Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Resolute Sanibel: Personal Determinations for the New Year

Oh, it's coming on that time of year again, only a week from the dawning of a New Year. Looking back on the past one, I know that there are some things I hope will go differently and so I believe that I need to start putting my thoughts out there. Thinking is the first step in making wishes come true!

My first resolution is to emphasize the positive. 2009 was a challenging year on the Island for anyone involved in vacations, and that means just about everyone on Sanibel. But we made it and it's a good thing to remember that nothing so terrible transpired and a whole lot of good things did happen. I will make a list of all the nice things that took place on the Island in this last year and keep that list handy.

Second on my list of New Year's resolutions is to keep in mind that no man is an island. While spending so much time on an Island can make a person feel insular and keep one from being in touch, I am determined to have more contact with family and friends in 2010. Whether it be personal visits, more phone calls or more frequent notes, I need to remember that there is a whole world out there beyond the causeway.

Third, I promise myself that I will cook more, focusing on healthy meals and less of them. With so many great places to eat on Sanibel, it is just so easy to leave the kitchen in museum quality condition and find my food outside the house. But shopping for my own food at Island grocery stores could not be easier and eating food that I made with my own hands has its own degree of satisfaction.

Fourth, I need to remind myself that although the sun shines almost every day of the year on this lovely little island, it should not be taken for granted. Taking walks more often or jumping on my bike will help me enjoy the beauties of the days much more than just driving my car from point to point.

Fifth, it's time to stop putting off updating my wardrobe. There are several great shops on Sanibel for women's attire, and it's such an easy thing to stop there and try on some great looking stuff. It's a really hard choice to part with things we love and that have served us well, but I think the merchandise in the stores is calling my name and I should heed the welcome.

Sixth, and I think I'd better stop here as six resolutions are pretty formidable, my walls need updating as much as my wardrobe does. I think I have outgrown the art work I've had for longer than I would like to admit. I want to support the Island art galleries and there are so many lovely pieces of work that would really brighten my place and my day. So why not?

OK, I feel better already and prepared to take on a new year, Sanibel style!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kestrels and Killdeer and Moorhens , Oh My! The cult of the Christmas Bird Count on Sanibel

There is an annual event each year at this time that insiders of The Audubon Society know of, and bird lovers everywhere would like to be part of. It's called the Christmas Bird Count.

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began in 1900 when the founder of Bird-Lore (the progenitor of Audubon magazine), Frank Chapman, suggested an alternative to the "side hunt," in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people "hunt" birds only to identify, count, and record them. The Christmas Bird Count season is December 14 through January 5 each year. Your local count will occur on one day between those inclusive dates, and on Sanibel that day is December 19. These Binocular Brigades often brave winter's chill, ice and snow to record changes in resident populations and ranges, before spring migrants return.

Luckily, those who participate in this nationalized project in the Florida area are spared the frigid temperatures. Yet the allure of sightings is none the less sufficient inducement to participate.

CBC data not only helps identify birds in most urgent need of conservation action; it reveals success stories. The Christmas Bird Count helped document the comeback of the previously endangered Bald Eagle and Brown Pelican, and significant increases in waterfowl populations, both the result of conservation efforts.

Though most folks who come to this glorious island know of the Sanibel Captiva Consevation Foundation (SCCF) as well as the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), both local organizations, the fact that the islands host a local chapter of Audubon is not necessarily recognized. We would urge anyone interested in the Christmas Bird Count on Sanibel to contact the local co-ordinator at:

The Sanibel/Captiva Audubon chapter is also the coordinating point for a series of birdwalks on and near the Islands. Here is the schedule posted on their site:

Bird Walk Schedule

Dec 5 Bailey Tract
Dec 12 Ding Darling Refuge
Dec 19 Christmas Bird Count
Jan 2 Bunche Beach
Jan 9 Pond Apple Trail
Jan 16 Ft. Myers Beach Lagoon
Jan 23 Bunche Beach
Jan 30 Ding Darling Refuge
Feb 6 Bailey Tract
Feb 13 Ding Darling Refuge
Feb 20 Bailey Tract
Feb 27 Bunche Beach
Mar 6 Bowman's Beach
Mar 13 Ding Darling Refuge
Mar 20 Bailey Tract
Mar 27 Ding Darling Refuge
Apr 3 Sanibel Lighthouse

For more information on these walks, please click here:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Night life on Sanibel Island (Yes, there is!)

Bloggers often read as many blog posts as they write, and I'm no different.

I like to take the pulse of what people are thinking and doing, especially when it comes to vacations and favorite places to live. Sometimes I agree, sometimes not, but it's fun to compare opinions, even if only on line opinions.

Today I read a post entitled "Death's Sunny Waiting Room" which was poking fun at Florida as being the last stop before you know where.

Now, the post was generic about the state in a general way, yet there are people who think that Sanibel is already kind of dead when it comes to things to do at night. And though it is no South Beach or Fort Lauderdale at Spring Break, there's actually a fair amount of activity if you still have energy and interest after your day of swimming/boating/biking/golfing.

Aside from the cultural venues like Big Arts and the Old School House Theater and Sanibel Cinema, there are a dozen outlets where you can enjoy yourself when the Island turns dark and the moon beams over the palms.

There's the relatively new kid on the block, Biddles. At Biddles, you can hear live music seven nights a week, from 6:30 pm until... You'll find four different acts all of them unique. There's piano, singing and dancing, and if you want to start your evening on the early side, there's a Happy Hour from 4 to 7.

Or you can step back to a time when Jazz was King, and a night out was something really special! Ellington's Jazz Club and Restaurant features live, world-class jazz nightly, along with a dining experience and great food. Dinner is served nightly 5-11pm with live jazz nightly from 7-11pm. There's also a Happy Hour daily 5-6:30pm.

On neighboring Captiva, RC Otter’s offers live entertainment, lunch and dinner seven days a week, 12:30-10pm. Voted 1st Place “Best Family Dining” and Taste of the Islands “Best Seafood.”

The Patio Lounge at the Jacaranda is considered by many to be the best nightlife on the island. There are live bands nightly. Enjoy their seafood bar with a cocktail on the patio under the stars, or enjoy garden dining in their award-winning restaurant. Happy Hour daily from 4-7pm. Live entertainment seven nights a week, 52 weeks a year.

The Keylime Bistro on Captiva offers live entertainment seven days a week. Let’s not forget happy hour drinks! Weekends offer daily island sounds and evening guitar.

If this all sounds a bit too mellow and tame for you, you might want to shout the night out at one of the Sanibel Sports bars like Doc Fords or the Great White Grill.

So who says there's nothing to do at night on Sanibel? Not us!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

No Such Thing as the Terrible Two's on Sanibel Island

We were recently asked by a prospective vacation rental guest if there would be things to do for their toddler. Of course, when you think of Sanibel, you think of kids and the great discoveries to be made on the Island. You think of swimming and kayaking and biking and maybe even parasailing. But those things are really more enjoyed by children a little older. So, keeping in mind that that the "toddler rebellion" can actually begin at the age of one and that it is marked by temper tantrums and the acute reaction to say no to everything, we came up with some suggestions.

We think that these activities will keep your toddler sufficiently entertained and safe and keep you from living in the future and thinking about when you will be blowing out that third candle on the birthday cake.

Since toddlers and young children are often afraid to go into the water but are enthralled by the sight of it, beach activities are always a great diversion. Sea shell gathering, even at such a tender age, is a lot of fun. Your little one can find so many different kind of shells on Sanibel beaches that this can become a family effort for a whole morning. Just remember that it is not just your toddler's age that is tender, but that tiny feet should be protected in sturdy beach shoes or sneakers. Those shells that adults can avoid while walking the beach need to be child proofed on your babies feet. And that tender skin needs plenty of sunscreen as well.

There is probably not a more exciting adventure for a 2 year old than building their first sand castle. (Remember yours?) With mom and dad's help, your toddler can become chief architect and contractor of their own little piece of property. And if they tire of the project and stomp it into oblivion, no harm done. You can all build a new one the next day.

Your little one won't be able to tour the island by bike using pedal power, but there are bike trailers that you can attach to your own bike to pull him or her along. You can rent your own bike and the tot trailers from Billy's Rentals or, for a family vehicle, you might want to consider a 4 person surrey rental, also available at Billy's Rentals.

If the natural bird sightings are not sufficiently interesting, your toddler might enjoy a closer look at some very special birds. There are wonderful parrots and macaws to be seen at Jerry's supermarket and a whole collection of tropical and unusual birds at the Periwinkle Park mini zoo. Just remember that these birds, while beautiful and tame, are not domestic pets. Always keep an eye that little fingers don't get too close to those big powerful beaks!

And, of course, for the ultimate nature experience, boat rides to any of the smaller islands surrounding Sanibel are not just get fun, but an excellent way to introduce your little one to our water world. Almost guaranteed, on any of these journeys you will have dolphin swimming beside your boat, jumping and frolicking purely to entertain you. Indeed, their antics are so entertaining we are betting that your little one will not want to return to shore. And we totally understand that.

Life is good on Sanibel, by land or by sea. Come and experience the magic with your family!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Eat, Drink, Be Merry: Christmas on Sanibel Island

Sanibel Holiday staffers and guests always look forward to the Christmas holidays. It's a special time on the Island with a lot of activity and good cheer.

And, one of the highlights is always the Luminaria Festival. A magical celebration where beautiful luminaria line Periwinkle and the surrounding streets, the Festival bills itself as a gift to the community.

This year Sanibel Holiday will be participating in the Luminaria. We'll be hosting an open house where we offer refreshments, goodie bags and a small "gift". Our location, the Olde Sanibel Shoppes, is a highlight of the luminary trail. It is a trolley stop. Santa visits. A choir does a performance. All the businesses in this plaza do it up beautifully for the holidays. So we can't wait to get the holiday festivities off to a dazzling start on December 4 with the Luminaria!

During the actual Luminaria night, residents and visitors are able to travel through more than three miles of lighted luminaries to visit stores, shops and restaurants all beautifully decorated in their best holiday finery. The "attendees" of the Festival are also able to enjoy refreshments and live music. The festivities start at dusk and end approximately 9:30pm.

Aside from Luminaria and exploring the Island, if you like unusual and artsy stuff, you can really have a field day with Sanibel seashells with the holidays in mind.

Seashells are so beautiful in and of themselves, and their lovely configurations are ideal for creating unique Christmas tree ornaments.

According to one seashell crafts person the ease of creating seashell X-Mas tree decorations makes for a great project for the whole family.

First, the recipe for what you need to get started.

Ingredients Needed:

Sea shells
Gold Gilt or silver and gold paint
Tiny rosebuds (silk or real)
Glue gun
Clear nail polish
Gold or silver very thin ribbon or cord

Next, the process, what you need to do to "cook" your trinket:

1. Gilt or paint your shells and let dry. (you can also leave the shells plain and cover with clear nail polish if you prefer).

2. Glue a rosebud or pearl in the well of the shell or decorate it how you want.

3. Glue a loop of the thin ribbon or cord on the top to hang it with . Cover base of ribbon hang with with rosebud , pearl , or a bow.

A simple recipe, an easy meal!

All it takes is to get yourself down to Sanibel, and this year it also should be easier than ever.

Lovely condos are available that normally are booked at this time of year. Airlines are offering good deals, car rentals are below normal in rates. And seashells? Well the shells are already there waiting for you and free for the taking!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Want Great Nature Photos on Sanibel? Choose Your Time and Place First!

Sanibel Island offers great photo opportunities for sunrise and sunset shoots. These are pretty much no brainers. Just show up on the East End (near the light house) for that early morning shoot and on the West End (on Bowman's Beach) for the dusk photography.

Given the spectacular nature of sunrise and sunset Island skies, you will most likely get off a few excellent shots.

Nature photography, particularly bird photography, is a bit more challenging. The birds and other animals are not quite as predictable. It's always smart to carry a camera with you on walks and beach treks as you just never know what you will find.

Last week, an eagle on the beach near Bowman's thrilled beach goers. But who knows when and if he will ever return to that spot.

A more likely location is the nature preserve on the Island.

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is a famous spot to photograph Florida birds. Like the Galapagos Islands in South America, birds that are difficult to photograph in other places are so accustomed to people here that you can get very up close and personal and fill the frame with a 300mm lens.

It is also common to see families of raccoons panhandling from the cars parked along the wildlife drive. The first time I witnessed this, I thought the raccoons were ill as in other places I have lived, they only show up after dark. But Sanibel raccoons are the quintessential opportunists and their stomachs are their guides to behavior. If they are hungry and see a way to fill their furry bellies, they are no clock watchers!

In recent years a large female American crocodile has taken up residence in the refuge and can sometimes be seen basking by the side of the main road through the refuge. This may be the only place in Florida where you can see and photograph an endangered American Crocodile from the comfort of your car! Of course, you can see alligators and shoot them all over Ding Darling, just stay back from the water.

Almost every kind of North American wading bird can be seen at Ding Darling, however luck and the state of the tide can make a huge difference in the type of photographs you get. Photo opportunities are best one hour before and after low tide low tide and early morning light, so check the tide tables before you plan your trip! And remember that the refuge is closed every Friday.

The nearby Sanibel Fishing Pier and Lighthouse on the eastern tip of Sanibel is a great place year round to shoot herons, pelicans and other birds who show up looking for goodies from the fisherman there.

And don't worry if you don't catch the picture perfect nature shot the first time out. There's always tomorrow!!!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rainy Day Things to do on Sanibel Island

Though the sun shines on Sanibel most days of the year, we do have some rain fall. The lush landscapes on the Island reflect the perfect blend of sun and rain.

While there are dozens of ways to have fun in the sun, there are almost as many to enjoy those times when the rain is falling, usually gently, on our tropical flora.

In fact, one of the pleasures of vacation rentals is that you don't have to go very far to find your entertainment. Most of the condos and houses on the Island are well equipped to offer rental guests diversions for a rainy day. Books, games, dvd's, cable hook up on tv's all come standard in the vast majority of vacation accommodations.

In addition, almost as easily one can find some pleasant diversions outside of one's vacation rental. Here are a few of our favorite rainy day past times on the Island.

  • The Sanibel movie theatre, Island Cinema, is a clean, comfortable venue showing new releases and providing discounts on matinee tickets. Showings are at 1 and 4 and you'll need to call to confirm movie times.

  • Big Arts bills itself as "a home for all the arts" and lives up to that promise. In addition to the two galleries, open Monday through Friday, there are numerous art exhibits, lectures, photography shows and lectures that take place daily.

  • The Bailey-Matthews shell Museum provides a wonderful glimpse into the shell history of the Island and also has an extensive library with books on shells as well as gift store with some of these same books (and others) for sale.

  • And speaking of libraries (which we love to do), the adorable and well inventoried Sanibel library is a great place to hang out on a rainy day. You can browse the stacks, take a favorite out to the screened in porch to read or catch up on emails at one of their many computers open to the public. They even have a separate children's room and teen space. From time to time, they have visiting authors and book signings. Just check their calendar.

And of course, rainy days are quickly filled up with browsing the dozens of neat shops on the Island. Some of our favorites are Wilford and Lee, The Cheese Nook and Tuttles Sea Horse and Sea Shell Shop. We encourage you to find your own favorites. There are plenty to choose from!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Great places for a Great work out on Sanibel Island

The majority of visitors to Sanibel find sufficient challenge in the daily activities of swimming in the Gulf or their rental pool. And perhaps they vary their routines to include biking around the Island or swinging a golf club at the public courses. Some longer term guests may even find time to canoe or kayak or walk/run the 12 miles of pathway that winds around the island. But some visitors want to continue a routine that they have at home, may be concerned about injuries in less structured activities or want to explore what they can do on the Island that might be new to their regimen.

Generally, when asked about where to work out, we need not go further than recommending the newly renovated and expanded Sanibel Recreation Center. This is a superb facility with an enormous variety of activities. It houses a lap pool, a kiddie pool, a gym, weight room, tennis courts, as well as a game and teen room. Several types of yoga are offered in addition to aerobic classes, cardio boxing, strength training...well, you get the picture. Pretty much anything you or any member of your family can think of is available.

Certain visitors, however, prefer a more intimate environment, and may feel more comfortable in a club such as Sanibel Health Club. There, owner and certified personal trainer, Tim Shevlin, as well as his certified staff will work with you one on one in giving you the routine you desire....or carry forward for you the routine you have been using at home. And, in addition to the individualized personal attention, there is another reason for using this club. They offer a juice bar and delicious health smoothies. Now that would be enough incentive to get me to a health club!

Whatever your choice, free lance, rec center or more personalized club, Sanibel has the solution.

But if you opt to lay on the beach or nap by the pool, who's to blame you?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Turnkey Accommodations, Turkey Dinner and More Good Reasons to Visit Sanibel in November

November is a great month to visit the Island of Sanibel. The weather is great, there are lots of nice places with availability. There are lots of fun things to do.

Although Thanksgiving week special rates are not yet available (and that week is a popular one so there may not be specials) there are some very nice condo units still open for the weeks preceding the holiday week that are now offering discounted rates. Take a look by clicking here:

Equally enticing, those seeking a beach holiday with something a little different in the way of "entertainment" have a few nice choices.

The 16th Annual Esperanza Woodring Castnet Rodeo takes place on November 7. A family event where children and adults throw castnets at moving and stationary targets, prizes are given to all children entrants. The first place winner in the adult category will receive a $500 prize. Refreshments will be available. Free Lessons & Demonstrations: 8:00am to 9:00am. Children's Competition Begins: 9:30am. Adult Competition Begins: 1:00pm. The fun takes place at The Bait Box, 1041 Periwinkle Way. Call 239.472.1618 or go to for more information and a registration form.

And, there is not just one, but two great night out events at the School House Theater on the Island.

Lovely Night: The Music of Oscar Hammerstein

Oct 15 - Nov 7
Performance Days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Show Times: 8pm

A rousing tribute to the music of Oscar Hammerstein II, a composer of some 850 songs including "Getting To Know You," "The Sound of Music," "Old Man River" and "Oklahoma!"

"Plaza Suite" by Neil Simon

Nov 12 - Dec 5
Performance Days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Show Times: 8pm

More cinema fan than live theater devotee? You might want to explore the film series at Big Arts.

The November “Hollywood Speaks Out” series will explore the impact of feature entertainment films that dared to deal with contemporary social concerns in American society. Introduction and discussion of each film will be led by Dr. Robert Hilliard. Autographed copies of his latest book, Hollywood Speaks Out: Pictures That Dared to Protest Real World Issues will be available for purchase

If you are lucky enough to have your plans to visit the Island for the Thanksgiving week, you can enjoy a scrumptious Thanksgiving buffet at Tween Waters or have the whole meal brought to your holiday accommodation by either of the two major grocery stores on Island, Bailey's or Jerry's.

So, sun, fun and food are just here waiting for your arrival in November. Can you think of a nicer place to be?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sanibel LIghthouse Shines Light on Island History

Despite the hot and sunny days, it gets dark early on the Island these days. And when it is dark on Sanibel, it is pitch dark. No movie marquees with neon lights, no street lights, not even a traffic light permeates the black spaces. Were it not for the moon and the stars, the Island after sun set would be unnavigable.

Thinking of this juxtaposition, I marveled at how incredible those sea journeys years ago must have been with the moon and the stars guiding the way across the beautiful but often dangerous seas.

No doubt the sight of lights and land must have been a welcome vision for the sailors who took those risks.

I can imagine the sea navigators who arrived at Sanibel joyfully sighting the Island lighthouse and their relief to be near land.

Though there is discussion currently on-going as to how the lighthouse should be maintained, I am hopeful that this guiding light will stay bright and continue to be an important element in the history of the Island.

Built to withstand the strongest of hurricanes, this navigational lighthouse has stood on the island for well over a century.

The story of how there came to be a lighthouse on Sanibel Island begins, as is often the case, with a shipwreck. In this case the very ship carrying the raw iron to build the lighthouse sank a few miles offshore after becoming grounded on a shallow-water sandbar.

Vessels from Key West steamed up the coast and were able to salvage some of the cargo. The lighthouse was completed during the summer of 1884.

The tower is unusual in construction. It rests, windmill fashion, within an interlocking iron framework that, in turn, is attached to concrete supports seated deep in the ground. A winding staircase leads over 120 steps to the lantern house, where a modern flashing light alerts passing ships.

Seen from a distance across the lush Sanibel landscape, it appears out of place. Its rigid structure seemingly at odds with the softness of the land on which it sits.

But for those sailors seeking a port in a storm, no doubt the enchanting blinking of the lighthouse eye was as welcomed and welcoming as any fair lady who may have been waiting for a lonely sailor.

Today, there are probably few coastlines as unilluminated as Sanibel and the moon and stars still serve a noble purpose in guiding a sea journey to safety.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Our Votes for Best Web Sites on Sanibel

The web is a wonderful place.

It has so dramatically changed the way we find and share information, that in the realm of vacationing, it has become the research of first resort.

Not only does it provide an incredibly effective way to find vacation accommodations, it offers the internet user an amazing array of portals to get insider's view points and details about destinations.

There are several informational websites on Sanibel Island that are must visits for any one who is planning a trip to Sanibel.

The following are our favorite sites for the reasons given here.

If you have a site that is not purely promotional, but strives to provide some insight into the island, we'd love to hear from you, too.

So here goes:

The City of Sanibel provides up to date news on Sanibel Island. This is particularly important if there is bad weather heading into the island or there is some festival taking place where you might hit traffic. Folks who live on the Island are aware of the site and subscribe to alerts, but even for a casual visitor, the site is information rich in the practical matters:

The Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce site provides a great deal of information on the Island, things to do, where to eat, where to shop. As one might expect, the site caters to their members so one can't expect it to be all inclusive, but it's certainly worth a visit if you are looking for some suggestions for a Sanibel holiday:

The "darling" of Sanibel is, of course, the Ding Darling Nature Preserve. The site for Ding Darling is a government site and covers other wild life refuges as well. But there is a news release section where you can find out what is happening currently as well as other pages that explain the park and its operation:

No doubt one of the major draws for Sanibel Island is the fabulous shelling that you can do on the beaches. But it's so much more interesting to shell when you know what you are looking at or for. The Bailey-Matthews shell museum can provide a quick and highly informational tour of the shelling experience and their website offers a glimpse of what's in store at the Museum:

We know we mention them a lot on this blog, but the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation does do an outstanding job of educating visitors about the beauties of the Islands. Their website deserves not only a hand clap, but a nice stop to see what the Islands are all about:

The site that tugs most at our hearts is the one for the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (C.R.O.W.) The Center takes in injured or ill wild life from the Islands and surrounding areas and does a fabulous job of blending the rehabilitation process with the educational process. Their site tells various stories of animals and birds that were rehabilitated at the Center. Definitely worth a read:

There are dozens more websites out there specific to boating, golfing, and other activities, but we'll let you find those on your own. Happy trails and happy browsing to all!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Want to bring a gift to the grandkids from Sanibel? You'll have many to choose from!

If you are coming to Sanibel and wondering what in the world you can easily take home for the grandchildren (you can substitute nieces, nephews or just little loved one for that one word), you will have loads of choices.

First of all, there are two stores that specialize in apparel and other "bring homes" for children. Giggles located on Periwinkle bills itself as a Unique Kidz Boutique and carries everything from shoes to play toys for the infant or child. According to the store's website, "Leoma Lovegrove's paintings featured on the floors and walls, makes Giggles a memorable Sanibel shopping adventure you don't want to miss!"

Alternately, Friday's Child, also on Periwinkle, provides lots of cool options including cool stuff for "dudes" and "dudettes" (the latter being a new term to me!).

But if you are feeling that your little dude or dudette has more than enough clothes, games or toys, then consider these options:

* A colorful jigsaw puzzle of Sanibel which you can purchase at most gift shops on the Island as well as Bailey's
* A book about Sanibel's critters. Our favorites are Amazing Stories From the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wild Life (C.R.O.W.), a lovely description (with photos) about the animals saved and rehabilitated by the center. Another adorable read is Dillo, a delightful fantasy of a baby armadillo on the Island.
* A Sanibel calendar which will delight the young and young at heart in your family
* A seashell lamp created from a shell or collection of shells from Sanibel
* There's a great selection of books on nature for children at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) as well as functional items such as glasses etched with dolphins and other critters from the sea and land

Look around and you will see plentiful motivation to take a piece of Sanibel home with you and to share it with the young loved ones in your life!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Guest Blogger: Tips on Buying on Sanibel Island

Though Sanibel Holiday is a vacation rental agency with no affiliation or ties to a real estate office, the agency enjoys the unique position of helping future home buyers on a temporary basis.

As an owner with a property managed by Sanibel Holiday, I am happy to share my own style and strategy in real estate acquisition with their blog readers.

In fact, I already do share my strategies regularly as many vacation rental guests who have stayed at my condo or at my home have rented with the purpose of "looking around" at what is available on the Island. To date, two families who rented the condo for a number of years have purchased their own places on Sanibel. And two others who rented the house have purchased as well.

One strong piece of advice I would offer to anyone looking to combine their vacation with a house hunt is to allow enough time. A few days on island, even a week, will limit your ability to combine business with pleasure. So stay two weeks, or three, and if you can swing it, come for the month.

Another suggestion strongly made is to do your house hunting off season. Like tourism in general, the house hunting crowd is largest in winter, and it's in your best interest to not be part of the crowd if you have a choice in the matter. You may find greater flexibility on the seller's part when you are looking in November or December and May or June then in the heart of high season. You will most definitely find your real estate agent's calendar not so crowded off season as well.

Which brings me to the most important advice I can offer to a prospective buyer. Choose your realtor carefully. You may want to talk to a couple of Realtors first before committing. Get to know his or her style and evaluate the compatibility with your own. Ask questions about their backgrounds and years in the business. Get a sense of how well they have done in not only getting listings, but making actual sales. Although we have found great integrity in all the agents we have talked to and worked with on and off island, the agent we will work with now is not only an honest and hard working guy, but someone who has proven himself to us by going beyond the expected to make us comfortable and show us that he cares.

Although all Realtors work off the MLS list, the differentiating factor can be just how much effort the agent you choose is willing to put in on your behalf. It can make the critical difference as we have discovered.

But you need to "know thyself" for any agent to be successful on your behalf. If your budget really can't reach for that luxury home you are smitten with, it's best not to waste your time or your agent's time on pipe dreams, as nice as they are. If a condo that you can more easily rent out makes most sense in the scheme of things, it's adviseable to concentrate your efforts on those kind of properties. That cute, little cottage is sure adorable, but how will it accommodate your large family and their friends?

And one thing is for sure, if you purchase on Sanibel, you will discover family and friends you barely knew you had!

I have enjoyed house hunting on the Island immensely. It is much akin to a treasure hunt with the best of Sanibel revealed with every turn and nuance in the search. But I have taken my time, paced myself, and blended my investment adventures with vacation explorations so that my stay on Island has always been a pleasure...even when the perfect property was not always discovered on that particular trip.

Sylvia Guarino, Guest Blogger

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Calusa Were First Known Names on Sanibel Island

The rich and famous have frequented Sanibel and though we would not drop any names they would be recognized if we did. All have left their footprints, gently, on the sands of Sanibel, but none have left their footprints as deeply as the Calusa.

About 5,000 years ago, rushing rivers deposited an enormous amount of silt in the Gulf of Mexico forming the tropical barrier islands along the Southwest Florida coast. Its newly formed islands and bays were awash with a bountiful supply of fish and shellfish that attracted archaic peoples from across southern Florida who established a permanent settlement. These people were the early predecessors of the Calusa Indians.

The Calusa set up villages near their life source – the water. There was not enough land to grow the amount of crops needed to feed all the tribe members, so the Calusa looked to the bays, streams, rivers and Gulf and turned up a smorgasbord of shrimp, crab, trout, snook, and just about every possible delectable seafood.

Without the worry of where the next meal would come from, the Calusa were free to develop a complex society, which they did at an astonishing rate. There was a two-tier caste system, a well-armed, highly structured military and an extended noble family. Common people provided food, dug canals and labored at the construction of immense, complex shell works and water systems.

An archaeological site is certainly not the first thought that one has of this secluded tropical resort, yet it is fundamental to the understanding of an island that has become a world renowned vacation destination.

From these roots sprang the Sanibel Island that we know and love.

In 1963, a 3 mile causeway was constructed from the mainland to the eastern end of Sanibel. Soon after the bridge was completed, Sanibel incorporated, and the municipal government passed strong zoning laws, with much of the island set aside for protection. As a result, half of the land in Sanibel is designated as natural areas, with two preserves protecting the island ecology and wildlife. This preservation and conservation of land and wildlife make Sanibel a unique resort island, unlike any other in Florida and with few rivals within the continental USA.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sailing by the Light of the Silvery Moon

For many, South West Florida means boating, whether that be a sailboat, a canoe or a cruise ship.

And, to be sure, if cruising is your style, there are no end of cruises to be found on and around Sanibel Island.

There are cruises in the morning, cruises in the evening, cruises all year round, including gambling cruises.

Every day of the year, two ships based out of Ft. Myers Beach offer evening cruises for passengers 21 and older, who want to wine, dine, and gamble.

The 167-foot Europa Sea Kruz holds 350 people and leaves from Snug Harbor Resort. The ship, which journeys in a big circle, is scheduled to depart at 6:30 p.m. and return at 12:30 a.m., Sundays through Thursdays. It lasts a half-hour longer on Fridays and Saturdays for the party animals. The cruise includes a sit-down dinner.

A relative newcomer on the Ft. Myers Beach gambling boat scene is the Big M Casino, a 2-year-old, 162-foot ship that can carry 400 passengers. All year long, Sundays through Thursdays, its evening cruise departs Moss Marine at 6 p.m. and returns at 11:30 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, the ship leaves at 6:45 p.m. and returns at 12:45 a.m. The ship must go out nine miles, where international waters begin, before the gambling can begin. Floating up the coast from Naples to Fort Myers; the ship doesn't anchor. The trip includes live entertainment and a 110-seat restaurant. Once in awhile, some passengers go along just for the trip, but most, of course, are aboard to play blackjack, roulette, and slot machines.

And certainly you will find some romance and charm on the moon lit waters whether you gamble or not.

But if you are truly a moon-light sailor, you might want to consider something a little more adventurous and explore an extended cruise.

Extended cruising means sailing overnight, a weekend or even a week. Sail out beyond reach of the phone, fax, e-mails and enjoy the "quiet time" and learn why and how things are done on board while away from the reach of civilization.

The beautiful, sleek and "silvery" sailing sloop, the New Moon, can sail North or South from Captiva. You can choose to sail south to the Keys or the Dry Tortugas. Or sail north up the West coast of Florida and explore the Intercoastal Waterway or Florida Bay. Little Shark River and Tampa Bay are just a few of the Florida spots to see and enjoy. There are beaches, islands, rivers and bays to enjoy all around, and you can see them on the New Moon from such different perspectives that you will never forget the beauty and majesty of Southwest Florida's Gulf of Mexico coastline.

And maybe you can even make that midnight stop, a glass of wine and your beloved, on the warm sands under a moonlit sky. You can make the words of the darling poem, The Owl and Pussycat, come to life!

"And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

October On and Around Sanibel Offers Great Weather and Great Fun

Want to s t r e t c h out your summer? Then think about spending some part of October on Sanibel.

The Island is really ready for you in October. The weather is cooling down a bit, summer vacationers are gone and winter vacationers not yet arrived. No crowds, yet loads of things to do.

Topping off a very long list of activities are the incredibly interesting Ding Darling Days, truly something for everyone. The event runs from October 18 to October 24, in the National Wildlife Refuge, of course. And the menu is most tantalizing.

The 6 day spectacular, morning til night, concentrates on wildlife in many ways: talks, tours, workshops and exhibits to name just a few.

Among the free events, there will be talks about wildlife, a reptile show, naturalist narrated tram tours, face painting....even free hot dogs and drinks.

And for a nominal fee nature cruises, kayaking and bird watching caravans will be offered.

We think it's motivation sufficient to come to Sanibel Island just for the Ding Darling Days.

But there's more!

An exciting and beautiful regatta will take place right off the Island in Fort Myers Beach on October 3 and 4, and you don't need to own a boat to enjoy it.

Fifty boats carrying 250 sailors will compete in the 44th annual Summerset Regatta. Sailors from up and down the Southwest Florida coast participate in this first sailing event of the season. Buoy races will take place on October 3rd, and a distance race will happen on the 4th.

For spectators, the sight of billowy sails and sleek yachts racing with the wind stirs romantic notions of a sport that requires skill, strategy, and muscle.

Shore activities will be based at the Pink Shell Resort on Fort Myers Beach, so both days will be good for watching the activities kick off from the shore.

Crowds gather on the Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier and the beach around it for a staggered send-off of the different divisions of boats beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 3rd.

And if ships brings to mind visions of pirates, you're in luck. The 4th Annual Pirate Festival takes place from October 9th to October 11th. Again, the Festival is right off Sanibel at Fort Myers Beach. Join the merry making as (friendly) pirates invade the island in ship to shore battles, food, period entertainment and period vendors.

Now, really, with dozens of things to do and weather that is beckoning, is there any reason you should not put Sanibel on your October calendar?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nascrab Races on Sanibel Provide Great Fun For the Light of Heart

Tween Waters Inn on Captiva has a most unusual form of entertainment on Monday and Thursday nights. The Crow's Nest Restaurant features a crab race at 6 and 9 p.m. This Nascrab competition is a 20 year old island tradition where each member of the audience who wants to participate (and pays their $2.00) gets to choose a crab and name it, urging it on to win with hoots and whistles as well a round of applause.

Of course, this is done with a lot joking (some of the language not real wholesome) around and even some irritating derision from the announcer of the race. So if you don't come with a little sense of humor and your $2.00 you won't be able to enjoy the evening. Keeping in mind that half of the monies go to a charity (United Way) helps to keep the evening a little more purposeful, but there are some who don't mind the derision or getting sprayed with a water bottle or even losing the race. And for those who win, three winners in total, they are able to keep half the winnings.

There are several "heats" during the night and a presentation of awards at the end. And, oh yes, there's also a winner's circle where photographs are taken.

OK, so it's not the Kentucky Derby, but it is something typically islandy and the price of admission is not going to hold anyone back!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Islands in the Gulf: Sanibel's Little Sisters

Cabbage Key and Useppa Islands have their own followings, the former more easily visited for a stay over. But the difference between the 2 little islands is dramatic.

Cabbage Key, tiny, funky and pretty much uninhabited offers a taste of olde Florida.
Cabbage Key was a private island retreat for the Rinehart family from 1929 to 1944 when it was purchased by Larry and Jan Stults. Larry and Jan Stults opened up the charming island hideaway to the public. In the years since, it has ceased to be a "totally secluded" retreat, as it has grown in popularity, thanks in part, to the ultimate promoter of "South Florida laid-back lifestyle," Jimmy Buffett, whose song, Cheeseburger in Paradise, is said to have been inspired by his favorite dish at the Cabbage Key Inn during his frequent visits to the island.
You can visit for the day and enjoy that cheeseburger at the Inn or go for the more locally inspired dishes on the menu, such as peel-and-eat Gulf shrimp, grilled mahi-mahi and, of course, the ever-present slice of Florida lifestyle, Key-lime pie. But if you can spare a weekend from your trip to Sanibel, consider a real island getaway at the historic Cabbage Key Inn or the 7 cottages on the little island.

Useppa, perhaps even smaller than Cabbage Key, is pristine and does not offer an overnight stay unless you own a piece of the valuable real estate. It is a tiny tropical gem with lovely cottages and a beautiful Inn gracing the shores.

A private island, the visitor to Useppa only gets an infrequent and short lived glimpse by journeying to the Island for a lunch, look and learn. There, in the tiny museum, one can see history played out in the various exhibits and artifacts.

Continuously inhabited for ten thousand years, Useppa was home to nomadic peoples who roamed in search of food in prehistoric times. About ten thousand years ago, the Calusa civilization arose to become one of the most sophisticated native societies to have evolved in North America.

Centuries later, the waters around Useppa and the surrounding barrier islands are popularly thought to have been populated by fierce pirates seeking bounty and treasures. In one of the area's most important myths, legend has it that in the late 1700s, a Spanish pirate named Jose Gaspar kidnapped and imprisoned a Spanish princess named Joseffa de Mayorga. Gaspar the Pirate is said to have favored Joseffa over all the many women he had captured in his ocean conquests. When his attempts to capture Joseffa's heart were met with contempt, Gaspar used Useppa Island to imprison the proud princess, and the isle came to be known as "Joseffa's Island." Over many ensuing years, legend says that the changing local dialects gradually morphed "Joseffa" into "Useppa," giving the island it's unique name today.

Over the years, the island was purchased and developed by Barron G. Collier and utilized as a base for tarpon fishing and for entertaining the rich and famous. The island was later abandoned and used by the U.S. government as a base for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

All of this, truth or fiction, is fascinating, but not necessary to enjoying the islands. They are magical little places regardless of the veracity of the creation of Jimmy Buffet's music or the pirate myth.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Best Kitchen On Sanibel Could Be Your Own

We all know that there are dozens of good restaurants on Sanibel Island. Some are fancier than others, and some are better than others, but no one is going to go back home saying that there was no good food to be found on their Sanibel vacation.

But the best chef on the Island could turn out to be you!

The greatest number of visitors to Sanibel choose self catering accommodations. In fact, one of reasons that travel guests want a condo or house, rather than an inn or hotel room, is to have the ability to cook and eat in as desired.

Now, visitors to the island have it easier than ever.

Both of the larger grocery stores on Sanibel, Bailey's and Jerry's, have terrific inventories of all kinds of foods from basic staples to gourmet selections. And now they offer the added convenience of allowing you to call in your order or order on line. You can pick it up or have it delivered to your lodging. And they go beyond delivering. They will actually put away your groceries even before you arrive, so you can walk in the door and have your cupboards brimming. Would you like a cold beer after that hot climb up the stairs with all your luggage? It's right there in your own refrigerator!

As one would imagine, the delivery and put away services are at additional cost, but if you truly want a stress and responsibility free vacation, this is a great way to begin one.

Both stores offer recipes on line for healthy and hearty main dishes and tantalizing desserts and Jerry's offers coupons on many store items.

Jerry's website has meal planning on the home page and Bailey's website offers a long list of gluten free and organic foods to be found in the store as well as recipes for gluten free meals.

While most vacationers are not going to make elaborate meals, the option to cook in and eat exactly what you want is one more reason a vacation rental is so very appetizing!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Take the Frustration out of Vacation Planning!

Everything is starting to fall into place for your vacation. Your boss approved your dates, you picked the ideal destination, the budget has been set and you already started the dreaded search for the perfect bathing suit. Next, you sit down at your computer and immediately realize you have no idea what to do first. You start fondly remembering the days of real live travel agents located in the very spot you wanted to go. Frustration starts setting in and you wonder if all the hassle will be worth it.
You're not alone! The frustration factor associated with vacation planning is no uncommon these days. The Internet can be a double edged sword; information at your finger tips, but so much that it is difficult to sift through. Most rental companies offer online booking engines and highly encourage potential guests to use them. Although this process sounds simple and convenient it can make the search more grueling. Many long for the day of speaking with a real person and when it comes to booking your vacation the personal touch is important. Below are a few simple tips to help put the fun back in the vacation planning process!
1. Chamber of Commerce: Start by visiting the Chamber of Commerce's website. Not only is it a wealth of information on the destination but is also provides links for all local members.
2. Trust the locals: When booking accommodations it is important to get advice from the people who know the area best. Be sure, whenever possible, that you are dealing with someone who is located in the spot you want to visit and who has seen the accommodations you are considering.
3. Make a list: Before you start your search make a list of your must haves in an accommodation. This will help your reservation specialist narrow down the available choices as well as make sure you get everything you want out of your vacation. Some criteria to consider are type of view, number of bedrooms and on site amenities.
4. Work your budget: Know in advance what you want to spend and convey this to your reservation specialist. Contrary to popular belief this is not tantamount to showing your hand in a game of poker. Rather it will save you time and prevent disappointment because a professional will only recommend accommodations within your price range. Plus, since reservation specialists are customer service oriented they will help get the most bang for your buck.
5. Ask the right questions: Once you find an accommodation company that you trust be sure to get all the necessary information up front. Getting details such as check-in/check-out times, reservation policies/procedures and specifics about your unit will help keep vacation planning stress to a minimum. Lastly, make sure you ask what is included with the unit. For example, will you need to bring beach towels or a hair dryer.
We hope these pointers lead to a stress free vacation....from start to finish!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sanibel Island Offers Schools Without Walls

At a time when vacations have to be justified in the family budget, Sanibel Island's format for learning is just one more attraction for a beautiful resort island.
One distinguishing characteristic of the island is the ability to learn about nature in a variety of ways. One can learn on their own to be sure, but there are many more interesting ways to take lessons on Sanibel.
For those interested in getting a handle on the environmental issues affecting marine habitats - a matter of vital importance to anyone who eats seafood and is concerned about sustainability - this part of Florida is becoming a must see destination. Regardless of your idea of what a vacation is, the ability to get an up close and personal view of this unique environment is priceless.
Sanibel has beautiful wildlife refuges and ecologically minded outdoor outfitters that provide world-class birding, kayaking and shelling opportunities.
And quite recently, marine biologist Bruce Neill and his wife, Evelyn Neill, founded the innovative Sanibel Sea School to fill a gap in the ecotourism world: educating kids through fun, hands-on activities about the importance of preserving the ecosystem.
The school room for the Sanibel Sea School is the sea itself, the Gulf of Mexico.
Also of enormous instructional value is the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (C.R.O.W.)
The primary mission of C.R.O.W. is the rescue, care, rehabilitation and eventual release back to the wild of sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife. Inherent in this mission is the education of adults and children to insure their peaceful coexistence with their wild neighbors.
C.R.O.W. provides educational opportunities for students from schools across the United States and other nations by allowing them to participate in the wildlife rehabilitation process while introducing them to both Western and Eastern medical traditions.
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) is dedicated to preserving natural resources and wildlife habitat on and around Sanibel and Captiva islands. SCCF manages over 1300 acres of land on the islands (and owns an additional 500 acres on nearby Pine Island).
The SCCF Marine Laboratory actively conducts research in areas including sea grasses, mangroves, harmful algal blooms, fish population and shellfish restoration. SCCF's RECON (River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network) network of eight in-water sensors provides real-time, hourly readings of key water quality parameters - spanning a 90-mile area - which are available on their site. Their weather station provides current data from their station on Sanibel-Captiva Road on Sanibel.
SCCF offers a wide array of educational programs for people of all ages, from beach walks to trail walks, boat tours, wading trips and kayak tours plus classroom based activities. And, their educational staff works closely with area schools.
Whether you are seeking adventure, relaxation or an educational experience Sanibel offers the perfect backdrop for a well rounded vacation experience!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Why It "Pays" to Choose a Vacation Rental Over A Hotel

You might have guessed it. Looking at the way airlines have tried to make up for lost revenues by charging additional fees for everything that was once provided gratis, could the hotel industry be far behind?

Well, it wasn't.

It has become pro forma for hotels and resorts to charge where ever they can, however they can. This is true for both high and low end hotels, chains and independents.

Many of them are charging mandatory valet parking fees if you show up with a car. Some have upped their "resort fees," required whether or not you use the pool or exercise room. Housekeeping gratuities and bellman fees are aggressively being added to bills, travelers report. Some motels are even charging for in-room safes, regardless of whether you use them.

These add ons are making alternative accommodations look more and more appealing. Let's look at the common amenities in a vacation rental, home or condo, that come with the territory:

1. The vacation rental (home or condo) will most likely offer you a complete kitchen where you can cook in rather than eat out in the hotel or inn restaurant. This is an enormous savings for families with children as well as the option to eat healthy in rather than fast food out.

2. The vacation rental will offer you a laundry room for free instead of laundry service that comes at additional cost.

3. The vacation rental will most likely provide free internet service at no additional fee.

4. The vacation rental will, in many instances, provide digital phone service where you can make long distances calls at no extra charge.

5. The vacation rental will offer in/home/condo DVD selections. No need to "pay on demand" for movies in many VR's.

6. The vacation rental will provide books, games and other diversions meeting the needs of a wide range of people.

7. The vacation rental will not only have available free beach chairs, towels and beach umbrellas, but also offer beach toys for kids and adults.

8. The vacation rental invites and allows for family gatherings in a home like setting. Where does the family "hang out" together at a hotel or inn?

9. The vacation rental personalizes the "guest" experience if you rent by owner or through an agency. You will be remembered if you return. You are not just a number to the people in this industry, owners or managers.

10. The vacation rental offers free parking. Always.

Some hotels may be pushing room-service prices and fees higher; others are raising rates on services like accepting faxes and deliveries, laundering clothes and local phone calls, and upping penalties for early checkout and cancellation. Internet service is getting more expensive, running up to $19.95 a day. Local taxes are being pushed higher, too, as governments look for ways to balance budgets and minimize the impact on local taxpayers.

Albeit, hotel rooms cater for that one or two night stay, a rarity in a vacation rental. But if you are staying for a week or more, why would you ever consider a hotel room when you could have a spacious condo or nice home for less money and more free amenities?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Men's Journal Names Sanibel in Their Top 20 Beaches

The cover of the recent issue of Men's Journal magazine catches the eye for at least two reasons. One is the striking head shot of Lance Armstrong. And then there is the header on the top of the cover which says The Twenty Best Beaches in America.

Now, even if I were not in awe of Lance Armstrong's achievements and personal challenges, I would certainly want to know the magazine's choices for best beaches.

Categorizing the beaches by their location and best uses of what they have to offer, Men's Journal ranked the 20 best beaches in America listing Sanibel Island along with other Gulf Coast beaches including Grand Isle, Louisiana (sports beach), Padre National Seashore, Texas (secluded beach) and South Padre Island, Texas (party beach). The four top family beaches cited include Hunting Island, South Carolina, Coronado, California, Cannon Beach, Oregon and Crescent Beach on Block Island, Rhode Island.

Sanibel's Lighthouse Beach is featured as the best family beach that the Gulf Coast---and in fact, all of Florida---has to offer.

According to the magazine, Sanibel was chosen because, "the water here is warm, calm and shallow, making it ideal for the kids; the beach is perfect for sandcastles and is loaded with shells, especially when low tide exposes its offshore sandbars."

The only other Florida beach to be listed in the magazine is Key West, cited for its party atmosphere at Mallory Square.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Fifth Season on Sanibel is Turtle Season

Though subtle, Sanibel Island has seasonal changes. There's the dry and brilliant sunshine of winter, the breezy days of spring, the heat and humidity of summer, the calm before the storm of early fall. And there's the exiting and iconic loggerhead turtle season.

Perhaps the island itself does not change in turtle season, more often called nesting season, but those who live here definitely do through a bit of morphing. The culture of "do not disturb" permeates the environment from May through October, reaching its peak in the month of July.

Each day during turtle season, the 18 miles of Gulf beaches from the Sanibel Lighthouse to the tip of Captiva are checked beginning at dawn as part of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation's Sea Turtle Research and Monitoring Program. In some areas, volunteers walk designated zones of beach. On other stretches, the patrol is done by beach vehicle. Nests are identified and marked for monitoring and protection. Later in the season new hatches are evaluated and recorded. The statewide collection of data helps promote programs that improve the chances for sea turtles to survive.

Loggerheads are tough to see but their tracks are easy to spot on the early morning beach. Female turtles will make the long trek back to their nesting area and during the night will crawl to the beach, dig a deep hole with their hind flippers, lay her eggs, cover up the nest, and return to the water. The procedure, once they find their nesting beach, may take as long as three hours. Each nest may contain nearly 100 ping pong ball sized eggs.

Upon hatching, the little turtles make a mad dash for the water, following the light of the horizon. Because this light is so essential to the hatchlings survival, there are no street lights on Sanibel less they distract and disorient the hatchlings. Despite this mandated caution by human beings, this short trip is filled with other hazards including dehydration as well as raccoons, birds and crabs that may snack on them before they hit the water. Once in the water, they are just bite size morsels for larger fish, including sharks. Only about 1 in 100 eggs will become and adult turtle which takes at least 16 years.

Last year, there were more than 330 nests on Sanibel and Captiva, 150 more than the year before. The nesting outcomes were considered a tremendous success over previous years in Southwest Florida and has heightened the excitement and anticipation for this year.

For those interested in a true nature exploration and the opportunity to see a wondrous process of re-population, turtle season offers an up close and personal view of what Sanibel Island is all about.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Great Summer "Companion" Reads on Sanibel

It's that time of year when those of us heading to the beach are looking for a good companion.

Books make great companions, or at least their authors and characters do. Maybe they don't communicate with us, but they do communicate to us.

And, on Sanibel, as with all travels, it's a nice environmental enhancement to have a good read that really makes you not only know, but feel the place.

Anyone with a yen for a good book that helps to put them on the Island has several choices.

There are dozens of great reads out there by the now famous Randy Wayne White. White, who began his literary career as Randy Striker and also used the nom de plume of Carl Ramm, has brought to life a very interesting literary character by the name of Doc Ford. Doc is an ex-NSA officer that has returned home to SW Florida to start a new life. He is a marine biologist (his front while being an NSA operative) and the owner of the one man operation Sanibel Biological Supply. He lives in an old stilt house on fictional Dinkins Bay that also serves as his lab. Close by, at Dinkins Bay Marina, are his neighbors and friends. And, it's nice that the Island has paid homage to Doc Ford in having a really delightful eatery in his name.

Doc is an interesting guy and has been featured in 16 novels by White who is every bit as interesting as his Doc character and worth knowing about before you plunge into his writing. White has traveled extensively and participated in a wide variety of adventures, including dog sledding in Alaska, helping to re-establish Little League baseball in Cuba, and ferrying Cuban refugees to safety during the Mariel boatlift. His writing certainly reflects his spirit of adventure, a helpful background in knowing he is not just an armchair traveler.

Lesser known, but arguably no less talented, Christine Lemmon writes about Sanibel in a way that is provocative and inspiring. Her two novels based on life on Sanibel, Sanibel Scribbles and Portion of the Sea will put you on Island where ever you are. A Sanibel resident, Lemmon also had an interesting background with her loving family who moved about and lived life out of the box.

If you are not the fiction reading type, there are many great books that are based on actual events and history. One of these, renowned for its poetry of language and insightfulness is A Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the widow of aviator and conservationist Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., was a noted writer and aviation pioneer.

Her novel, written on Captiva, A Gift From the Sea, has transcended generations and inspired millions. Her words, written at Gulf side, present a calm vision "...I want first of be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact - to borrow from the language of the saints - to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible...By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony...I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God..."

Are you looking for a calm introspection on your Sanibel beach blanket? Then take Lindbergh or Lemmon with you!

And if you want more action than thought, grab Randy White!

Whoever you choose, you will not be alone and your beach experience will be the best one yet.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Staying Close to Home: Sanibel Is the Ideal Staycation

Each summer we see an influx of new birds on Sanibel Island. I call them sunbirds. Unlike the snowbirds who escape the cold and frost of northern climes in winter, the sunbirds are Floridians who want to completely change their environment for a week or two, yet stay close to home.

I don't know the official percentage, but I would guess that 50 percent of tourists coming to Sanibel Island in summer are coming from such locales as Miami, metro Tampa/ Clearwater as well as many of the inland towns such as Ocala, Gainesville and Kissimee/Orlando.

Obviously, escaping the traffic and noise of a larger city for the quietude and relaxation of a barrier island is one of the reasons for this migration.

And, having the emerald colored and calm gulf at your door step is another.

For nature lovers, the wild life is a big attraction.

But there are many other reasons--- not so obvious--- that bring Floridians to the tropical paradise of Sanibel.

During summer, Sanibel Island often offers accommodations that have a more flexible price and arrival/departure than they do in high season. Many condos and homes offer discounts in general, and especially so to "local residents".

In addition, and this is something we see quite often, a family may only have a week or two of vacation, but they can get away for long week-ends. This kind of flexibility in a rental guest's vacation stay frequently encourages mom and dad to rent a house for a whole month and go back and forth to their residence. Private homes are usually offered for a better price point because of the nature of supply and demand. A three bedroom home, if rented for the month of August as example, will generally price out lower per week than a three bedroom condo.

Aside from the appeal of more affordable lodging, summer on the Island holds the allure of better fishing than many other good fishing points throughout the state. And, sailing from Sanibel's marinas to other locations is also of great appeal as the waters are not crowded with boats in summer.

Sanibel blends the best of nature with a wide range of lodging and restaurants. It's no wonder it is the get-away of choice for so many of the state's most educated consumers!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sanibel's Chico's Holds An Appealing Secret

I love the Chico's on Sanibel and I guess I am not alone as the tiny island has been able to support not just one but two shops, though I must confess to only shopping in the original Chico's on Palm Ridge. There, the store manager entices me with tales of the founding of Chico's and resolved my confusion with the name. Since chico in Spanish means boy, I was initially surprised that the store is solely women's apparel.

But the manager showed me who the real Chico was, and that not only dismissed my confusion, but added to the charm of shopping in the original store.Chico, the store's namesake, was a gorgeous parrot, and no doubt, like the rest of us, he must have been enamored with life on the Island. In the large picture of him found in the back of the store, he appears to be smiling and quite pleased with his domain.

And who could blame him? What 2 legged, 4 legged or finned or winged creature would not fine a life of bliss on this island paradise?But despite the great merchandising of Chico's, I am concerned that an island the size of Sanibel could continue to sustain two shops with the same name and both selling only women's clothing.

And so I tell our rental guests when they are looking for a place to shop that they should go to Chico's. Not only is the merchandise different (and better!) than in other stores around the country, but there they will have the fun and good fortune of discovering Chico's secret.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sanibel Offers a Great Home Schooling Model

The world has changed.

We telecommute to work.

We shop on line.

And we home school.

Now, if you did not know how significant a trend home schooling is, consider that in the state of Florida alone there were 56,000 children learning at home in 2007, up from 10,039 in the 1991-92 school year.

There are controversial aspects to home schooling. Many towns and cities in Florida and across the country complain about the loss of per pupil funding. Educators point to the "brain drain" with some of the most affluent and articulate parents no longer involved in public education. Others challenge whether parents as a whole have the skills to teach. And social scientists question whether the home school environment sufficiently prepares children for the diversity of democratic living or adequately socializes them for main stream USA.

But according to a study done at the University of Florida for the home schooled child there is much to gain.

The study found home schoolers were generally more patient and less competitive. They tended to introduce themselves to one another more; they didn't fight as much. And the home schoolers were much more prone to exchange addresses and phone numbers.For now, home schooling is still growing, and it's no longer confined to a fringe that may never have believed in the idea of public education. People from all political and social strata are discovering the benefits of home schooling.Of course, home schooling is not for every family.

The necessity of at least one parent being home for the concept to work would eliminate the opportunity for many moms and dads who work out of the home. And no doubt there are an enormous amount of resources required for home schooling to function well.

But the benefits are numerous, including the opportunity for the family not to be tied to summer months or winter holidays to vacation. And off season vacations are generally less expensive, so there is cost savings as well as flexibility built into the holiday.

We have had several home school families stay at our vacation rental properties on Sanibel for anywhere from a week to several months. Those who stayed for extended periods were able to do so as the parents worked from home. But both groups wrote back to say how wonderful the experience was. In a few instances the experience was so good that the families decided to make Sanibel their home, and bought their own properties.

Sanibel is a small community and for the home schooling family, it is easy to meet other home schoolers who can become part of a play group or study group.In addition, there are many organizations on the Island that have classes, projects and courses that are available all year round during the week as well as week-ends. The learning that takes place in these venues become a study unit of great interest to both the student and parent.

And, of course, for home schoolers or any one visiting the island, the environment provides for spontaneous and natural learning. Children and adults exploring Sanibel are guaranteed to find a wealth of discovery on a daily basis.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Try A Different Kind of Way This Summer

Thinking of hitting your local beach but are daunted by the thoughts of fighting all the other "staycationers" on the roads?

I don't blame you. Sitting in traffic is never fun. So let your thoughts drift.

Instead of cars and traffic, picture this: You are on a different kind of "thoroughfare", no traffic, blue skies, birds above your head, manatees swimming next to you, warm sunshine on your face and arms. No horns blaring, different scenery along the way, no tolls, no watching the gas tank needle drop. Where are you? You are on the Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. You are in a
kayak. You are alone with your thoughts, or perhaps accompanied by loved ones in nearby kayaks. You are at peace.

According to Lee County's Parks and Recreation Department, the Calusa Blueway is truly unique. It's a 190-mile marked canoe and kayak trail that meanders through Lee County's coastal waters and inland tributaries.Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast is dotted with sugar-sand beaches – slivers of paradise on barrier islands. What’s harbored behind the islands, though, is a maze of mysterious mangroves – leggy, saltwater tolerant trees – and wildlife that rivals destinations North Americans need passports to visit. The trail’s trek through shallow water keeps paddlers safely away from places powerboats travel, and it puts them closer to nature, where blush-colored roseate spoonbills feed at dawn, schools of silver-hued fish dart beneath their boats and lumbering manatees feed on sea grasses.The trail provides recreational opportunities,
cultural and environmental awareness, and boosted safety with a low environmental impact for Lee County’s 2 million annual tourists as well as its 600,000 residents.

It effectively unveils the mystery of the mangroves and estuaries but does so with ease so any newcomer to paddling can explore the waterways once plied by the Calusas, the natives who thrived for centuries in Southwest Florida before the Spaniards’ arrival. Many Calusa landmarks, such as shell mounds, remain and are noted on the trail.Unlike most U.S. and Canadian paddling trails, the Great Calusa Blueway is marked with signs.

Think of them as Hänsel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs. Further safety is provided with Global Positioning System coordinates on Lee County Park's Web site. Free
maps are printed with grant money and are available at various locations — outfitters, marinas, retail sites, parks, boat ramps, office buildings, chambers of commerce, airports, visitor centers, etc.The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail was created to help people experience the natural magic of Lee County.

Forget The Discovery Channel or National Geographic. Come paddle yourself, one-on-one with nature.It's a great way to spend your summer (or spring, fall or winter) vacation, and there's more.Picture this: At the end of of a day of wondrous paddling, you head back to your
condo or house on Sanibel Island. No roughing it there.

You are surrounded by luxurious air conditioning. You can make your own late afternoon snack or prepare a sumptuous dinner. Or just take a hot shower and head out to one of the many great restaurants. Life is good when you trade the highway for the Blueway!