Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winsome, Awesome: Some Remarkable Creatures on Sanibel Island

Years ago, I had not heard of Sanibel Island.

And when first I did, it was described as a delightful, little, tropical island with great shelling.

All of that is true, but it was only after I visited a couple of times that I realized that the nature of the Island is what sets it apart from most destinations in Florida as well as the rest of the world.

Sanibel is largely a nature preserve (Ding Darling) that sees 238 species of birds migrating to and through its environment.

Two of the biggest draws for those enamored of birds are the year-round Roseate Spoonbills and the White Pelicans which can be seen on large ponds during the winter. The best time to see birds tends to be early morning hours, especially when it coincides with low tide.

The Spoonbill, a lovely shade of pink from its diet of shrimp, is indeed a winsome bird.

A large wading bird with a distinctive spatulate bill, it is one of the most striking birds found in North America. Roseate Spoonbills stand 2 feet tall and have nearly as wide a wingspan. They detect and catch their meals by wading in shallow water and sweeping their bills from side to side. Their distinctive call sounds more like someone rapping at the door than a bird song!

Perhaps more awesome than winsome, the American Bald Eagle also makes its home on Sanibel.

Though there may be as few as two who reside here, their appearance is sure to make the fortunate sighters perk up with pleasure. The Bald Eagle has been the symbol of the United States of America since 1782. At one time, the word “bald” (balde) meant white—not hairless—referring to the white head and upper neck of the adult Bald Eagle. They can live up to 40 years in the wild and even longer in captivity.

As awesome as the Eagle but even more difficult to sight is the Bobcat.With a gray to brown coat, whiskered face, and black-tufted ears, the Bobcat resembles the other species of the mid-sized Lynx genus. It is smaller than the Canadian Lynx with which it shares parts of its range, but is about twice as large as the domestic cat. It has distinctive black bars on its forelegs and a black-tipped, stubby tail, from which it derives its name.

But of the thousands of creatures, large and small, perhaps the Island "darling" is the Armadillo, both awesome and winsome.

Armadillo is a Spanish word meaning “little armored one” and refers to the bony plates that cover the back, head, legs, and tail of most of these odd looking creatures. Armadillos are the only living mammals that wear such shells. Armadillos dig burrows and sleep prolifically, up to 16 hours per day, foraging in the early morning and evening for beetles, ants, termites, and other insects. They have very poor eyesight, and utilize their keen sense of smell to hunt. Strong legs and huge front claws are used for digging, and long, sticky tongues for extracting ants and termites from their tunnels.

I just wonder why someone has not yet created a calendar built on Sanibel's winsome and awesome creatures. Now there's a bunch of pin ups I would stick on my wall!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spring Break on Sanibel: No Wild Parties and Still Lots of Fun!

Don't ask me why it is that spring vacation planning is often left to the last moment. Every family knows that there will be a spring break at their local school and that they may want to be away, preferably away some place warm.

Several weeks in March through April are spring break sessions in schools around the country.These weeks are undoubtedly the busiest weeks on Sanibel Island and other resorts in the sun. Every one knows this.Yet, each year with the arrival of February, I and other vacation property managers and owners begin receiving inquiries for a place to stay during the week of their spring break.

So, what makes spring break so popular on Sanibel?

Well, it's not the wild parties, cars on the beach, all night drinking fests and unlimited opportunities for torrid romances. There are zero to little of those distractions to be found and, in fact, the quietude of the Island, comparatively speaking, is what draws families looking for good, clean fun which can even include learning a little.

Sanibel Sea School offers programs for adults and children. For children with curiosity about their environment, there is no better way to learn.The Sanibel Sea School promotes marine conservation. Through research and education, Sanibel Sea School teaches children and adults about marine ecosystems. Using the setting of the barrier island habitats of Sanibel and Captiva as an opportunity to touch, feel and understand, the school provides a close up of sea life. Through this experience, students will gain an intimate perspective of the ocean, its inhabitants and the tightly woven fabric of our global environment. Completion of a class is awarded with a certificate of mastery, something your children can bring home along with their shell collections.

In addition to the Sanibel Sea School, C.R.O.W. (the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) offers children and families an opportunity to see how wildlife is rescued and treated successfully before release back into the wild. If your children have ever expressed interest in being a veterinarian, this experience will be fascinating for them.

And if they need a little more excitement, there are segways and scooters for rent on Island, parasailing adventures, and canoe and kayak rentals. And, just off the Island are the rides and games at Fort Myers beach. The Water Park in Cape Coral will provide all the thrills your child needs in a family friendly environment.

Bored on Sanibel? Only if you want to be!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

March Music Makes Sanibel Magic

Sanibel Island, by all accounts, is a magical land.

It's whispering Palms, off the beaten path location, and abundant wild life create a sense of tropical oasis.

But the crickets, birds and frogs are only a few of the marvelous sounds you will hear on Sanibel in March.

Because March is also the month of man made sounds, harmonious sounds, that can be heard and enjoyed throughout the month, and all at a most reasonable cost ranging from $30 to $40 per ticket.

The music, otherwise known as the Sanibel Music Festival, begins on Tuesday, March 2 with the Borealis String Quartet. This dynamic, young quartet from Canada, will be playing a diversified selection of music from such composers as Imant Karlis Raminsh, Schubert and Beethoven.

Violinist Janet Sung will join the American Chamber Players on Saturday, March 6, in a glorious concert reflecting the works of Bach, Faure, Schoenfield and Mozart.

On Tuesday, March 9, the award winning three some, The Boston Trio, will captivate its audience with music by Schubert, Mendelssohn and Smetana.
Within months of its inception in 2005, the Escher String Quartet was invited to be quartet- in- residence at both Pinchas Zuckerman's and Itzhak Perlman's summer festivals. This winter, 2010, their Sanibel performance will take place on March 13 and they will be joined by pianist Wu Han. Composers featured include Prokovief and Beethoven.

Tuesday's performance on March 16 will feature Cliburn Piano Competition Silver Medalist YeolEum Son. The program will challenge the pianist and dazzle the audience with these selections: Scarlatti: Four Sonatas; Ravel: Miroirs; Saint-Saens/Liszt: Danse Macabre, Op. 40; Rachmaninoff: 13 Preludes, Op. 32; Kreisler-Rachmaninoff: Liebesfreud.

The Saint Lawrence String Quartet
is deeply committed to bringing music to less traditional venues outside the classroom or concert hall. Whether at Lincoln Center or an elementary school classroom, the St. Lawrence players maintain a strong desire to share the wonders of chamber music with their listeners. Their performance will take place on March 20.

And concluding the program in March, on the 23, the Opera Theatre of Connecticut will perform. A select group of the company's vocal artists will present an exciting new program of excerpts from opera scenes by the following composers: Thomas, Offenbach, Mascagni, Donizetti, Rossini, Rodgers, Romberg, Bizet, Mozart, Verdi, Massenet, Puccini. Some of these areas are guaranteed to lift you from your seat.

All the above concerts will be heard at 8 p.m. I can't wait for the magic and music to begin!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What They're Saying About Sanibel: Internet Buzz

It's both entertaining and interesting to read what other people are writing about Sanibel Island. There are several Island residents and Island property and business owners who have blogs on the Island and they post with regularity regarding things to do and see. There are several more who write up close and personal accounts of their daily activities on the Island. And then there is the accidental Sanibel Island blogger who just happens to be on Island for a vacation, or perhaps a conference, who weighs in describing their impressions and experiences.

It never fails to amaze me that so many people can experience such different things given the small size of the Island. And there is always something to be learned.

For instance, with the atypically cool weather in January, there was some damage done to some Island guests' holiday. And, of course, there was some damage done to the Island creatures.

Despite the demise of a good number of snook, I was relieved to read that there was a silver lining in that particular cloud as Sandy Ramseth and Rob Corsica reported in their blog on January 29th: "But,
one positive note in the “circle of life” is that the birds are having a feast on the dead fish, which is also thought to be keeping them alive in these chilly temps by eating more. And so life goes...."

And I liked this post, too,
by Nicki Krawczyk on Booking Buddy:

"South Beach it isn't: Sweet little Sanibel Island mixes southern Florida sand and surf with sleepy vacation village charm. Take advantage of this adorable islet's natural seaborne bounty with a guided porpoise excursion, a mollusk-laden meal, and a stroll through one of nature's very best souvenir shops."

And then there was this introduction of Sanibel on Beach Vacation Rental Scout that reviewed one of the houses in our program: "You feel the difference the minute you “land” on Sanibel Island Florida. No bland big box stores or could-be-anywhere chains. No theme park hype. In fact, more than half of Sanibel Island Florida is preserved as J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge so the “characters” you’ll see kayaking the bayous or biking the five-mile Wildlife Drive are the real deal: alligators, otters, bald eagles and wading birds, including the Roseate Spoonbill."

Browsing the web and looking for Sanibel impressions and experiences is one good way to get to know the Island. It's easy, it's free and it's fun!