Friday, March 27, 2009

Shell Collecting and Shell Preserving on Sanibel

Sanibel Island is renowned for its great shelling. It is considered to be in the top 3 shell collecting beaches in the world. The phrase "Sanibel Stoop" refers to the many people you will see all year long bent over collecting shells from the beach. It is the iconic activity on Sanibel and what draws vacationers from all over the world.

Unlike fishing where you might come home empty handed, a shelling expedition is certain to yield some treasures.But first the treasure hunter needs to be prepared to make the most of the shelling experience and protect the shells found and gathered.The most important thing to keep in mind is the golden rule of shell collecting: If it's alive, leave it! Living shells are not allowed in your shell collection.

The State of Florida has outlawed the collecting of live shells on the island. "Live shell" is defined as any specimen containing an inhabitant, whether or not the mollusk seems alive. The law also protects sand dollars, starfish and sea urchins. All shelling is prohibited in J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Aside from avoiding collecting live shells, it is best for the Island ecology not to try to remove buckets of shells from the beaches. It is also best for you. Not only are the shells an example of your cup runneth over when you arrive home with lots of shells and no where to keep them, shell collections are best viewed as "less is more".

There are few places in the world where you can bring home such beauty from a vacation, and all for free!So with a cautionary and conservation philosophy in mind, here are the steps for collecting and preserving shells:Be Prepared.

Bring a bucket, a net bag and a scoop, and plenty of sun lotion as well as a hat if it is a hot, sunny day (as most days are on Sanibel!). (You may find that these necessities are already stocked in your vacation rental. Look before you buy is always a good policy in getting to know your accommodation and what comes "included".

You may collect sand dollars but first check to make sure that the sand dollar is not alive - turn it over - there are little centipede feet up and down the backside -gently touch them with your finger to see if they move and its alive. If alive gently place back into the water and if they do not move, then you have just found one of the islands treasures!

Shell at low tide preferably and after a storm to find the maximum number of shells and maximum variety. There is good shelling on most beaches on Sanibel, but not all. Bowman's Beach, on Sanibel's far west end, is considered one of the best shelling beaches on the Island.

Soak shells in a 50/50 solution of water and bleach for a few hours or overnight. If any barnacles or other matter is left remove them with a pick or toothbrush. To make shells shine wipe with mineral oil or baby oil.

To bleach a sand dollar white it is important to soak it in fresh water first. Water will be a brownish color, so you will need to change water frequently until fairly clear or just continually flush with water until the water stays fairly clear. Soak it in a 50/50 solution of bleach and water for 5-10 minutes. Do not soak too long in bleach solution as the sand dollar may crumble. Rinse thoroughly, let dry preferably in the sun to bleach further.

So, what do you do with your treasures when you get home?The options are endless. You can create decorations of them, give them as gifts, use them as paper weights.

Or, simply hold one in your hand and dream a little dream of your vacation on Sanibel.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dog Friendly Sanibel Offers Options and Opportunities

You, the sea, the setting sun, a glass of wine and your constant companion at your side. No, not your spouse, your dog! Sanibel Island is considered one of the most pet friendly vacation spots in the USA.So if it is not an option for you to take a trip without Fido, Sanibel is the place to go~!

And there are alternatives if you do want to travel with your pooch. If you are only staying for a week, there are pet friendly condos where you can stay. Most, however, have a weight restriction of 25 or 30 pounds, so you do need to check on limitations.

If you are staying for 28 days or more, you will be able to find a house that allows a pet (and sometimes even 2 pets) depending on size, species and breed.

Whether condo or house, make sure you clarify with the rental agency you are using if there is an additional fee to bring your best buddy. In almost all instances, there will be a pet fee, and most times it is non-refundable. The fee generally ranges from $250 to $400, often contingent on the breed of dog. The fee is used by the owner to do a special clean up on your departure, banishing any tell tale signs that there was a pet in the place.

If the fee puts you off, consider the alternatives.....leaving your beloved at home with friends or family or boarding the adorable beast which will probably cost you as much as the pet fee. And where will your pet be happiest? Well, that's up to you to decide. In addition to pet friendly accommodations, you will find that the people on Sanibel and business owners will be pet friendly as well.

This extends to your being able to take your dog with you to the beach. Dogs must be on a leash, but this is a very small price to pay for access to such a beautiful spot to enjoy your dog. Here you’ll see lots of birds, tropical plants and wetlands. Pets (leashed) are permitted on Bowman's Beach, Algiers Beach, Lighthouse Park Beach, and Tarpon Bay Road Beach.

Vacation rental properties do offer all the comforts of home, including the comfort of having your best friend with you at all times!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sanibel Should Be On Top of Check List for Weddings and Honeymoons

There were a plethora of TV programs on the Travel Channel this past week-end dealing with "bests" of beach destinations and beach accommodations. There was The Ten Most Romantic Beaches segment, The Ten Sexiest Beaches segment, The Ten Most Extreme Beaches segment and a whole host of other shows featuring destinations and accommodations that ranged in price from $200 a night to $250,000 for a week's stay.

But let's assume that most people getting married and most people reading this blog post can't afford the luxury of Necker Island or Musha Cay. That's a very fair assumption.And let's also assume that if you are thinking of having a destination wedding, you are a little shy about inviting guests to a "destination" that is going to cost them the approximate amount of a good down payment on a 4 Bedroom home.

You do, however, have a check list of what you want:

1. A nice climate

2. A pretty environment

3. Resources to enhance your special day

4. Activities for the guests and bridal party

5. Easy access to the destination

6. And of course reasonably priced accommodations.

Can Sanibel Island match your needs?

Check: 1. For six months or more out of the year, the temperatures are sunny with nice breezes and no humidity.

Check: 2. The Gulf is a beautiful back drop for a marriage ceremony.

Check 3. All the resources a couple will need from reception venues to florists and photographers are easily found right on the Island.

Check 4. The bridal party and invited guests will have a wide variety of things to do together or independently as well as diversity of choices in lodging for the wedding, and hopefully to add some time before or after as their own vacation.

Check 5. Fort Myers is the closest airport, only 40 minutes from the island and a hub for planes coming from all over the country as well as much of Europe. Miami airport is only a 3 hour drive and services national and international flights. Sarasota airport is less than 2 hours away and Tampa is again, a 3 hour drive.In addition to these 4 airports that can be the transportation connection for guests traveling by plane and from hundreds of locations, the highways into Florida are very good and easy to travel for guests who may be closer and wanting to use their own cars to get to the island.

Check 6. Accommodations range from condos to houses and span a wide range of prices from last minute discounts to value packed and diversified digs where you and your guests can be right at home.

Considering the reasonable cost, convenience and appeal of a wedding on a small and well managed resort island, Sanibel Island would appear the holiday spot to tie the knot!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Determining The Value of A Vacation Rental

During this particularly value conscious period of time, more and more attention is being paid to the "alternate" vacation accommodation. Families are opting to stay in vacation rentals, whether they be condos or private homes, as the value is apparent.

Rather than renting a hotel room suite or 2 rooms for a family of 4 or 5 people, everyone can be more comfortable with an apartment, cottage or house offering not only more space and privacy, but literally all the comforts of home. A place where a meal can be made, where there are generally books, dvds and games for home entertainment, where a late night snack does not mean a visit to a vending machine.

For those seeking a visit to Sanibel Island during high season, there are many value options to be found. Condo units still available for weeks during the month of March are being offered as
"specials" indicating that a discounted price is now available. And vacation goers are savvy enough to know that the availability of a vacation rental does not reflect on its desirability. In a slumping economy with fewer people traveling, even nice rentals are not always filled. The vacationer should, in this market or any other, ask all the appropriate questions to assure that the rental is going to meet their needs.

The biggest challenge to the vacationer is not what generic type of lodging makes the most sense from a dollar to dollar comparison, but just what specific accommodation offers the most value.

Much of the intrinsic value of a vacation accommodation is particular to the vacationer's needs.

Gulf front condos do offer a special view on the world, but those a little further from the beach may offer a more spacious accommodation. Similarly, if the renter wants to be close to the causeway onto Sanibel for easiest entrance/exit, the east end of Island may offer the most value.

Vacation rentals, though an overall value, are really not one size fits all. A renter looking to maximize their vacation time should consider the priorities of their rental party in searching for and booking their place in paradise.