Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are you a Foodie? The Sanibel area will not Disappoint!

We all know that Sanibel is a natural paradise.  A place where children of all ages find delights of all kinds.  The sea, the shells, the wild life, the Island ambiance: all of these attract visitors from around the world to our Gulf waters, our beaches, our nature preserve.

But one does not have to pack a brown bag in order to eat well and eat uniquely on Sanibel.

There are more than enough culinary pleasures on the Island and close to the Island to please the most demanding palates.

And we are not just going to round up the usual suspects in this post.

Surely, such eateries right on Island have become familiar to those seeking a breakfast, lunch or dinner out.  Among such favorites are the Bubble Room, Amy's, Traders, Matzaluna, Gramma Dot's, Cips as all stand out for ambiance, specialties of the house and overall catering to the hungry traveler.

But there are some discoveries to be made that are not static but dynamic experiences.  Not restaurants per se, but special places to taste the best of the Islands, some times solid pleasures and sometimes liquid ones.

One of the sweetest treats in the area is a moving target, generally held some time in summer when Mangoes are ready for eating.    The Mango Mania Fruit Fair is a quirky festival  held on Pine Island. A celebration of all things mango, the fair includes mango cook offs, mango pie-eating competitions, mango juggling competitions and the longest mango throw competition. Local chefs whip up mango-based drinks, starters and desserts for visitors. Those with a taste for variety will be relieved to hear lychee, carambola, longan, papaya and chocolate pudding fruit – all grown on the island – are also available.

And then there are the liquid heavens that surround the Island.

For the beer and wine drinker, exciting experiences are just a causeway away.

The Fort Myers Brewing Company is the city’s first brewery. Centrally located, it produces a number of award-winning craft ales ranging from Gateway Gold to Cypress Strong. The
tasting room is open on Fridays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Beecher Brewing Company opened recently in downtown Fort Myers in June. The microbrewery is located in the large, historic McCrory Building, near the waterfront. At the time of writing, Beecher planned to have 25 craft beers on tap, with a regularly rotating menu of beers depending on the season. They also asserted visitors will be able to enjoy tastings with complimentary food pairings.

Eden Vineyards is the southernmost bonded vineyard and winery in the United States. It’s located just east of Fort Myers in the rural region of Alva. The family-run, old-Florida-feel establishment has been running for more than 30 years. Today it produces six wines ranging from the dry white Lake Emerald, to the sweet white Eden Stars. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the venue gives visitors a chance to choose from tutored tastings with the owners or a drive through the vineyards, sampling wines along the way.

These are just the tip of the savory seekers Sanibel.  We will post further suggestions in the future!



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I think I saw a Sawfish! Yes, you did see a Sawfish on Sanibel

We get more than our share of rare and exotic creatures on Sanibel.

They fly into us, they cross the bay by swimming over and some probably hitch rides on trucks and other vehicles that transport them to our Island paradise.

Some are welcomed and allowed to stay, some are a danger to our own natives (humans and non humans) and some are so special that we go out of our way to ensure their release and safety.

On this last consideration, we test our case on the giant Sawfish recently reeled in to our shores.

Recently two teenage visitors , Alexander and Jordan Crabb, staying on Sanibel with their family hooked a really big one.  That night they were trying to catch something big, maybe a shark, but what they caught was a 14-foot, 350-pound endangered Sawfish.

"It's insane we had no plan on catching a sawfish," one of the teens said.
Jordan took half a Spanish mackerel out about 75 feet to use as bait.
"We were about to kayak another rod out and we looked over and the other rod was going off," Alexander said.   And thus began one of the best fishermen's tales to hit Sanibel.

The sawfish was hooked, but it was a battle to bring it in.
"We weren't gonna lose that fish, we didn't want to lose it," Alexander said.
They took turns, fighting it and working together for an hour-and-a-half.
"During the fight I remember looking back and there had to be at least 100-150 people. It was insane," Crabb said.

Finally they were able to drag it onto the beach and got a good look at their catch.
"We actually didn't see the saw until we brought it up on the beach it was amazing," Alexander said.
The teens knew sawfish are endangered, so they took some photos and measurements, and then let it go. Even though they can't bring the fish home, they're bringing home a pretty great story.
"Definitely the coolest thing I've caught just 'cause it's such a rare fish and it was so big," Alexander said.

Sawfish have been listed as endangered since 2003. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, they can be up to 18 feet long and 700 pounds.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

See this, Skip that: Travel Zoo and Good Morning America Visit Sanibel

Travel Zoo, a quickly emerging and growing web business, bills itself as "The Deal Experts. Over 26 million Subscribers Worldwide".  So when the deal experts team up with Good Morning America to make suggestions about what to see and do on Sanibel, we sit up and pay attention.

Their "See this, Skip that" travel advice is a great read for those who are planning a first or even a return trip to Sanibel, Captiva and the surrounding area.

And we knew we were off to a good start with the introduction to the Island:  In some ways, the Ft. Myers/Sanibel area is quintessential Florida, from the beaches to the fairways, and thanks to some pretty enviable weather. But this beautiful spot in the southwestern shores of the Sunshine State is also a destination all its own: history, culture and nature collide here, offering a unique travel experience that other Gulf Coast areas simply can't match.

Their very first recommendation takes the visitor into the most intriguing of Island water activities.  The USS Mohawk is a former U.S. Coast Guard cutter that was involved in more than a dozen attacks against Nazi subs during World War II. It was sunk off Sanibel Island in July of 2012 and is now an artificial reef. Located a bit more than 25 miles offshore and 90 feet down, it's paradise to the more experienced diver, for sure. But this summer, it's especially worth the plunge, as it hosts an underwater exhibit of works by Andreas Franke; the Austrian artist superimposed images of models in WWII-era dress onto pictures he took of the Mohawk, encased them in Plexiglas, and then hung them off the side of the submerged vessel. Come October, the images will resurface and go on display at the Alliance for the Arts in Ft. Myers.

And we fully appreciate the knowledge that they pass on about the Island lexicon.  "Pink Gold" is our name for shrimp, both for its color as well as for its value. 

But the good counsel offered does not end with our looking down on our  beautiful , tropical islands.  One of the great suggestions proffered is to visit the  The Planetarium at the Calusa Nature Center,  the only one in Southwest Florida, and the only one west of Miami. There, a high-tech digital projector plays jaw-dropping shows that encompass the entire 44-foot dome, and twice-daily presentations focus on stargazing, tracking the planets and introducing guests to the wonders of the telescope. After your galactic visit, stick around and explore the rest of the 105-acre site, which features a butterfly aviary, several hiking trails, a museum, resident critters – from a fox to a skunk – and a bird display that houses permanently injured eagles, hawks and owls.

What are your suggestions for see this, skip that when it comes to Sanibel?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What you need to know about Sanibel's Cane Toads

We love our wildlife on Sanibel Island, but when a species that is not indigenous makes its presence known and also threatens our native species, we do take notice.

Such is the case with the Cane Toad, a very large toad, reaching up to 5.5 inches in length and possibly near five pounds in weight.

And though that might not sound frightening, given other Island creatures that are significantly larger, the Cane Toad gives new meaning to the term: Don't judge a book by its cover.

This species poses a SERIOUS threat to wildlife on Sanibel, as well as domestic pets. The large glands behind the eyes and above the shoulders (parotoid glands) produce a toxin (bufotoxin) that is both irritating and deadly to smaller wildlife. When a predator grabs a giant toad in their mouth, the toad inflates its body and the toxin oozes out of the parotoid glands into the mouth of the predator. It is well documented that the poison has killed pet dogs in south Florida. The literature and conversations with veterinarians and pet owners indicate it is a horrific death for the animal.

There have even been human fatalities from this species from toad-licking. The tadpoles are also toxic, which can lead to fatalities in many animals that consume them. Special care should be taken to prevent dogs, cats, etc from biting or grasping these toads in their mouths.

And yes, we realize there are no doubt those reading this who are wondering why in the world would any human being lick a toad, so we will provide the answer.  Toad licking is a "sport" among those wishing to get high.  While the toxin can kill, it apparently also can create a drug like effect.

So the Cane Toad is not exactly a welcome guest on the Island, as you can imagine.

The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) is asking assistance in finding these toads so that they can be found and removed. They have provided multiple photos and details as well as the sound the toad makes at this page:

It is also good to note that , as in many other cases, the Cane Toad was deliberately introduced into the Florida landscape.  Cane toads were brought to Australia in the 1930s to control cane grubs in sugar cane fields. They did not control cane grubs and started eating smaller vertebrates. They have spread throughout northeastern Australia and are still a serious threat. They were released in sugar cane fields in Florida to control a larval form of a beetle as well, hence the name "cane toad." Just like in Australia, they escaped from the area and became established. Also, there is a record of approximately 100 being accidentally released in the 1950s in Miami by a pet dealer.

Their existence on the Island is most likely accidental.  They were probably brought here in mulch, pine straw, sod, plants, or even tadpoles hiding in a small pool of water on any object transported to the island.

When using the term unintended consequences, certainly the importation of the Cane Toad is a good example.  Please keep  a look out during your stay on Sanibel.