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“Great Place”

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
Ranked #1 of 38 things to do in Gulfport
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 1984 for the purposes of public education, conservation, and research on marine mammals and sea turtles in the wild and under human care. IMMS has been an active participant of the National Stranding Network since its inception. IMMS is the premier stranding organization in the Mississippi-Louisiana-Alabama region of the Gulf Coast with the capability and expertise to care for sick and injured marine mammals and sea turtles. IMMS serves as an important educational resource for the Mississippi Gulf Coast, incorporating programs for conservation, education and research of marine mammals, sea turtles, and their environment. IMMS is open for public tours year-round, however reservations are required.
Reviewed July 3, 2013 via mobile

This place was amazing. I would recommend that you book at least a week ahead of time because I waited until a few days before and almost missed booking it. Lots of hands on activities for kids to do. My kids enjoyed touching the stingrays and fish. They have pretty interesting lectures too. The digging for shark tooth was a big highlight for us also. Everyone young and old enjoyed the dolphins. They were very active. All the staff was very knowledgeable, would return again. The only bad thing I probably could say is that I had a hard time finding the place. The address we put in the GPS lead us into a wooded place but I called the facility and they rerouted us which was just around the corner.

1  Thank shameeka56
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed June 5, 2013 via mobile

We went here with the whole family - kids from 1-6. The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable. There were many interesting things to see and do including lightly touching many fish and snakes. We took the tour. We booked it and paid online. Very easy to do. It wasn't expensive and they offered a military discount. You could go here with or without kids and have a great time. Well worth the trip.

3  Thank jkram727
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 20, 2013

We had 5 girls, ages 3-14, along and they all loved this experience. There is an educational presentation about marine animals, both mammals and reptiles. There is also a chance for the kids to dig for a fossil, which are apparently all shark's teeth. My girls loved this. There is also some touching tanks where you can touch stingrays, crabs, horseshoe crabs and some small sharks. Last you get to see a dolphin show. It isn't as grand as Sea World or larger aquariums but we really enjoyed it and you get to be really close. They offer experiences where you can actually touch the dolphins and, when it's warmer, actually get into the water with them. We'll go back in a year or two when they institute moves into its larger facility and let our girls do this. We had a great time.

1  Thank MAMCBE2002
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 5, 2012

Took two of the elementary school age grandkids to see the displays and the dolphins. It was on their level and interesting for adults as well. The short lectures before the tours are quite interesting and informative.

Sort of difficult to find. You may need to ask locals for precise directions. We live here and before we took the grandkids I went out there to find it myself so I wouldn't get lost with the kids with us.

1  Thank CoastalDog
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 13, 2012

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is a must-see if you're on the Gulf Coast.

After Hurricane Katrina, the zoologists and vet teams from IMMS were instrumental in rescuing stranded and displaced animals all through the Gulf region. The opportunity to meet members of these teams, and hear first-hand their passion for their amazing work, was a treat!

The current IMMS facility is temporary (they're building a great new facility now), but don't let "temporary" confuse you: they have designed and installed great interactive exhibits, and the facility is easily accessible for visitors of all ages. Do be sure to map the location on-line, as signage from the highway is not terribly visible at the moment (they're aware and working on it.)

Tours are by reservation only, and start at 9:30 am and 1:30 pm Monday through Saturday, and last about three hours. With tour costs of $6 for 12-and-unders and 55-and-overs, and $8 for the 13-54 crowd, we definitely got value for our money! The inside exhibits have great climate control, and outdoor experiences have plenty of shade and a nice breeze off the water, too.

With auditorium presentations, hands-on specimen exploration, and lots of interaction, the tour was engaging for everyone in our family (kids from 4 to 16, adults from 38 to 85!). Conservation and ecological information was shared in an accessible, positive way. Even my littlest came home excited about "helping those nice creatures."

One highlight was the aquarium room. Live-animal touch tanks containing horseshoe crabs, two species of ray, and other neat creatures, are centered in a room ringed with aquariums that duplicate the water ecosystems of the region, from freshwater streams, to brackish bayous, to shoreline and deep-sea tanks. We really enjoyed seeing first-hand the personalities of each animal, and even started nick-naming particular rays in the touch tank.

Our tour guide was a young zoologist; he was passionate and enthusiastic, and easily adapted his presentation to suit our group. He was also very open to questions about his profession, and answered a lot of off-the-wall animal questions with a great sense of humor and fantastic depth of knowledge.

All four of our kids had a fun time in the marine fossil dig (part of the regular tour). Our guide stayed close to talk about the different shells and teeth they sifted from the sand. Each child got to keep one souvenir find, which was then attached to an information card to take home.

Another highlight was our visit to the dolphin presentation! IMMS is home to two retired US Navy research dolphins (Bo and Buster), as well as other rescue dolphins currently in rehabilitation, therapy, and training. It was so neat to hear all about the dolphins, watch them perform, and then have a question-answer session with our guide and the dolphin trainers, too.

One way IMMS supports and funds their work is through individual guided dolphin encounters ($45/person, splash-safe clothes needed) and guided dolphin experiences ($90/person--and you're in the water with the dolphins!) Our group did not take advantage of these two options, but those who did seemed to have a great time, too!

Do take time to explore the small museum/education center and gift shop. We picked up several little books as souvenirs for our little girls. They had a range of sea-related topics, with a reading level just right for the elementary grades. For $5, it was great to get a truly memorable memento! They also stock some lovely regional jewelry and decorative items.

I really can't say enough good things about IMMS. We enjoyed our visit tremendously, and were surprised when 4:30 rolled around, and we realized we'd been engaged and enjoying ourselves for three full hours!

Call before you go to reserve your spot. Visit the website (www.imms.org) to get a feel for the programs and research. In addition to the marine animal tour we enjoyed, they also offer bird and reptile presentations, so repeat visits can definitely go on the calendar.

17  Thank ESCinID
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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