZA or AMMPA, as they demonstrate a commitment to supporting the right causes. If a place isn't accredited, be sure to research their practices further or seek out other reputable accreditations. When booking tours, whether for shark encounters, sightseeing, or fishing, always opt for eco-friendly options and thoroughly research the companies. Many of the places I've listed offer eco-friendly tours in Florida, but when going out of state, research becomes even more essential. Let's ensure we support locations that actively safeguard not only sharks but all marine animals for the sake of our future. Conservation is a collective effort, and our choices can make a significant impact.

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