Wednesday, December 28, 2011

End of Year Thoughts on Sanibel Real Estate

As we discover year after year, the Sanibel Island experience is so profound that many of our rental guests become Sanibel Island property owners. Some buy condos, some buy houses, some use their places exclusively and some rent them out. The compelling reason is simply the wonderful quality of life on Sanibel. There are few places in the world that offer the topicality, comfort, nature and beauty of Sanibel Island and these attributes make our guests ask why or why not when it comes to buying a second (or sometimes first) home on Sanibel.

And now there a few more compelling reasons to consider the leap to home ownership on this unique barrier island which apply to all of Florida, as well as Sanibel.

1. Mortgage rates hit a record low of 3.94% this year (2011), homes sold for a fraction of their value five years ago, and excess inventory provided every buyer with a range of options. 2011 saw a real estate market with great deals, yet fewer buyers than needed. In 10 years, however, many Americans may look back on 2011 as the best time in a generation to invest in real estate.

2. The Florida economy remained sluggish as unemployment rates stayed uncomfortably high and home sales stayed uncomfortably low; but, across the board, the state showed signs of recovery, with almost every economic indicator suggesting brighter days ahead. Home sales edged higher most months; selling prices held their own and, in a few cases, median selling prices rose. Floridians’ consumer confidence also rose toward the end of the year after bobbing around for most of the summer. Employment followed, and while the state has a long way to go to hit “normal,” it reached a 2011 level of “better than last year.”

3. Florida Realtors had a number of victories in the 2011 Florida Legislature, but none as important as a constitutional amendment voters will consider in November 2012, and none so hard-fought as a law to “scrap the cap” on Florida’s affordable housing trust funds. Amendment 4, if approved by Florida voters, will create a property tax increase cap of 5% each year on non-homestead real estate, down from the current 10% cap. It will also give some first-time home buyers a property tax break that decreases over time. In 2012, Florida Realtors will roll out its “Yes on 4” campaign.

But the time to buy is always now, and the following spells out the reason why:
“Our state is in a mini-recovery,” said Florida Realtors® Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo at the state association’s 2012 Real Estate and Economic Forecast Conference in Orlando. “Sales are trending up, listing inventories are falling, the supply of lender-related properties has stabilized, and we are seeing multiple offers on homes in some local markets.” “In fact, Florida homes today may be undervalued,” Tuccillo added. “That may seem like a drastic statement,” he said. “But a buyer who plans to own the home for five to seven years can get some great bargains today.”

So let the buyer not beware, but be aware, very aware that Sanibel at any price is a great deal and at current prices a fabulous bargain!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Living Sanibel Nature Guide: Your Best "Buy" Any time

Thoughts still on shopping, we have a clear cut suggestion for anyone seeking the perfect gift...for themselves or for anyone one else on their holiday list if you are still looking.

Until now, though there have been many publications that provided pieces of information on Sanibel Island. And there have been (some extraordinary) calendars that have pictures that show the island's beauty.

But the relatively new publication, Living Sanibel, provides both information and photographs that are superlative.

The history, geography, folk lore and anecdotal view of this gorgeous barrier Island provide a great introduction to the book. But as its subtitle, A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Island, indicates, the real value of the book is in the incredible detail of the flora and fauna of Sanibel.

Never will you find as many points of information and as many illustrative photographs about the Island's birds, reptiles, mammals and vegetation than are provided in this nearly 500 page treasure book.

Every living thing on Sanibel has a profile and a picture.

And these are not just run of the mill photographs. Great nature photographers such as the author, Charles Sobczak himself, are featured throughout the book with big, bold images of Peregrine Falcons, Red Belly Turtles and Grouper. Photographers from the Miami studio, Through the Lens Gallery, as well as Rob Pailes, Hung V. Do and a whole host of others strut their stuff throughout this marvelous publication.

Graphic illustrations are minimal with the emphasis on photography, but those that exist are very well done. Most of the fish are illustrations, rather than photos, and the renderings are created by the very talented Diane Rome Peebles.

Whether a gift for the holidays or a gift for yourself at any time, Living Sanibel makes for a good read, a good view and a very good buy at well under $30 all over the island!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sanibel Farmer's Market A Gift To All

Tis the season as they say, and looking at the traffic on the internet all searches appear headed toward an early celebration. So many people are looking for that perfect gift!

On Sanibel, we are given gifts daily...the sunshine, seemingly perpetual, the blue skies and emerald waters are all there to be enjoyed. Most joyfully, like all the best things in life, these gifts of the Island don't cost a penny.

But not all things in life are perfectly free, and the small specials that are relatively inexpensive are delightful and not to be missed.

To fully experience the best of Sanibel, you have to invest a little bit of time and---in some instances----a little bit of money.

The return on your investments, however, will be enormous.

Take for example the Farmer's Market. Held on Sundays at Sanibel City Hall between the hours of 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., more than 30 vendors are participating this year. Under the cloudless Sanibel skies, participants will be selling baked goods, live plants, honey, pasta, cheese, sausages, fresh fish, produce and organic veggies. All items are high quality specialized items that cater to the needs of the community.

And like most events on Sanibel, the hidden good is the fun of meeting and greeting people at the market. Both the vendors and the people attending are friendly and share information freely. It's a great way to spend a Sunday morning on the Isle of Sanibel!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sanibel Library Proves Its Value Once Again

Recognized as one of the best libraries in the state of Florida by residents, visitors and other libraries, the Sanibel Library is showing its ability to keep up with the times once again.

In days of old, Libraries were rated on their cataloging systems, their facilities and their special user services.

In these times, a "good" library needs to be up to the latest in technology, and in this respect the Sanibel Library offers some real treats for those who are fortunate enough to use it. In addition to the library offering patrons down-loadable audio and e-books on their Kindle through the use of their library card, the library is currently in the process of a major tech over haul that will positively impact everyone.

The Sanibel Public Library is implementing an upgrade to provide a new library collection management system that includes a self check out stations for patrons.
The upgrade includes installing new radio-frequency identifier (RFID) tags in each of the library’s 70,000+ items. RFID is a combination of radio-frequency-based technology and microchip technology. The information contained on microchips in the tags affixed to library materials is read using radio-frequency technology. Checking materials out and in, and finding materials on the shelves, is easier and more efficient for library users and for staff.

According to library staff : "Patron self-check has always been popular here and now it will be a breeze with new, state-of-the-art stations. Library inventory, a once-dreaded summertime project, will take only a fraction of the time it used to, enabling staff to make sure each title is in its rightful place for patrons."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Spotlight On: Sanibel-Captiva Zonta

Every so often we like to highlight an organization on Sanibel that helps to shape the culture and climate of the Island.

These are organizations, comprised largely of volunteers, who go the extra mile to lend a hand. Some, like C.R.O.W. and SCCF, focus on wild life, others focus on the people who live near and on the Island who need assistance and guidance.

Our current spotlight is on the Sanibel-Captiva Zonta Club. The Zonta Club of Sanibel/Captiva is a service organization of professional women working together to provide hands-on assistance, advocacy and funds to strengthen women's lives on the islands, in Lee County and around the world through Zonta International.

The Sanibel-Captiva Club recently hosted the Zonta International conference for district 11 (District 11 is comprised of the southeastern states from North Carolina to the Caribbean, and includes the Bahamas and British Virgin Islands.)

For Zonta members, these conferences are a rich source of networking, sharing and celebrating successes all while meeting the Zonta International mission of improving the status of women. The chosen theme for this past conference was "Saving the World, One Woman at a Time." The club received valuable support from other clubs in the region, including Sarasota, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs and Naples.

There are 42 clubs in the District and 33 of them were represented by delegates and other members. A total of 155 registered for the conference, including 31 "first-timers" and a representative of the Zonta International board, Kirsi Nickels from Finland.

The conference offered several stimulating presentations on global issues. One of these was by Nicole Waid, acting chief U.S. attorney, Middle District of Florida, who spoke passionately about the work of the State Attorney's office and task forces combating human trafficking.

It also offered an opportunity for the Island to strut its stuff. Attendees not only had the opportunity to see and enjoy Sanibel, but were treated to a luncheon talk by Dr. Jose Leal, executive director and curator of the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, entitled "Shells and the Stories They Tell Us."

Sanibel Holiday applauds Zonta for all the good work that they do, and has a thunderous ovation for their efforts in bringing in visitors from around the area, state, country and world to the shores of Sanibel. The Island has long been a conference destination for many groups and with the help of chapters like Sanibel-Captiva Zonta, Sanibel will continue to attract such worthwhile organizations as Zonta International.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Protecting the Threatened and Endangered: Sanibel Island

What began as a sandbar is now Sanibel, a barrier island fringed with mangrove trees, shallow bays, and white sandy beaches located off the southwest coast of Florida.

Jay Norwood Darling, a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist, was instrumental in the effort to block the sale of a parcel of environmentally valuable land to developers on Sanibel Island. At Darling’s urging, President Harry S. Truman signed an Executive Order creating the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945. The refuge was renamed in 1967 in honor of the pioneer conservationist.

The refuge consists of over 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, submerged seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks. Approximately 2,800 acres of the refuge are designated by Congress as a Wilderness Area. Protecting endangered and threatened species has always been an important aspect of Ding Darling Preserve's mission.

There are several species of turtles on Sanibel that are considered threatened or endangered. The loggerhead turtle is the most abundant form among Florida's sea turtles. It is the only species which regularly nests in substantial numbers on the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. The loggerhead is considered to be a threatened species.

The rarest
and smallest of the sea turtles, the Kemp's ridley, occurs in the region year-round.

This declining species primarily congregates for mass nesting on the Mexican Gulf coast north of Vera Cruz. In the last two decades individual ridleys have nested in Florida, including a documented nesting on Sanibel Island. Because of its drastically reduced population the Kemp's ridley is considered endangered throughout its range.

The leatherback turtle feeds almost exclusively on pelagic jellyfish. This species is a very rare visitor to the barrier island beaches of Southwest Florida, and there are no recent records for the species here. Leatherbacks are infrequently observed offshore. The leatherback is listed as an endangered species.

Juvenile hawksbill turtles are the most rare of all the world's marine turtles. Through time the shell of this species has been highly valued because it is the source of tortoise shell. Because of exploitations, the collection of the shell is no longer sanctioned by most countries in the Americas. Japan, however, continues to import tons of the product from around the globe----from wherever tortoise shell is still harvested in Third World countries. Adult hawksbills resemble loggerheads and it sometimes takes an expert to distinguish them apart in the limited areas where they may utilize the same nesting habitat. The hawksbill is primarily a creature of reefs and hard bottoms where it feeds on coral polyps and sponges. The hawksbill is considered an endangered species.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sanibel Event Marks 30th Year:

It isn't often that visitors to Sanibel Island--- as well as residents--- can come together to enjoy a hallmark Sanibel fund-raiser and get a real taste of the Island at the same time.

In its 30th year, The Taste of the Islands will be held on November 13, once again delighting those who attend with a nice variety of Island restaurant fare. The food tasting will be held from 12:30 - 5 p.m. at Sanibel Community Park located at 2231 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Island, Florida.

Set to the tune of live bands, local restaurants will descend on Sanibel Community Park with their most decadent delicacies and enter a friendly competition to earn top honors for their dish from a panel of esteemed judges and a welcoming crowd.

Over the past few decades, island restaurants have come together to put their dishes to the test in the food festival and competition. Many different food categories will be cooked up, sure to please any palate. A celebrity judge panel will decide which restaurant will win Taste of the Taste, while the People's Choice award will be chosen by attending appetites. Awards will be issued for other categories including Best Vegetarian, Best Appetizer, Best Meat, Best Seafood, Best Dessert, Best Take-out, and Best Booth Presentation. In a new a new twist this year, chefs will be challenged to incorporate one indigenous ingredient to test their culinary talent. While vying to satisfy discerning judges and hungry attendees, this event is also a great chance for local restaurants to reach a hungry audience and an opportunity to give to an island charity.

Nearly half of each restaurant's proceeds, 100% of admissions from the gate, gift store and raffle sale tents will be donated to CROW, Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife: Saving Wildlife Through Compassion, Care and Education.

A very special offering will be the music provided by two bands, Marty Stokes and the Captiva Band as well as The Riverside Band.

Marty Stokes was originally raised on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva, and appeases the musical enthusiast who enjoys great, solid rhythm and blues tunes. The Captiva Band is named after the island that is the home of Stokes' family since the late 1800s. A group of long-time friends and extremely talented musicians, The Captiva Band delivers the goods with tasteful grooves of both Stokes' originals and creative arrangements of well-known covers. Todd Haut on bass, Carv Clauson on drums, Jennifer Mazziotti on sax, Paul Brewer on keyboards, and Marty Stokes on guitar makes up the soul and "core" of this group of musical professionals. Vocalist Summer Kilgore will be joining the band for a special performance at CROW's 30th annual Taste of the Islands Festival.

The Riverside Band has been a Southwest Florida favorite since 2002. The band's members are experienced professionals with roots in New York, Detroit and the Caribbean, blending these influences into a unique musical sound. Riverside covers popular tunes in a varied repertoire of classic, world, and modern material with instrumental proficiency and lush vocal harmonies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sanibel Distinguished by Distinguished Performances

There are beaches galore in Florida and on the west coast of the USA.

Certainly Sanibel Island is one of the most natural beach destinations with a tropical sweep of land and sea as well as a cornucopia of wild life.

Those features alone keep Sanibel on the radar of vacationers seeking a unique respite from the real world.

But the diversity and quality of cultural entertainment found on this tiny barrier island also sets it apart.

Here's a sampling of what guests and residents can look forward to:

Beginning in mid November, there is a menu of classical musical selections in venues from movies to concert halls. Symphony performances, string concerts, and piano offerings dot the artistic landscape. Even first class opera can be viewed and heard in the series of opera in cinema presenting such classics as Tosca, Rigoletto and Don Giovanni well as some lesser known operas rarely presented in traditional houses.

Dance selections encompass ballet, acrobatics and contemporary.

But for Island residents and regulars, one of the most exciting and talked about offerings on Sanibel in high season is the renowned Winter Academy. The Winter Academy, as the name implies, is a series of lectures with subject areas covering a wide gamut of interests. Music, Psychology, Law and Religion are areas addressed in the academy. Not only is the academy intellectually stimulating, it will provide a jump start to the day as the special classes are all held in the mornings.

Just imagine the fun of an early walk, light breakfast and a brain tease that begins at 9 a.m.

But if you'd rather sleep in and hit the beach, there is plenty of stimulation to be found at night. To take a look at what's available, you might want to check out the Big Arts website for all the details.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pre-Christmas Celebration on Sanibel Filled with Cheer

Christmas week is generally a popular time on Sanibel. Families enjoy the holiday----or avoid it---in balmy weather surrounded by birds and palms.

But Christmas week, because of its popularity, is priced as a high season week while the weeks preceding are still low season. High season, in general, is twice the price of low season.

In addition to favorable pricing on accommodations in earlier December, there is a special Sanibel celebration that truly provides the vacationer another view of the Island.

The Sanibel Luminary Festival is exactly what its name indicates...a time of light.

Luminary is always the first full weekend in December. This year, Sanibel's is December 2 and Captiva's is the 3rd. The fun starts at dusk and ends approximately 9:30pm.

Luminary is the traditional island thank you to their communities and kick-off to the Holidays. Periwinkle is lined with luminaria from Tarpon Bay to Causeway Boulevard (with more in Olde Sanibel), stores and shopping plazas along the way are decorated for the event and Santa (aboard a firetruck) can be found almost everywhere, along with lot of music and fun. Pretty much anything that can be decorated, is. The Community Church is a not-to-be-missed stop. Don't eat beforehand....most of the shops have food and drink set out and the selections are excellent.

The Trolley is running throughout the evening from scheduled stops. Driving that night is fun if you're of the mind set to just relax and enjoy. Yes, traffic is bumper-to-bumper at pretty much idle speed but there is so much to see, music to listen to and lots of good natured hollering between cars, folks on the path, etc.

If you're taking the Trolley, the easiest thing is just to park at Bailey's and hop on. The trolley is free.

A good attack plan for driving is to start at Bailey's and head down Periwinkle working your way towards the Lighthouse. Make the loop at Lighthouse Cafe and then head back doing the opposite side of the road. Stick to one side of the road at a time and this lets you make right turns all the way without missing anything. Give up any thoughts of a left turn now.

Captiva's Luminary is the next night, December 3rd this year. Its basically the same thing, except its all walking because everything is within the Village. It's easiest to park in McCarthy's Marina ($5 for all day).

The weather is quite beautiful in early December so plan your trip now and experience one of the best events of the year on Sanibel Island!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Our Votes For Best Halloween Costumes on Sanibel

We love holidays of all kinds on Sanibel Island. And one of our favorites is Halloween.

Oh, yes, we do have children dressing up for the occasion and that is always cute to see.

But as enjoyable is the contest we hold in the office to nominate the best "costume" on the non human residents of the Island.

For example, the Armadillo with his long, skinny snout and coat of armor is always nominated, but this year we are sticking to the birds. Our nominations run the gamut, like in any good competition, where a bird can win for color, humor, originality and the fear factor.

These are the birds that won the contest this year.

For color, there was no better contender than the Painted Bunting. Yes, the Roseate Spoonbill is larger and easier to spot, but the little Painted Bunting is an artist's canvas in flight. With bright blue, green, and red plumage, the breeding male Painted Bunting is one of the continent's most gaudily colorful birds. The species breeds in two different populations, one in the south-central United States, and one along the seaboard of the southeastern states. Somewhat rare on the Island in October, the Painted Bunting is easily seen in winter and spring.

For humor, again there were several good options, but ultimately our vote went to the Anhinga . Because of its unusual appearance and behavior, the Anhinga is also called the snake bird (because of its long slender neck and small head which appears like a snake out of the water) and water turkey (because it flies for long distances without flapping its wings, much like a turkey vulture). Due to their feathers being wet-able, anhingas cannot fly away after swimming. Instead, they must climb out of the water, using beak and feet, and dry out before taking to the wing. Its distinctive action of "drying out" its wings after a swim/fish hunt marks the Anhinga on the Sanibel landscape.

For originality, the Wood Stork won hands down. A large, white, bald-headed wading bird of the southeastern swamps, the Wood Stork is the only stork breeding in the United States. Its late winter breeding season is timed to the Florida dry season when its fish prey become concentrated in shrinking pools. Wood storks nest in the mangroves and wetlands. They eat mostly fish, but sometimes dine on shrimp and crabs, snakes, and even small alligators. They are listed as endangered, and the Sanibel refuge is considered a core foraging area.

The bird that strikes greatest fear in our hearts is the Great Horned Owl. The Great Horned Owl whose piercing eyes and "horns" can not only send chills up our spines, but up the spines of many other living creatures. They hunt normally at dawn and dusk. Renowned for ferocity, Great Horned Owls kill and eat small to medium mammals of many kinds, especially hares and rabbits. They eat mice, rats, squirrels, opossums, woodchucks, bats, weasels, and the occasional domestic cat. Great-Horned Owls also eat skunks, which are sometimes such a prominent part of the diet that both bird and nest may smell of musk.

We would love to know what your nominations would be for the best costumes on non human residents of Sanibel Island!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sanibel Fuels Creativity In Many Ways

We have mentioned in several other posts how artistic endeavors find such a comfortable home on Sanibel Island. In all seasons, it is easy to find music, paintings, sculpture, photography and other expressions of art in so many corners of Sanibel as well as at the heart of the Island.

But Sanibel is also the birth place of the creative thought and process.

We have had writers, poets and musicians stay in our properties, including some familiar names. All have stated that they found not only solace but stimulation on the Island.

Most recently, we had the pleasure of hosting vacation rental guests who stayed for nearly two months. The couple produce documentary films and were making one based on Sanibel. They picked the perfect home for their stay, one with a natural feel and on the far west and quiet end of the Island offering great space and great privacy.

In a review they did of the home and of the Island, they detailed the reasons that they were able to get so much done. But rather than put their evaluation in our words, we will use their own:

"Sanibel Island is a unique getaway in the landscape of Florida. Sixty percent of the island is a wildlife refuge and many conservation practices are in place, the residents having fought for curbing development and protecting the island's ecological integrity.

....we were blessed by peaceful surroundings and Bowman's Beach just a 7 minute walk away. Truly this beach is one of the nicest on the island - as you swim in warm waters you are surrounded by sun, sky, sand, sea grapes and seabirds - no development.

So (our rental house) was ideal as a creative space to work. Inspired by the natural beauty with all the comforts of home, we were able to delve deep into the editing of our documentary and write music. With our computer and camera equipment in tow, we were able to capture spectacular scenery. The home is in a subdivision but is private at the same time with lots of greenery and quiet neighbours. In fact we rarely saw or heard anyone. The house is in a great location on the island - Ding Darling is very close, the shops on Periwinkle are an easy 15min drive, and you can sample beaches and gorgeous sunsets on Captiva within a 10-15min drive - extensive bike paths too!

....and the staff at Sanibel Holiday were very efficient with meeting our needs and ensured that we had a stress free vacation...... perfect for a creative escape, a relaxing vacation, a place to immerse yourself in nature. We have beautiful memories of our time there, rejuvenating, connecting. Thank you - we'll be back again!"

We can't wait to see this documentary produced not only on Sanibel but at one of our special properties. Creativity flourishes in the warmth of our tropical sun!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

There's Always Music in the Air on Sanibel and Captiva

Wind rustling through the palms, bird song, the sound of a gentle surf lapping at the sand. There is always some kind of music in the air on lovely, tropical, laid back Sanibel and Captiva Islands.

But if you prefer your harmony to come from man rather than nature, you will have a nice variety of choices.

For a casual listen, you might try several of the delightfully tropical Island eateries that have musicians perform on a regular basis. For starters, The Keylime Bistro on Captiva with an airy and "mist"tified outdoor patio has great singers perform regularly. Sit outside sipping a mango colada with a fan sending breezes and fine sprays of water your way. You will feel like you are in heaven. And we particularly like it's Toucan logo!

Offering Island eats at breakfast, lunch and dinner, RC Otters on Captiva is ever popular with visitors and locals alike... which tells you something! Also serving house micro-brew. Three seating choices: indoors, on the covered veranda, or outdoors on the patio (with live island music). Next to The Island Store in Captiva Village.

Another great outdoor area for casual dining and good listening is the deck at Holy Smoke on Captiva. This mostly BBQ serving, friendly environment is a great spot for a family or group with a more limited budget. And the music is as easy on your ears as the price is on your wallet.

Traders Cafe and Store on Sanibel is not only a restaurant but a really neat place to buy items ranging from jewelry to clothing. Best of all, there is live entertainment on Tuesday and Thursday nights year round.

Other venues include Traditions on the Beach on Sanibel offers beach front dining along with live music and a gluten free menu. The Stone Crab, also on Sanibel, is a fun and funky place with music that will get your feet stomping.

In season, if you want a more formal evening of listening, you will have a grand opportunity at places like Big Arts which offers classical concerts. And, several of the boat cruises also entertain with live music.

This is not a comprehensive list, to be sure, so we encourage vacationers to look around and ask. They will be sure to find something nice any time they come!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Keys, Marco,Naples, Sanibel....Choices and Chances

From time to time, we will be contacted by a prospective rental guest stating that they are looking at several options on where to spend their holidays.

The choices expressed are most often other locales in SW Florida.

While we don't often have time to do a compare and contrast over the phone, we would like to create a think paper here on this blog as a place to point to when the need arises.

Essentially, the decision should rest on the kind of vacation you want, the kind of environment you prefer, and the kind of beach you dream about.

The Keys are a great choice for those seeking a largely boating or fishing adventure. The poetic statement, "Water, water everywhere" has no better application than in the Florida Keys. The thin strip of land on which the Keys are built is flanked on one side by the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. If all that water were not enough, the Keys are full of mangrove swamps and lagoons. There is literally no end to the water front dining one can enjoy while vacationing at most of the Keys, and probably the best snorkeling and scuba diving in SW Florida is possible there as well.. But, and those who love the Keys and bask in the spectacular sun sets and sun rises would agree, there are few beaches on the Keys. Even more disappointingly, those that do exist have such low tides that to actually swim, one needs to do a lot of walking to reach deeper waters. Development on the Keys, with the exception of one or two beautifully landscaped residential areas, has not included much greenery though the condos and hotels are often planted nicely and are low key. If you are seeking, lush, however, the Keys will probably disappoint.

Marco Island does have great beaches and great spots for swimming. Gulf front accommodations range from hotels to condos, and we have it on good word that the pricing is very competitive. It, like the Keys, is not abundantly green and most of the beaches are lined with high rise buildings. If you seek a vacation on a largely residential Island with special beaches, Marco could be a good choice for you.

The same could be said for Naples, though one distinct attraction in Naples is being able to be on a beach within walking distance of so many downtown, fine dining (and quite lovely) restaurants. The gourmand may find a Naples beach vacation the most appealing, as might the shopper given the number of stores where one can browse and buy all day long.

Sanibel is a small barrier Island with great verdant stretches of land and a large parcel of protected land that takes up 2/3 of the Island. The beaches on Sanibel are often full of gorgeous shells and fairly deserted. Bird watching is both easy and pleasing as the Island is home to 220 species of birds, many, if not most, easily observed and recorded. The topography is highly diversified, low density in buildings and copious in topicality. Twenty five miles of lightly used walking and biking paths thread the island, and boating adventures take place from both east and west locations. There are a couple of fine dining eateries, but many more casual places offering an interesting mix of menus. Shopping may not be as plentiful as Naples, but will definitely offer more choices than the Keys (excluding Key West) or Marco.

We hope that this post will be of help to those who want to plan their future travels.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Holy Places on Sanibel and Captiva

With so many people unable to travel to these beautiful barrier islands this past week due to the hurricanes up NORTH, the Islands feel untouched and unexplored. While we were fortunate to not have even a heavy wind from Irene, the heavy rains, flooding and tree destroying gales in such places as New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and DC, among many others, have kept our little roads and beaches empty for the past 7 days. With such quietude, it feels like hallowed ground.

But this will be changing soon enough and it does make one reflect on the places most quiet and spiritual left to enjoy when the holiday makers return.

Of course, on such a lovely barrier island, there are innumerable sacred spaces in our natural world. Sunrise or sunset on an empty beach, a bike ride through Ding Darling, a walk through the Bailey Tract will all offer opportunities for tranquil contemplation.

But the man made holy spaces are equally enticing.

Take for example the Sanibel Community Church.

The Sanibel Community Church , with a multi denominational congregation, has long opened it's doors to residents and vacationers alike. And those doors are about to become wider as the Church just broke ground for a new multi purpose facility.

The new building will consist of a 600-seat Sanctuary, a bookstore and church administrative offices. This occasion heralds the culmination of more than one year of cooperation between the church and community leaders.

The existing Family Life Center will also be getting a face lift during the construction phase in order to house the growing Children's Ministry on the first floor, and Youth Ministry to teens on the second floor. Sanibel Community Church in recent years has had sustained growth in their Children and Youth Ministries.

The Historic Sanctuary will remain and continue to be used for an 8 a.m. Traditional Service, as well as for weddings, memorial services and other community events.

Another sacred space is Chapel by the Sea on Captiva. Captiva Island’s Chapel By The Sea is a seasonal Christian ministry open to all from Thanksgiving through Easter. The historic Chapel is denominationally independent and welcomes everyone regardless of their spiritual beliefs. The Chapel nurtures a strong community within and is committed to generously supporting Outreach in the broader community. They meet every Sunday at 11a.m. for worship,with indoor and outdoor seating followed by fellowship: coffee, iced tea and sweet treats!

St. Isabel Catholic Church has had a long history marked by growth since Bishop Hurley bought a tract of land on Sanibel Island. The twenty acres was to become the center of St. Isabel parish. Shortly after the property was purchased Father Miguel Goni, administrator of Ascension Parish on Ft. Myers Beach, began using the property by having picnics and social gatherings. Just about this time, Father Goni would come to Sanibel by boat every Sunday and say mass in private homes. The normal means of transportation to Sanibel was a ferryboat until the bridge and causeway were built in 1963.

St. Isabel's is a community united by their faith. Conscious of their beautiful surroundings, and grateful for God’s many gifts, the congregation shares their time, talent, and treasure. St. Isabel welcomes all, parishioner and visitor, to be nourished and encouraged sacramentally.

The Reform synagogue, Bat Yam, Temple of the Islands, also offers sacred solace to its members at the Sanibel Congregational Church of Christ on Sanibel. During the first year, 61 families joined and decided to affiliate with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the organization linking 85o Reform Jewish congregations in the USA and Canada. Services were held twice monthly and a first Community Seder was held on Passover that year in 1991.

During the summer months, services were at member's homes.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I think You're Going to like this Picture (of Sanibel and SW Florida)

We often "borrow" photos from, a website that lets users post their photos and share them (or not) with others. And we have found some great pix to use through this means.

But we wanted to tease our readers just a bit as well as promote some of the exceptionally good photographers who live on or visit Sanibel Island and environs and who have captured the beauty of the South West Florida so poignantly. Because their work spans the whole of SW Florida and beyond, we find the Island photos to be only one reason of many to recommend them.

One of our favorite websites for great nature photography is that of Richard Fortune and Sara Lopez:
They capture the environment in a way that will amaze, entertain and even frighten with the close up look at our most benign and most fearful of creatures.On this site you will see dolphins leaping, birds feeding their young, and alligators showing off their large mouths and even bigger teeth. Dick and Sara take you right into the Sanibel environment. What we particularly like and enjoy with this site is the large image that you can click through, giving you, the viewer, a close up and personal view.

Another highly valued photographer is Gordon Campbell. Like Dick and Sara, Gordon' work reflects the beauty of the state and even other areas, but we think his pictures on and of Sanibel are among his best shots. Of course, we might be somewhat prejudiced, but take a look and let us know what you think: One of the things we like about Gordon's site is the photographer's ability and willingness to share his skills. Gordon gives tips on how and where to get the best photography and even offers tours and classes in photography. And, as with Dick and Sara, Gordon also donates his time and photography to worthy organizations in SW Florida.

One photographer whose work we admire uses a special method to enhance his photos. Ray Bilcliff, whose work covers many aspects of photography in many, many locales, has employed "paintography" to make his pictures literally jump off the page. According to Ray "The world is full of natures true natural beauty. The true beauty of nature has been enhanced in my photos by the use of paintography a sort of mixture between oil painting and photography. Curling and twisting the pixels to create works of natural art." Ray's work and his use of "paintography" can best be viewed here:

And, of course, last but certainly not least, is the work of David Meardon.

Dave's work can be found all over the Island and his photos are often used on the prints sold as well as greeting cards sold in the shops Island wide. These are special views of Sanibel as seen through the eyes of a Sanibel "insider". David Meardon is a Sanibel Island professional photographer living and working on the island since 1981. Using his camera and creative eye, David documents events and captures the beauty of the area. A graduate of Oberlin College, he began his career as a photojournalist, initially with the Providence Journal and then with the Sanibel-Captiva Islander.

David's photos have appeared in National Geographic Video, Oprah Magazine, and numerous newspapers, books, magazines, and calendars both locally and nationally. He has won photographic awards in editorial,advertising and wildlife categories. David is the recipient of the 2005 Island of the Arts Award presented by the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce and is the winner of the 2007 The Best of the Islands Gold Award for Best Photographer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Where or where is that little Black Bear (on Sanibel)

Inclined to be some what of a worrywart, especially about animals, I can't help but wonder where the bear spotted in late June is making his home.

Sanibel Island, which is two-thirds a nature preserve, is not the native home to bear, but one young male did find his way to the Island a little over a month ago.

Whether he was attracted by the lure of some place new, was aware that no harm would come to him from humans on the extreme-pet friendly barrier island, or somehow intuited that there were sweets aplenty on Sanibel, the "little" guy made his way over and caused quite a stir among residents and visitors alike.

Based on a photo taken, the baby black bear is believed to be about a year and a half old and weighing between 40 and 60 pound. But how does a creature that makes it's home inland and usually in northern Florida, get to an island? He might have been island hopping from the mainland. He could have easily swam part of the way, walked part of the way during the low tide it has been suggested.

Because Islanders are so animal crazy, the bear might have had a happy home for life here, but doing what bears do naturally, he sought out a special treat and now has become bear-non grata.

Wildlife officials decided to capture and relocate the male bear because he raided a beekeeper’s beehives a couple of weeks ago, creating $20,000 worth of damage, most of it in the consumption of honey. It was a joint decision for the safety of the bear, it would be better off relocated somewhere else.

Up to this point, I have not been concerned, hoping that the bear would go on his own.

But according to the reports I have been reading, the bear has not been spotted in a while.

And that has me thinking.

It's a jungle out there for the bear. The humans will capture him safely and humanely if he is still on island. But there's no telling what a hungry alligator or two will do. While our two legged visitors know better than to go near the lagoons and ponds where the gators hang out, this immature bear has no inkling of the dangers that exist.

At this point, I will only rest easy when the bear has been found and relocated.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Never too Early to Plan: Shellabration 2012 Good Reason to Think Ahead

Sanibel sells seashells by the seashore. Yes, there are stores, plenty of them, where you can buy shells or art objects made of shells. And there are shells aplenty to gather at the beach. But now there is an extra flair for shells with the annual Shellabration held on Island.

Aside from the Island spirit to be found during Shellabration, there are bargains to be had and discoveries to be made.

Shellabration 2012! is an island wide, week long celebration of the Sanibel Shell Fair and Show, designed as a tribute to the island's shell bounty. The celebration will run from February 26 through March 4, with the shell fair and show running March 1 to 3 at The Community House.

Shellabrators from around the island are joining in on the excitement with events and promotions. Everybody is invited to participate. A calendar of events will be prepared and promoted in local and national publications. Below is current list of Shellabrators:

• Amy's Something Special, 630 Tarpon Bay Road, is going to offer a 15 percent discount on locally made shell pendants wrapped in sterling silver.

• BIG ARTS will be participating with a shell-theme art exhibit in the Theater Lobby Gallery February 26 through March 4.

• Billy's Bike And Rentals, will be giving all customers (on-line and in-store) a raffle ticket for a chance to own a signed Shellabration poster designed by artist Pam Brodersen.

• Sanibel Historical Museum will have several shell collections on display throughout Shellabration week inside the Rutland Home, Burnap Cottage, Morning Glories and the schoolhouse. In addition, there will also be a shell collection from Thomas Edison with a letter to authenticate it from Mina Edison.

• Great White Grill has created its own microbrew, Shellabraton Beer, to be available during Shellabration week.

• She Sells Sea Shells will be running two promotions during Shellabration week: 25 percent off craft supplies including wood and paper mache boxes and frames, many other paper and wood items, glue, glaze, glitter, glass jars and mirror backs; Sailor's Valentines priced at $275 will be reduced to $75.

• The Sanibel Public Library will have a shell book reading and fossil shell displays featuring 120 different species as old as 5 million years. Some of the shells are extinct and some are found at the beach today. The fossils are from the Burnt Store area is in North Fort Myers. For 10,000 years the area has been dry land. Before that, during the Pliocene and Pleistocene eras it was at times a shallow bay of what is now the Gulf of Mexico. When stockpiling this fill on the Library building site in the early 1990s, the material was observed to be full of marine fossils, evidence of the abundant life of the ancient sea.

• A Shellabration necklace will be offered for sale at various venues around the island. It will allow for creative additions to make each one as unique as its owner.

• Children's art, The children of the island will be invited to get involved by creating a special Shellabration! work of art.

• An attempt to break a Guiness Book of Worlds Records with the Sanibel Stoop will take place Friday, February 17.

• Opening Gala at Traditions, Sunday February 26.

• Fashion show luncheon at Sweet Melissa's featuring one of a kind shell adorned garments.

• 75th Shell Fair and Show, Thursday March 1 to Saturday March 3.

• Rusty Brown presents In Celebration of Ann Morrow Lindbergh, followed by a traditional ice cream social.

So if shells are your thing, and Sanibel is your place, you do want to start a conversation about visiting the Island during Shellabration 2012!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Art is the Heart of Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island has earned and deserves its reputation as a nature island. The topography alone supports that claim. With Ding Darling Preserve the core of the Island, the restrictions on building and limitations to building density and enormity strongly entrenched, the island retains a unique natural character.

But with all the nature in Southwest Florida from the Everglades to the Keys and then up the west coast (called the nature coast among insiders) there is one facet to Sanibel that differentiates it from all other vacation destinations.

That facet is art.

Art, like nature, abounds on Sanibel.

Other areas of Florida can boast of their restaurants, fine dining and diversity of shopping, and Sanibel could be a contender in those areas as well. But there is no where else in the state where fundamental nature and artistic culture live so harmoniously and conspicuously together.

Just in art galleries and art venues alone, for a 12 mile long barrier island, Sanibel's artistic treasures are easily discovered and enjoyed, in person and on line:

There's the BIG Arts galleries and shows, several diverse and engaging ones now going on through August 31:

And there's the Hirdie-Girdie Art Gallery, a Sanibel artists collective with some colorful and dynamic pieces---as well as a great deal of whimsy---- for your viewing:

If you fancy mermaids, stop by or browse the work at The Tower Gallery where at least one artist has elegantly captured these sirens of the sea:

Don't mistake the Sanibel Art & Frame Company for just your ordinary frame shop. Yes, you can buy frames but the gallery of artists there may delight your eyes with their focus on nature, topicality and wildlife:

Sanybel's Finest has fine art and some delightful crafts on view for you:

And the Watson Macrae Gallery features paintings, glass and sculpture among their offerings for the art connoisseur:

Many shows are now taking place in all the galleries, and many more are coming. Stay tuned to this blog for further announcements!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Algiers River Boat: An enticing historical note on Sanibel

While some vacationers spend time on Algiers beach on Sanibel Island, most don't know how the beach came by its name. It has nothing to do with the country, but with a boat that once almost became Sanibel Island's first mansion.

It all began in 1925 in a Cincinnati shipyard, where a workhorse boat was built to haul automobiles across the Mississippi. For 25 years, the Algiers had been a car ferry until a wealthy Boston couple with a fondness for quirky fixer-uppers bought it at an auction in 1958.

Lathrop and wife, Helen, Brown brought the 155-foot Algiers to the then-unbridged island in 1959, where they’d bought 25 acres after vacationing there. But they were no ordinary vacationers, as Helen was a shipping heiress and he was a New York congressman and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s college roommate and best man.

But before the Browns moved the Algiers to her new home, they gave the rather plain boat a glamorous makeover.

The Browns retrofitted the boat’s exterior with antebellum trimmings: a huge paddlewheel, feathered smokestacks and vintage gingerbread.

Inside, a pleasure palace was created with Italian terrazzo tiles, French marble countertops and sinks inlaid with gold seahorses, and gold-plated dolphin faucets spitting softened water into bathroom sinks. There was an elevator to whisk people to the top deck, and a restaurant-equipped kitchen boasting a microwave.

To get the Algiers to its destination, the Browns had it pulled by tugboat to Sanibel. Along the way, according to a 1978 article in the Island Reporter, Helen insisted that the workmen play poker “as befitted a proper Mississippi riverboat.”

Then they hired crews to cut a channel through the island’s interior, which they filled in behind themselves as they went.

Turns out the Browns had borrowed the volunteer department’s pump truck to help move water in the canal, but someone had parked it in high grass. It caught fire and burned to a crisp. To make amends, the Browns bought the department a brand-new one.

There was just one remaining detail before they moved in, Werner says. “They owned a house in Fort Lauderdale, and Helen wanted (Lathrop) to sell it first. So she sent him over there to sell the place,” he says, “and as the story goes, Lathrop traverses the Tamiami Trail and took care of it. Then he went to a pizzeria for dinner, came back with indigestion and died the next day.

Broken-hearted, Helen returned to Boston, never to return to Sanibel and never to sleep in her "dream boat".

Eventually, Helen Brown put it up for sale for $550,000 and in 1979, when the newly incorporated city of Sanibel was looking to acquire more beachfront land, it was suggested they consider the Brown property. The deal closed in 1981. By then, the boat was dangerously dilapidated.

Though there was talk of using it as city hall or leasing it for a restaurant, it was beyond repair. So, after everything salvageable had been stripped and auctioned the city had the Algiers demolished in 1982.

The one building left standing was the servant’s quarters, which were converted into the restrooms at Sanibel’s Gulfside City Park — also known as Algiers Beach.

From the boat itself, just three scraps remain: the captain’s wheel, the anchor and the bell, which are now on display at the Sanibel Historical Museum.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Where and How to find News on Sanibel Island

Those of us who live and/or work on Sanibel may find the best news sources are the people we are in contact with daily. News travels fast on a small barrier island. A comment made in the morning, can well "travel" through dozens of sets of ears and mouths by the end of day. That's the way of Island living. Things are personal and up close, expedient and entertaining.

But for visitors without the daily contact and person to person news sharing, the best channels for staying in touch with Island happenings is the internet where even hard copy news finds a home.

Your best source depends on what you need, and if you are looking for emerging issues and important info, you will probably want to "favorite" the Island website. Here you can find such pressing issues as beach updates, road construction or wild life concerns. Of course, that makes the Island sound much bigger and busier than it is and we need to advise you that Sanibel is only 12 miles long, that there are essentially two roads that run the length and that not much changes on our beaches from year to year. Sanibel is a tranquil place so if you are a news hound, you might get very bored seeking excitement in our daily status reports. But here's the link to the city site for your future reference:

If you seek a chattier, more detailed news outlet with more frequent updates, you might want to note the community on line resource that combines stories from several sources. At this site, you will find interesting news about Sanibel and Captiva authors, local businesses and upcoming events. You will be touched by the sense of community you will find in this resource, and how people on Island are always ready, willing and able to help each other and work toward a better experience for residents and visitors alike. The site is updated regularly. You can find it at this URL:

The largest and most traditionally journalistic news outlet is the News Press headquartered in Fort Myers. With a circulation of nearly 100,000 it touches on both the good and not so good in the overall area. It also features some professional photography making the page images more compelling.

The News-Press is a daily broadsheet newspaper located in Fort Myers, Florida serving primarily Lee County, as well as parts of adjoining counties.

The paper publishes several editions of its "Local & State" (metro) section for suburban communities, including Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, North Fort Myers, and South Fort Myers. Further, special sections are published on the paper's Web site, including "Education", "Environment", and "Growth/Development".

The News-Press is owned by the Virginia-based Gannett Company, who has owned it since 1971. Its online presence can be found here:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fitness Brought to New Heights on Captiva

Any one who has ever visited Sanibel knows that many residents as well as vacationers take health and fitness seriously. The trails that thread the Island are filled with runners, bikers, walkers and skate boarders. And the mangroves and estuaries are often the scene for canoeists and kayakers.

But in September, there will be a new game in town. Not necessarily Sanibel town, but on neighboring barrier island, Captiva!

For those who do keep fit and want to compete they will have delightful opportunity to do so.

A few weeks ago, Southwest Florida Events Inc., announced that it will conduct the inaugural Captiva Triathlon on Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18 on the grounds of South Seas Island Resort. The island's first-ever triathlon, which is being billed as "a family, fun and fitness weekend," will be centered around a children’s race on Saturday morning and an adult race on Sunday morning.

Angie Ferguson, a well known Elite Level 2 level triathlon coach and 15-time Ironman participant, is one of the three race directors for the event.

“I can’t imagine a more beautiful venue for this event," said Ferguson. "The run around the South Seas golf course is worth the price of admission by itself. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a prettier run course.”

According to event promoters, there will be two children’s races:

• 6 to 9-year-olds will complete a 100-yard swim, 1.5-mile bike and a half-mile run

• 10 to 13-year-old racers face a 200-yard swim, 3-mile bike and 1 mile run

The swimming course will take place in waist-deep water with the course lined with adults and lifeguards. The biking course will be closed to all traffic. The running course will be along the golf course overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

“If kids are looking for a project for the summer, we have a great one — preparing for the triathlon,” explained Ken Gooderham, another one of the race directors.

The adult race is a sprint length which is quarter-mile swim, 10-mile bike and a 3.1-mile run. Registration is limited to 500 participants.

The charity to benefit from the event will be announced soon but the biggest benefit will go to those who do the race. Having time on the Island is a prize in and of itself!

Monday, July 4, 2011

"Saving" Your Sanibel Holiday: Best ways to share those treasured Pix

Though most people who come to Sanibel want to stay longer if not forever, the majority of visitors must go home. Jobs, school, family obligations await. So we must be content with bringing home memories and reliving our vacation through photos and tales.

The most effective way to stretch the trip is to have great photos that you can look at and share with friends and relatives, not as fortunate in having been able to get here in person.

There are dozens of ways to save and share, from hard copies in photo albums to digital images on line. Having had the misfortune in the past to have lost photo albums or had them come apart, we are sticking to digital images.

Of course you can save them to your hard drive and email them to select folks in your net works, but this gesture, while generous, may not be fully appreciated. If nothing else, assuming the filters on your recipient's email folders allow them to come through, the pictures will take up too much space in email form...both your memory and their memory.

So, here you are with fantastic images just waiting to be shared. Your options are numerous. There are several easy to use photo save/swap/share options. Most come with an annual rate, and even when offered "for free" have limitations on how much storage is allowed, so you need to read the fine print.

A good comparison of the benefits and downfalls of the major (a dozen in all) picture sharing sites is offered here:

Again, almost all of these come at cost, though a pretty nominal one in all instances. One way that we have found to be very effective, and does not cost a penny, is to use the photo album capacity of Facebook.

Although you need a (free) Facebook account to use the site, you don't need to be on Facebook to see the photos. Facebook provides a link you can send to those who do not have an account and they will be able to click it and view your photos. If you do have an account, then the share function is even simpler.
We have found photo sharing on Facebook quite simple. The uploads, no matter what size resolution you used in taking the photo, are quick, and the resolutions very clear.

Unlike sites like, which we also use, Facebook does not appear to offer the bells and whistles of creating frames, or music or even album covers, but if you are looking for an easy way to share at no cost this could be the best method for you.

If you have any favorites, we would love to learn of what you use and why. No matter the method, your memories of Sanibel Island will never fade when you have a brilliant photograph at your fingertips!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Protecting Sharks on Sanibel----Yes, you read that right!

Sharks are considered apex predators of the marine world.

Sitting at the top of the food chain they don’t have too many worries – or then again maybe they do. Sharks at all stages of life, from egg to adult, can potentially be attacked. Animals that attack sharks include snails, whales, other sharks, and more.

But for the most part, large sharks such as great whites have few natural predators. Although whale attacks may occur on occasion it is unlikely that they are common. Unfortunately, humans are sharks' most deadly predator. According to CNN’s Lisa Ling in her December 2008 article “Shark fin soup alters ecosystem” roughly 100 million sharks are killed each year for shark fin soup. Decimating the shark population is not only bad for the sharks but can throw off the whole ecosystem as populations lower on the food chain are allowed to grow – potentially setting off a chain of further effects. According to the Shark Foundation/ Hai-Stiftung website one of every four shark species is considered endangered by the World Conservation Union.

Now those stats are pretty scary, scarier than the existence of sharks in our opinion. But there are shark heroes able and willing to step in. Chris Fischer developed his passion for the sea while spending family vacations in Southwest Florida, which at the time seemed like a world away from his native Louisville, Ky. But when he returned to the region on Wednesday, as the expedition leader of the M.V. Ocean and star of the National Geographic Channel television series "Shark Men," it almost seemed like he was coming home.

According to Fischer, the shark fin trade has reached epidemic proportions, with an estimated 50 to 90 million sharks killed annually by anglers who harvest the fish only for their fins. The fins are used in the creation of some traditional Chinese medicines as well as in recipes such as shark fin soup.

"Shark finning has made a terrible impact on the world's shark population. Sharks really are in peril right now," said Captain Brett McBride. McBride previously worked alongside Fischer on the TV series "Offshore Adventures," which won two Emmy Awards. "You really have to love this life. It has to be a passion for you or else you're not going to be here very long."

Fischer and his fellow "Shark Men" made an overnight stop off the coast of Sanibel recently, promoting the last two episodes of the second season. The finale will be broadcast on Saturday, July 2. The show is at 10 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.

Echoing the feelings of Sanibel residents, Fisher said of his visit: "What you have here in South Florida are a lot of people dedicated to protecting the waters. They take notice of what's going on, which is a really good thing for the environment."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Littlest Clams on Sanibel Island: Dance of the Coquinas

There are abalone, cherry stone and fact the list of varieties of clams is dozens long and goes from A to (nearly) Z.

But among the most interesting clams are the tiny ones found on Sanibel Island. They are called coquinas. Coquina is probably a Spanish derivative word coming from coconut, but we like to think of it as a variable on the word "coquette", a female flirt, human kind.

And there is something very flirtatious about the Sanibel coquina.

It's diminutive form, variety of colors, and habit of coming into view and then "disappearing" create an enchanting "act" for the little and delightful coquina.

Sanibel Sea School, one of our most trusted sources of information for the bounty of nature that the Island enjoys, describes the coquina's movement in this way: "Dig your hand into the wet sand right after a wave recedes, and coquinas will seem to pop out of the sand as they pull themselves back down under the cover of the sand. During the summer and into early fall, you can find live coquinas by the handfuls on sandy beaches from Virginia all the way to Texas."

The coquina lives in colonies just below the surface of the sand in the littoral zone (the area along the store which is usually exposed to the sun twice a day due to tides). Deposits of old shells, cemented by their own lime (calcium carbonate) compacted over time, create a limestone soft enough to be cut with a saw. (The shells of all mollusks are formed from lime which they extract from the sea.) This marine limestone can be used as a building material.

The little living clams burrow into the sand at the edge of the surf and are “unearthed” by the action of the waves. This is nature's plan, for each wave brings nourishment to the coquina. They position themselves in the best place for maximum exposure, following the direction (incoming or outgoing) of each wave wash.

Coquina Clams are known by quite a few other names, probably depending on the part of the country where they are found. Bean clams, Butterfly Shell Clams, Wedge Shells, and Pompano are some other names they are known by.

Though there are much bigger products of nature to observer on Sanibel, this beautifully shaped little dodger is an easy watch, delighting adults and children alike with its dance in the Gulf waves.

And shells found on the beach that are no longer living can help prolong your vacation on your return home. Coquina seashells can be used in various shell crafts. Although the seashells are small, the variety of colors and patterns they come in can enhance any item on which they are used.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Some Testimonials Are More Dramatic than Others: Captiva lauded in Family Fun Magazine

Published by Disney Publishing Worldwide, Disney FamilyFun magazine, which targets families with children 12 and under, has a rate base of 2.1 million and a total audience of 5.5 million . That's pretty impressive. And given the halo that has hovered over the Disney empire for quite some time, travelers are going to take any recommendations from FamilyFun pretty seriously.

A trusted resource for families, FamilyFun delivers real ideas for -- and from -- real families. FamilyFun magazine's lively and informative content focuses on making the most of family time together through cooking, crafts, celebrations, volunteering, travel, and other family activities.

So when readers of FamilyFun magazine named Sanibel's little neighbor, Captiva Island, as a great family destination, we all took notice.

Most recently, Captiva was recommended as a great family vacation spot in the May edition of the Disney FamilyFun Magazine. In its “Let’s Go” section, the Holland family of Hanover, Pa. recommended Captiva for its beautiful beaches and low-key family vacation.

“We saw an octopus and stingray and bald eagles at the near-by nature preserve,” said mother Aliisa Holland about the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. “We were amazed by all the cool wildlife around us.”

The article stated the gentle waters and superb shell-seeking make this small Gulf Coast Island, just over the bridge from neighboring Sanibel, a sure bet for families in search of a simple beach scene.

Captiva Island, sister to larger Sanibel Island, is just over a small bridge which crosses at Turner Beach. Turner Beach is a great place for catching that prize fish and also for finding the colorful shells that these islands are famous for. The beach stretches 5 miles to the northern tip of Captiva Island at Redfish Pass. From the bridge at Turner beach, Captiva Drive is a scenic drive past giant cactus, colorful bougainvilleas and other tropical flora along a stretch of sea and sand ending at "downtown" Captiva, which is more of a village than a town.

In 2010 alone, there were more than 400,000 people who visited the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva.