Friday, March 25, 2016

Rare Visitors to Sanibel Island

As usual , this winter season saw many new visitors on island.

Word has gotten out that Sanibel is about as perfect a retreat from the icy cold and snow as one could wish for in the range of choices.

And so there was a parade of holiday makers, some staying a few days, some a week, some a month who were first timers for our little tropical island.

No doubt among them, were celebrities.  News makers, the rich and famous and others whom one might recognize from tv and the papers.

But there was probably less hue and cry about the two legged celebrities than there was about the avian rarities.  While the Island is famous world wide for its migratory bird populations, these migrants were particularly notable.

One of these, a Flamingo who may have lost his way in the Everglades, ended up in the water ways surrounding Sanibel.  The first sighting was in late January off the Sanibel Causeway and it received such acclamation that people were coming from all over Florida to get a glimpse.

Some did, and there were some spectacular shots taken of this gorgeous visitor.....from a distance, of course.  Even with those, a couple of professional photographers with both patience and the right equipment were able to capture images that also captured the full enthusiasm of bird watchers who hoped to get a glimpse as well.

Future sightings took place through February, though it has been a couple of weeks since any reports were made.  But that is the way it is with birds.  They come and they go, and much of the ability to see them depends on luck as well as keen eyesight and patience.

Another rare avian visitor was the Great White Pelican who just appeared this month in the Ding Darling Nature preserve----- a good 4,000 miles from its home range of Africa.

Southwest Florida news outlets reported recently that the bird was first spotted on a  Sunday in early March .  But it was not so apparent,  as was the Flamingo. The Great White Pelican joined the flock of American White Pelicans and though it is bigger and has a different shaped head than the "ordinary" White Pelicans, one had to look closer in the flocks to discern it from the others.

The stray pelican immediately made waves in the birding community, including among "Ding" Darling staff, who promptly made it the refuge's Facebook cover photo.

Sanibel Island is a very special place, and this winter claimed the Island more special than ever! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How to evaluate vacation rental properties on Sanibel Island

As a small , tropical, easy to navigate island, with a continuous beach from east to west and a nature reserve almost as long, one might think researching vacation rental properties would not be necessary for Sanibel Island.

And to a large degree, that is true.

There are no "bad" neighborhoods on Sanibel, all the neighborhoods are good, as are all the beaches.

But the very best vacation experience will rely, to at least some degree, on how well your accommodation on island meets your needs.

Aside from number of bedrooms and bathrooms, probably the most crucial in finding comfortable digs, your experience will depend on the fit for location, amenities, feel and ambiance.

If you want to be close to the Sanibel causeway, the east end is probably a good bet.  If you want more proximity to shops and restaurants, mid island may work best for you.  If you want a more secluded environment, then west end probably has more to offer.

Similarly, the layout of a condo, cottage or house may make a big difference in your ability to feel "at home".  Privacy is important for some, and a vacation rental with a split floor plan with distance between bedrooms would help to guarantee more privacy.

While every VR has a kitchen, its level of update will vary widely.  If you like to cook and plan to eat in, choosing a rental with a good kitchen could be a great boon for your stay.  Most vacation rentals are equipped very similarly, but the kitchen status could vary widely and you will want to pay close attention to the photos of the kitchen, noting differences and inquiring when you have questions.  Dining areas might also raise compatibility issues.  Are the table and chairs inside sufficient?  Do you want to eat on the lanai and need night time lighting? A ceiling fan?  A large table with ample seating?  All of these special features will vary from rental to rental.

While most condo complexes do offer pools, if your rental party plans to spend a lot of time in and around the pool, it might be helpful for you to familiarize yourself with pool rules before you book.  Some complexes do not allow rafts and other floating devices in the pool.  Others may have adult only hours.  Most do not allow glass to be brought to the pool area.  And more and more are not allowing smoking at the pool.

To be sure, Sanibel is a beautiful natural place and vacationers make wonderful memories here.  But the best times are the result of some planning and discretion and are well worth the time it takes to make certain the accommodation is going to be what you want it to be!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Hidden Treasures on Sanibel Island

Though Sanibel is a hidden treasure itself, often considered the jewel in Sanibel's crown, it contains dozens of nooks and crannies well worth exploring.

Here are some of our favorites, and we hope you will add some of your own.

Periwinkle Park's Mini Zoo:
Sanibel Island doesn't have its own zoo, but many islanders say this is the closest thing to a zoo on the island. It's the exotic animal display at Periwinkle Park and Campground off Periwinkle Way. Park your car outside the park and take a quick stroll into the park and it'll be on your left hand side. It features many species of exotic and native birds - such as toucans and macaws. You'll also see brown and ringtailed lemurs. The park's general manager says it began as his dad's hobby and grew over time into an attraction. Libby, a resident of the park who cares for the birds, offers a parrot show weekdays (except Wednesdays) at 10 a.m. She takes the birds out and lets visitors hold them.

The observation tower at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation:
Sanibel Island and its sister island, Captiva Island, are great places for bird watching. Visitors or “birders” go to the islands to enjoy the subtropical climate, sit on the beaches and enjoy the many species of birds that visit each year. The observation tower is a great place to get a birds eye view. It's hidden behind the Nature Center at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, off Sanibel-Captiva Road. This tower doesn't get visited by many compared to the tower at Ding Darling. That's what makes it a great hidden gem. Take a quick stroll through the trails to get to the tower and you will be met with peacefulness and true wilderness. The tower is very well built and offers a breathtaking view when you get to the top.

The Shipley Trail:
The Shipley Trail is one of Sanibel's many trails but SCCF says a lot of people don't know it's there because it just opened recently. It connects Roadside City Park off Periwinkle Way and Pond Apple Park/Trail. It travels through the Bailey Homestead Preserve, which isn't open to the public just yet. Don't let the construction crews scare you away. Workers are removing invasive trees and building public restrooms. The trail is the special and perfect length if you want to experience one of Sanibel's trails but don't have much time to invest. But if you do have time, walk over the Starr D. Thomas Memorial Boardwalk and walk the Pond Apple Trail which leads back to the Chamber of Commerce.

The Bailey Tract:
Ding Darling is by far one of the island's most popular attractions, so we had to include a hidden secret within the refuge. Although it's not intended to be a hidden secret, staffers say visitors often overlook the Bailey Tract off Tarpon Bay Road. It's described as true wilderness and we took a hike to confirm that. The tract is 100 acres and was first owned by Frank P. Bailey, a Sanibel pioneer. It's a great place to view wildlife, take photos and fish. Staff at Ding Darling say visitors have a higher chance of seeing wildlife at play as opposed to areas with more visitors. The refuge hopes to restore the tract to its original spartina marsh habitat, control invasive plants, and continue to protect the native plant and animal species. The refuge also hopes to make the tract more interactive and educational for visitors in the future.
The Beach at Blind Pass:
There is a hidden jewel situated only a few miles down the road from Bowman’s. While there is a fee to park at Blind Pass, as with most beaches in the area, it’s affordable at only $2.00 USD per hour as of May 2013. It is well worth every penny spent.  With great fishing, constant sightings of dolphins and manatees playing, plenty of space to spread out, never ending sunshine to obtain that beautiful tan you’ve been craving, gorgeous scenery, lush flora and fauna, stunning waterfront mansions, restaurants and convenience stores nearby, and the gorgeous gentle waves hitting the shore, Blind Pass is truly one of Florida’s hidden gems. Sunset viewing from Blind Pass is incredible, and unforgettable as well.