Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why Spend Christmas on Sanibel? It's A Wonder-World for Weeks in December!

Well, here it is not even Thanksgiving and we are talking about Christmas.

But why not?

Everyone else is doing it. Stores, towns, restaurants are already promoting the upcoming holiday, so we are jumping in to say a few words as well.

Generally, by this time of year, there are few nice accommodations still available on the Island. But the overall economy has apparently impacted vacations as there is lots of availability island wide for the week of December 18 to December 25, as well as for the following week, December 25 to January 1. The larger condo units are least available as families are traveling in intergenerational parties more than ever. But the two bedroom units have good vacancy for both weeks. And early December has even more vacancy, so those lucky enough to get a month's vacation might consider one of the lovely homes on the Island.

And, with a little luck, air fares can often be found at a discounted rate during this 12th month of the year.

The Island twinkles with lights kicked off with the Luminary Festival all month long.

This year marks the 26th year of the annual celebration hosted by the Sanibel Island and Captiva Island Chamber of Commerce. The Luminary Festival is a community-wide holiday event that involves businesses, organizations, residents and visitors. Everyone comes together to enjoy goodwill and community spirit.

During the Luminary Festival, everyone is invited to visit Chamber businesses and merchants that decorate their storefronts and offer special holiday celebratory events. Everything that can be decorated is, including shops, shopping plazas, restaurants, churches and more. Luminaria lines the streets, creating a truly magical display.

There's no need to plan to eat in advance of attending the Luminary Festival. Most of the participating shops offer food and drink as well as great deals on their products or services. You'll find a variety of different treats and beverages to enjoy as you travel the trail.

In addition to viewing incredible lighting and decorations and taking advantage of great shopping bargains, you can look forward to fun for the entire family at the Sanibel and Captiva Island Luminary Festival. Visits and photos with Santa, free trolley service along the "trail," a live nativity scene plus music and fun activities are all part of the celebration.

This year, the Luminary Festival takes place on Sanibel on December 4 and Captiva Island on December 5. The festival begins at dusk and ends around 9:30 pm.

The Luminary magic lasts all month, however, as does the sunshine and clear blue skies.

Given that snow has already visited many parts of the USA, don't you think a December visit to tropical Sanibel would be quite a gift to you and your family?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sanibel's Manatee: No Mermaid but Still Amazing

There are few older or more beguiling tales than those about mermaids.

And as interesting, is the explanation for same offered up that what sailors were describing as beautiful women of the water were actually the rather homely manatee who are as dependent on air as real fish are on water.

The order Sirenia, to which the Florida manatee belongs, is from the Latin siren, or mermaid. The myth of a part-woman, part-fish with great seductive powers -- and no scruples -- has existed for centuries. As long as there have been seafarers, it seems, there have been mermaids to play with their minds.

The mermaid has occasionally been depicted in writing and art as ugly, but she is more often pretty, if a little lewd. In her brashest incarnation she sings loudly and hoists her split tail around her head.

These legends of singing sirens were made by sailors as explanations for why they were led astray say modern day folklorists. The New World sirens were a gentler, if homelier, lot.

Sailing near the Dominican Republic in 1493, Christopher Columbus described in his log some "female forms" that "rose high out of the sea, but were not as beautiful as they are represented."

Indeed, manatees, frequently seen swimming in the waters of Sanibel, are quite a sight. From time to time, they will approach swimmers, never to menace, but out of curiosity and a need to groom. Manatees will brush up against a swimmer to rid themselves of barnacles, and it surely is an encounter to remember.

Manatees have a mean mass of 400 to 550 kilograms (880 to 1,200 lb), and mean length of 2.8 to 3 metres (9.2 to 9.8 ft), with maximums of 3.6 metres (12 ft) and 1,775 kilograms (3,910 lb) seen (the females tend to be larger and heavier). When born, baby manatees have an average mass of 30 kilograms (66 lb).

In addition to their pure bulk, they have a face one would not forget. They have a large flexible prehensile upper lip that acts in many ways like a shortened trunk, somewhat similar to an elephant's. They use the lip to gather food and eat, as well as using it for social interactions and communications.

And, they are "up in the air" a great deal of the time, again making them an easy target. Half a manatee's day is spent sleeping in the water, surfacing for air regularly at intervals no greater than 20 minutes. Manatees spend most of the rest of the time grazing in shallow waters at depths of 1–2 metres (3.3–6.6 ft). The Florida subspecies (T. m. latirostris) has been known to live up to 60 years.

There are lots of fascinating creatures on land and by sea on Sanibel Island, and the amazing manatee is certainly one of them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Bailey Tract:: Sanibel's Secret Parcel

Although many people see Sanibel's beaches and sea shells as the primary reason to visit the Island, they also know that Sanibel is largely a nature preserve.

The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is named for an editorial cartoonist who also was a conservation activist, leading the early protection efforts here.

Serious birders will want to enter when the refuge gate opens, just after sunrise. They should at some point circle back to the visitor center, which includes not only interesting explanatory exhibits about the ecology of the refuge but also one of the best nature bookstores anywhere.

The refuge's paved Wildlife Drive winds for about four miles through tidal basins and mangrove forest. It's best to go at low tide, when hundreds of wading birds can be seen feeding in the flats.

The lesser known aspect of Ding Darling is that it is the home to a very unique environment in the interior of the Island. The hidden gem within the Preserve is called the Bailey Tract.

This 100 acre parcel of land off Tarpon Bay Road protects a fresh water marsh. It also contains 5 hiking trails that will weave hikers through some of the most interesting nature viewing on Sanibel.

The trails range from 0.25 miles to 1.1 miles. The longest of the trails is called the Red Trail and it allows for easy access to the other trails.

Because the trail is so brief and has virtually no elevation, it is a very easy walk for adults who may not be up to walking the larger area of the Preserve and for children who need to easily see the nature that they have been told about. Walking the trail should take 40 minutes or less.

A leisurely walk through the Tract will reveal herons, egrets, turtles and alligators among other creatures. Because it is so sequestered, it is especially quiet in the Bailey Tract and some have likened it to vespers, because of the special stillness and reverence for nature that can be felt there. The Bailey Tract is also open on Fridays when the rest of the refuge is closed to visitors, so it's particularly worth a visit at that time.

The Bailey Tract is referenced by those in the know whether they be vacationers or writers about the Island, but you can still feel like you were the first one to discover it when you visit!