Thursday, July 29, 2010

Knowledge of Dolphins Helps Spur Interest on Sanibel

The Sanibel Sea School (one of our favorite organizations on the Island!), recently held a "Dolphin Week" for visiting families.

As it's name implies, the School focuses on educational aspects in its offerings, and the Dolphin Week was no different. In this case, the Dolphin Week was a collaborative affair with several island organizations and businesses contributing various items and services. And, of course, the Dolphins made a major contribution as well.

The week began at Buttonwood Beach, where the students (and teachers) were divided into pods to compete in the Dolphin Olympics. Campers raced through an obstacle course, played tug of war, and tried to untangle human knots. They improved their teamwork skills and learned that dolphins form alliances and cooperate in complicated ways to hunt and catch fish.

They also learned that Dolphins use echolocation to understand the world around them. Dolphins are able to send sound waves through the water and visualize their surroundings based on the resounding echoes. Echolocation allows dolphins to see in a more complex way than humans – in addition to determining the shape, size, and texture of objects, they are able to sense internal structures. A Dolphin can use echolocation to tell if a woman swimming in the ocean is pregnant.

To gain a better understanding of this ability, the Sea Schoolers played echo games to practice their own sonar skills, and realized that echolocation is not always as simple as it seems.

But perhaps the most exciting moment of the week came when the Schoolers went looking for Dophin. And, not surprisingly, found an active pod doing some flips and stunts in the water.

Now, there are many ways to see Dolphin on Sanibel with several cruises and boat rides boasting of the sightings that they will show you.

But how much more fun it must have been to know a little more about these amazing creatures before ever seeing them!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The best seat for the best sound and light show: Sanibel's summer storms are awesome!

Most people come to Sanibel Island for the sun and/or shells. The pristine beaches, nature viewing and turquoise calm waters of the Gulf draw visitors from around the world. But those who visit in summer months, right into September, are in for a unique attraction best experienced on this 12 mile spit of land in the middle of the water.

Florida is known as the lightning capital of the world, and for good reason. Lightning bolts are as common on late afternoon summer landscapes as are Palm Trees, and, quite honestly, just as pretty.

Though the Sunshine state has a flat topography and does not offer spectacular views (as in Grand Canyon) in other ways, the electrical storms on and around Sanibel are awesome.

They provide a sound and light show not to be seen in most of the other states and they do have a pattern that is fairly predictable so one can make ready for the performance.

Somewhere between 4 and 6 p.m. from June to October, the clouds roll in, the sky darkens to deep gray bordering on black and thunder can be heard rolling at a distance. Because there are no mountains and barely any hills to obscure the view, the show can be seen (and heard) from miles and miles away. And a unique feature of these gala events is the chiaroscuro of shadow and light that they present. The sky can be nearly pitch black, but rays of sunshine will be breaking through highlighting and making buildings appear "lit" in orange or yellow florescence. It is quite a sight!

These phenomenal storms are memories in the making, and worth every dime spent in travel to Sanibel Island or almost anywhere in the state of Florida. And the seat for the show on Sanibel is particularly wonderful when the show starts as with no high rise buildings or other lighting distractions, those flashes just stand right out, dazzling the beholder.

And if you have found the water in the pool at your vacation rental a bit too luke warm for your taste, the secondary benefit of the afternoon "visitor" is the cooling off the heavy rains bring with them----- refreshing the pool with every visit.

But caution should be taken with each passing of a new storm. Mother nature can be deadly and you need to abide by her rules.

Here are some simple guidelines to help make your summer stay on Sanibel and the area as safe as can be during lightning storms:

Follow the 30/30 rule. If the time between seeing the flash of lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds, take shelter. You are in a strike zone.

Immediately get away from pools, lakes and other bodies of water.

Get off the beach.

Never use a tree as a shelter.

Avoid standing near tall objects.

Keep away from metal objects including bikes, golf carts, umbrellas, fencing, machinery, etc.

Get indoors if at all possible or get in a hard-topped vehicle.

Remain in a shelter for 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning.

We do hear of people who have had narrow escapes from tropical electrical storms and that should not be. Look up at the sky and if you see the sun giving way to dark clouds, it's time to head to safety!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sanibel and Off Island: Viva La Difference!

In the previous post we talked about one destination off Sanibel Island, the beautiful city of Naples.

But regardless of whether your off island sojourn is Naples or another destination, you are bound to observe some very distinct differences between the Island and main land.

How do they differ?

Let me count the ways.

The Island, by definition is finite. It is 12 miles long and 5 miles wide. Go longer or wider and you are in the water!

Of course, the land outside the Island is almost infinite. You can drive off Island for miles and miles. Forida itself is very large. "The Sunshine State" is the 2nd-largest state (after Georgia) east of the Mississippi River, and ranks 22nd in size among the 50 states.

But much more than size distinguishes Sanibel from the miles and miles of towns just across the causeway.

Drive the roads of Sanibel, and you will not encounter one traffic light. Nope, not one. You can't go very far off island without hitting a traffic light. It does make a profound difference in your driving experience.

Even in the quiet areas on the mainland, you will hear the ubiquitous siren of an ambulance or EMS vehicle several times a day. I don't think I have heard a siren on Sanibel more than once or twice in all the months I have spent on Island. Sanibel has a hushed tone, day and night.

The tall buildings that line the major roads off island can be seen from miles away. No building is taller than a palm tree on Sanibel. The vistas are uniformly green from almost anywhere on the Island.

Restaurants of all kinds exist on and off Island. There are many choices where ever you are. One distinction, however, is the absence of fast food eateries on the Island. Other than the Island's Dairy Queen, the big name fast food chains do not exist on Sanibel. All the restaurants are independently owned with a unique style in decor and often unique menus as well.

But perhaps the greatest difference between on and off Island is the pace.

Cars whiz by on mainland. Cars slow down on Island. But, you will not see many cars in most months on Sanibel. Instead you will see people biking and walking and strolling. The Island mentality takes hold immediately and you just slow down your pace and ratchet up your enjoyment of the simple things. Watch an egret in flight. Stop and eat an ice cream. Take in a beach sunset. You have all the time in the world on the Island of Sanibel!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sanibel to Naples: Little Trip with a Big Difference

In a much earlier post, we suggested some places, possibly worth the trip, off Sanibel Island. One spot we highlighted was Corkscrew Swamp, a lovely preserve in Naples. The reason for the attention is that the balance of nature in Corkscrew Swamp is quite remarkable. All that water and all that greenery, yet so few bugs. Very susceptible to getting bitten, I was astonished that I could spend an hour in Corkscrew without a mark.

But there are other good reasons to sally forth to Naples, and those reasons grow by the day.

Just a short twenty years ago, Naples had a nice downtown called OLDE NAPLES with a few shops and restaurants. That downtown has spread and gotten nicer and provides a delightful afternoon or evening experience for walking, window shopping, stopping for an ice cream or coffee and photo taking. The look and feel is much more southern France than Southwest Florida.

If you like beautifully manicured, perfectly crafted and lively small towns, then Naples will fill your eyes with lovely images.

Walk further out of the town, and the images don't diminish. It's no surprise that Naples is the seat of Collier County, considered by many experts to be the fastest growing area of wealth in the entire USA. And if you want to be dazzled by opulence, walk or drive to the Port Royal area where you will see some incredible homes. Probably best not to get too attached though as the homes for sale start at about 2 million and go up considerably from there. But it is an amazing sight!

The Naples Philharmonic, at a little distance from olde Naples, offers a wide array of entertainment in a lovely hall. In addition to rock and blues, the Sarasota Opera Company does 2 or 3 productions, full scale, at the Naples Philharmonic. Right next to the Phil is the Art Museum, but check the schedule to make sure that they are open.

And the restaurants in Naples are both numerous and good offering eclectic fare ranging from traditional Continental to exotic blends of French/Moroccan and Italian/mid eastern. If you like fusion style cooking, you will find any number of choices where attentive wait staff, crisp white linens and fine dining will be the norm.

Because Sanibel beaches tend to be quite laid back and not populated, if you are looking for a more crowded and social beach with food readily available, you may want to check out Barefoot Beach. The beach is nice, always lively and you can grab a quick bite at Doc's, a little beach shack with indoor/outdoor tables, great burgers and crisp fries.

It's interesting to juxtapose Sanibel Island and Naples, only a 40 minute drive from one another. They both show case the best of SW Florida with notably different feels. Naples, a sophisticated, international town and Sanibel a nature island with so much wild life to view. It's a great contrast if you have the time and inclination!