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.