Mote Marine Laboratory

Southwest Gulf Coast

The Mote bills itself as a research facility and aquarium, and has a large department dedicated to the study of sharks. Exhibits include a preserved giant squid (37ft long when caught) and a shark tank where you can watch training sessions in action. In a separate building the aquarium organizes encounters with sea turtles, manatees, otters and alligators. It may seem like a lovely idea, but studies show that interaction with sea creatures held in captivity creates stress for them.

For an extra fee you can join trainers tank-side and feed the sharks yourself. Adjacent to Mote, Save Our Seabirds (adults/children $10/6) displays a wide range of rescued land and seabirds in outdoor cages.