Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Tenacity of the Sanibel Sea Turtle

We do not often suggest that our readers and rental guests look at videos on line.

We realize that people do not have sufficient time to view them and are often hesitant to click on unknown links.

But this video created on Sanibel of just one tiny logger head sea turtle tells a great BIG story.  It shows a newly hatched turtle make its way from the nest to the sea, a daunting journey and it does feel that way to the viewer.  At least it did to us.  The hatchling may not have been that far away, but it feels like millions of miles in the video.

Watching a baby sea turtle  struggle out of the nest and make its way to the water is an emotional experience. Everything from footprints to driftwood and crabs are obstacles, though this gauntlet is important for its survival. Birds, raccoons, and fish are just a few of the predators these vulnerable creatures face; some experts say only one out of a thousand will survive to adulthood under natural conditions.

After an adult female sea turtle nests, she returns to the sea, leaving her nest and the eggs within it to develop on their own. The development time varies among different species and is influenced by environmental conditions such as the temperature of the sand. The developing hatchlings do not have sex chromosomes so their gender is determined by the temperature within the nest. 

Whether hatchlings are male or female depends on the temperature where they are in the nest, known as the “pivotal temperature." The temperature varies slightly among species, ranging between roughly 83-85 degrees Fahrenheit (28-29 degrees Celsius), at which embryos within a nest develop into a mix of males and females. Temperatures above this range produce females and colder temperatures produce males.

After 45 to 70 days (depending on the species), the hatchlings begin to pip, or break out of their eggs, using a small temporary tooth located on their snout.  This special function is called a caruncle. Once out of their eggs, they will remain in the nest for a number of days. During this time they will absorb their yolk, which is attached by an umbilical to their abdomen. This yolk will provide them the much-needed energy for their first few days while they make their way from the nest to offshore waters. 

The hatchlings begin their climb out of the nest in a coordinated effort. Once near the surface, they will often remain there until the temperature of the sand cools, usually indicating nighttime, when they are less likely to be eaten by predators or overheat. Once the baby turtles emerge from the nest, they use cues to find the water including the slope of the beach, the white crests of the waves, and the natural light of the ocean horizon. 

If the hatchlings successfully make it down the beach and reach the surf, they begin what is called a “swimming frenzy” which may last for several days and varies in intensity and duration among species. The swimming frenzy gets the hatchlings away from dangerous near shore waters where predation is high. Once hatchlings enter the water, their "lost years" begin and their whereabouts will be unknown for as long as a decade. When they have reached approximately the size of a dinner plate, the juvenile turtles will return to coastal areas where they will forage and continue to mature.

It's a harrowing tale from start to finish, but guaranteed if you see the efforts made, it will make your morning commute look like a piece of cake!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Sparkling Birthday on Sparkling Sanibel

Although we are a bit late with our greetings, we did want to extend a happy anniversary wish.

Lily & Co. Jewelers just celebrated eight years as America's "Coolest Jewelry Store" with the opening of its certified pre-owned Rolex Watch Boutique, the latest "Sea the Islands" collection, and a glass-encased design center planned for a September 1 opening.

According  to co-owner Dan Schulyer: "It has been a thrilling journey since we opened our doors in July 2006," said Schuyler, co-owner with Sanibel realtor Karen Bell. True to Island pet friendly attitude, the firm is named after Bell's dog who is pictured in many of their special promotions. "We are grateful for the success of the past eight years. It is due to our jewelry designer partnerships, faithful guests and Sanibel-Captiva residents, who have continually supported us throughout these eight years. They have made us who are today."

Co-owner Sanibel realtor Karen Bell and Schulyer have worked hard to make this island gem stand out.  Voted "Coolest Jewelry Store" in the nation by INSTORE magazine. Today, it has garnered national recognition as a "5 Designer Retailer" awarded by Jewelers Circular Keystone (JCK), as well as named a "5 Star Store." It earned the "Top Dog Award" from the 2011 Smart Show in Chicago. Locally, it has received "Best of the Islands" for seven consecutive years.

Schuyler and Bell are veterans in business: Bell in real estate, Schuyler in the jewelry industry. He started in the industry at age 17. The store on Tarpon Bay in Sanibel has had many lives.  It is a former schoolhouse, doctor's office and bank that opened in 1915 as church owned by the Florida Baptist Convention of Jacksonville. Bell handled the re-design of the building that had sat vacant, Schuyler the merchandise, he said. The company carries some 25 lines of jewelry.

A side benefit to the community has been Lily & Co.'s charitable work. The firm last year gave some $260,000 of in-kind donations, including its hosting of several large fund-raisers. The Animal Rescue Center in Fort Myers is a focus of the firm's donations. The most recent funder for the shelter raised $13,000. "Because of our friends and guests," Schuyler said, "we been allowed to give back a tremendous amount. Life is not always about money, it's about trying to live full circle, to build something to be proud of."

And so we wish Lily and all the humans involved, a very, very  bright future!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Modest Prices and Great Food Make These Sanibel/Captiva Restaurants Stand Out

There are dozens of places to eat on Sanibel, making choices difficult to make.

But if you are a family vacationing or a couple on a budget, the choices narrow down.

And if you want a high taste value with a low price tag, the options are even more limited.

But we are here and happy to tell you that mouth watering food is within your reach.

Take, for example, the new Doc Ford's located on Captiva is a nice complement to the Doc Ford's on Sanibel.  The same casual atmosphere and affordability can be found at  both, but the Captiva eatery has an entirely different menu with some very interesting options.

We were impressed that so many gluten free alternatives exist.  And we had an appetizer of a scrumptious black bean "dip"  that was truly large enough for three and substantial enough to qualify as an entrée. 

The location for the Captiva Doc Ford's at South Seas Plantation was a good choice.  The off the beaten path location gives the big front deck, cooled by overhead fans, a nice island-y feel.  The interior is simple but comfortable.  And this is definitely a spot where one can walk away with both a full stomach and full wallet.  A great place for couples, friends, and families.

On the far east end of Sanibel, a very nice option for breakfast can be found at the Lighthouse Café.  It is a calm place with a cool price, translated most affordable.  Eggs in a wide variety of styles dominate the menu and the hot cakes are delicious as well.   A red sauce frittata and two sea food frittatas are among the unique offerings in this family friendly, budget friendly café.  Lunch is also available, but breakfast has a very wide window with the service beginning at 7 a.m. and lasting until 3 p.m.  A great stop for before or after the beach.

Mid Island The Island Cow also offers a mind boggling breakfast menu with a very reasonable price tag.  But both lunch and dinner can be found at the Island Cow, and it is a favorite of families traveling with hungry kids.  Housed in a cute and colorful cottage, Island Cow offers both indoor and outdoor dining.    

Please let us know if you have a favorite restaurant on Sanibel or Captiva that is both easy on the belly and the pocketbook!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Joys of Hurricane Season on Sanibel

Yes, it's that time of year again.

We have reached those months when we are on alert for tropical storms and hurricanes skirting , passing through or actually visiting our beautiful barrier island.

And even though they rarely hit , the fact that they might, does have an impact.

Oh, it can be annoying on a day like today where the sun is in and out and we are wondering when and if it will make up its mind as to what it wants to be.

But so far today there has been no rain, just the threat of it.

And that is what hurricane season is like.  Will we get one or will we not?

But whether we do or we don't, the nice thing about summer weather is that it is fairly predictable.

You can put away your sweaters and jackets.  A cool day in summer may mean dropping down to 82 degrees.  There are no great swings in temperatures now as there can be in high season.

Generally, you can count on rains in the late afternoon and early evening, so don't leave home without your umbrella.  And do expect to see some outstanding electrical storms from time to time, as well as a greening up of the landscaping that you rarely see in winter time.

You can also count on having the beach largely to yourself, seeing more dolphins and manatees patrolling the waters, more pelicans swooping in for some fish, and more shore birds doing their beach blanket bingo walks along the water's edge.

You know that restaurant you can never get in to in high season?  Bet you can get in there now, and even feel totally un-pressured to eat leisurely and enjoy your meal more.

Your favorite condo may not always be available when the crowds invade the island, but you have a much better chance to book it now.

And like the condo costs, the tags on vacation rental homes is generally half priced in summer months.

Another advantage of hurricane season is the diversity of people who visit the Island.  Seniors still flock here though there are probably more families with children on summer holiday now.  And if you sit on the beach and listen closely, you will most likely hear half a dozen languages being spoken as our summer families come from far and wide.

So "hurricane" season is a great time to see Sanibel...for the first time or the fiftieth time.  Come and see for yourself!