Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sanibel Island an Icon for Animal Advocacy

In areas around the USA there has been a bitter divide among those who want to kill deer in nearby reservations and forests to cull the herds , and those who don't believe that the kill is humane or necessary.

Like most tales, there are many elements too lengthy to go into here, but suffice it to say that the emotions run high on this issue.

What runs low is the outcome as the "powers that be" decide year after year that the deer must die. Despite alternatives available, the denouement is death to the deer.

Sanibel Island, on the other hand, had for years adopted a policy of live and let live with its alligator population. In fact, when discussion did arise about killing off alligators, there was such an outpouring of emotion that those for killing were not only out numbered, they were drowned out with a crescendo of nay sayers. The alligators, said the opposition to the killing, were here first. We, the humans, must live with their presence. It was a clearly shared philosophic position.

That said, residents and legislators alike realized that unlike deer, alligators are predatory and left to grow and multiply, were a danger. No one wanted to kill them, it was purely a life or death situation. Even now, Islanders are reluctant to report when a gator comes close to their home as they don't want to be responsible for it's being killed as a potential danger.

The recent and tragic death of a trainer at Sea World made me re-think and re-visit that philosophy as it goes beyond the act of lethal removal of a species from its environment.

All of the wild life organizations support Sanibel's wild life without trapping and imprisoning any of it. Their goals are to preserve and protect, and in doing so they hold the wild life close and then let it go. Education is important, but not at the expense of taking wild life out of the wild.

Contrast these philosophies with the theme parks, circuses, and other so-called entertainment venues where animals are kept in un-natural conditions, some times abused and always denied their instincts to be in the wild. Many of these industries claim that this is the way to learn about wild animal behavior, but is it really? Do we need to entrap dolphins and whales to learn how intelligent they are? Or is all of this "education" just a thinly disguised quest for money using these wild animals as currency for get-rich schemes?

The recent tragedy at Sea World certainly points to the inhumane conditions of the confined whale who just did what he does naturally and ended up taking a human life, tragically, needlessly.

I hope that Sanibel's "live and let live" philosophy might be a good model for a world view on wild life. Let it live free. Let it live in the wild where it belongs. There is no good reason not to do so.

The advocacy for animals on Sanibel Island is strong component in shaping the Island' s culture and appeal.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Avoiding Internet Scams on Sanibel Vacation Rentals

As vacation rentals become more and more known and the value more and more pronounced, vacationers are opting to try this way of travel. The numbers for the industry, both of rental guests and monies spent, is very impressive.

Unfortunately, where there is that much money and that many people, there is also lots of opportunity for thieves to take people's hard earned revenues and stuff them into their own pockets.

The vacation rental scam goes like this: A rental guest sees what looks like a great deal, a condo, cottage or house renting for significantly less than all the others in the same area. They think the place looks great and they contact the "owner". The owner requires payment by check in most instances and the guests are happy to oblige sending the check most often to a Post Office box. Once they arrive, however, the guests find that no such property exists or that the property does indeed exist but is was rented out by the real owner. Of course, it is nearly impossible in this kind of scenario to locate the scammer and the guests are not just out of their money, they are probably out of their vacation as well.

If the guests have paid with a credit card (yes, some scammers are so sophisticated they take credit cards and even post videos about their vacation rentals on the internet!), they may have a chance of retrieving their money. But the loss of a vacation is not easy to take.

Now you may be wondering why a vacation rental agency is writing about this subject.

We represent owners and take every precaution on behalf of owners to assure that the guest is reputable and their money is good. We cater to rental guests and make every effort to insure that they are getting what they want.

But any scam that effects our industry does have some effect on us despite the position of being reps for owners and interface for guests. So we do want to offer some words of advice to our owners, our guests and our readers of this blog.

We don't think anyone should take anything for granted. Do your research. Dig for details. Search out others who have stayed at the property you are interested in. Pay with a credit card, not cash, and only after you have done due diligence to authentic the owner, listing, management company.

And remember the unwritten law that can apply to almost any purchase.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Sweetest Side of Sanibel: Best Desserts on the Island

Being on Sanibel is certainly just desserts for working hard and walking the straight line. But as mortals, we always need a little something more, don't we?

All that sunshine, the Gulf breezes in the palm trees and wild life isn't enough for we hedonists.
The vacation needs a bit more sweetening.

Fortunately, the "cure" is easily at hand.
For the ice cream lover, there is Chocolate Expressions, serving love boat home made ice cream. (If the ice cream is not quite rich enough for your blood, keep in mind that Chocolate Expressions is "home of the Sanibel bear paw". A tooth ache creation of chocolate, caramel and nuts.)

And if you want a more islandy taste for your ice cream indulgence, try Pinocchio's home made Italian ice cream with such original titles as "Sanibel Krunch" and "Dirty Sand Dollar". Ice cream flavors are seasonal and include
Parrots Nest, Wylie's Cake Batter, Red Velvet, Gator Stew, Captiva Krunch, Pumpkin Gingersnap, Peppermint Patti, Peppermint Stick and Rum Raisin.

Other ice cream escapes can be found at the Sanibel Scoop and Dairy Queen, but it's pretty difficult to beat out the special flavors and creamy textures offered at Pinocchio's, not to mention the large portions offered there.

If chocolate is your favorite poison, then Goumas Chocolates will not disappoint. Specializing in homemade chocolates since 1911, this gourmet chocolate shop offers a wide range of chocolates, toffee, and caramels using authentic and traditional recipes.

Sweet Melissa's Cafe Lemon Tart is one of Sanibel's sweetest stars with its own following. And Amy's Over Easy Cafe is able to offer a quick jolt to your morning with such items as chocolate chip pancakes.

Do you have a favorite sweetener on Sanibel? We would love to know what it is!

ash whole nut

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Causeway now cause for joyful crossing to Sanibel Island

Whenever I start thinking about how bad something is going to be, I need to remind myself about the Sanibel causeway.

Many of us who work and live on the Island, envisioned the old causeway coming down and a new one replacing it as something terrible about to happen.

The fear was that the charm of the crossing from Fort Myers to our tiny, tropical, almost untouched island would be compromised with the new structure.

But, boy, were we wrong!

Spanning San Carlos Bay, the original causeway to Sanibel was constructed in 1963. From 1912 until 1963, the only way to get to Sanibel Island was via a steamer line ferry that connected the island to Punta Rassa. When the original causeway was constructed, it created the opportunity for this small and little known island to become part of greater Florida tourism. Sanibel Island experienced major growth in the early 1970s due to the causeway. The causeway, however, quickly became inconvenient as the greater access and "discovery" of Sanibel brought more and more people to the Island. The causeway was often clogged and when the draw bridge was opened for larger boats to pass under, traffic could be stalled for some time both coming on and off island.

In 1990, Lee County proposed the idea of replacing the original three-bridge causeway with a single four-lane high span bridge due to the age of the bridges. Many Sanibel residents opposed the idea in a referendum and it was later abandoned. But in 2003 after determining that there were cracks in the bridges and considering the increased traffic and congestion, the plan for a high span bridge was resurrected and successfully implemented. This was not done without a good deal of resistance, however, as many islanders wanted to refurbish the old drawbridge or build a new drawbridge.

We were sure the new construction would destroy some of the old world charm of arriving at Sanibel and thought that the little islands that the causeway trans versed would no longer be accessible by car.

These are enchanting spots, a man-made chain of islands that stretches from Summerlin Road to Sanibel Island. The islands were built to accommodate the Sanibel bridge, but have become a playground for sailors, fishermen, sunbathers and other beach enthusiasts. During winter and spring months the islands are the region’s top windsurfing and kitesurfing spots. High winds are consistent.

Most striking are the sunsets seen from the shores of the causeway.

But much to our relief, the new causeway completed well over a year ago still allows access to the islands. It continues to attract crowds at sunset because visitors can easily drive to the edge of the beach for spectacular views.

Additionally, the new causeway---from certain angles---looks like it is rising straight to heaven.

The original bridges, later demolished, were sunk into the water to create a number of artificial reefs in the San Carlos Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

The toll is now $6.00 rather than $3.00. It is only charged one way, coming on. That appears to be the only negative surrounding the new causeway. And though we wish it would be less, six dollars seems a paltry sum to enter paradise. Don't you agree?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rentals on Sanibel Don't End With Housing

Though Sanibel is a pristine tropical island with a focus on nature, it is pretty far from the concept of roughing it in terms of comfort and convenience.

Of course everyone knows that Sanibel Island has house and condo rentals, and there are scores of options when it comes to accommodations.

But if you are coming to the island with your plans assembled and wondering if you should shoo the cat from the bag and pack your tennis racket..... or deflate your rubber raft and cram it into your suit case..... you need not worry.

Sanibel Island has just about every rental you could possibly think of.

Would you like to rent a golf cart to travel to the shops? How about a body board, wave runner or scoot coupe? You don't even know what they are? Then maybe you should check out the interesting array of rentals at Yolo Water Sports.

Do you need a crib or maybe a baby stroller for your little ones? You can get anything you want at Island Rentals.

If you are inspired by the number of people you see riding their bikes around the island, there is no need to envy the cyclists. There are several bike rental shops on Sanibel. We generally refer our renters to Billy's Bike Rentals. You can rent a variety of bikes from Billy's, including a bicycle built for two. You can even rent a segway at Billy's!

Other rentals available on the island include fishing equipment, sail boats, canoes and kayaks, motor scooters, and, not far off island, scuba diving equipment is available for rent.

So you can leave home without it. You'll be sure to find "it" on Sanibel, what ever it is. If you wanted to, you could board the plane or jump in your car with just the clothes on your back and be able to get what ever you need right on island!