Sunday, June 26, 2011

Protecting Sharks on Sanibel----Yes, you read that right!

Sharks are considered apex predators of the marine world.

Sitting at the top of the food chain they don’t have too many worries – or then again maybe they do. Sharks at all stages of life, from egg to adult, can potentially be attacked. Animals that attack sharks include snails, whales, other sharks, and more.

But for the most part, large sharks such as great whites have few natural predators. Although whale attacks may occur on occasion it is unlikely that they are common. Unfortunately, humans are sharks' most deadly predator. According to CNN’s Lisa Ling in her December 2008 article “Shark fin soup alters ecosystem” roughly 100 million sharks are killed each year for shark fin soup. Decimating the shark population is not only bad for the sharks but can throw off the whole ecosystem as populations lower on the food chain are allowed to grow – potentially setting off a chain of further effects. According to the Shark Foundation/ Hai-Stiftung website one of every four shark species is considered endangered by the World Conservation Union.

Now those stats are pretty scary, scarier than the existence of sharks in our opinion. But there are shark heroes able and willing to step in. Chris Fischer developed his passion for the sea while spending family vacations in Southwest Florida, which at the time seemed like a world away from his native Louisville, Ky. But when he returned to the region on Wednesday, as the expedition leader of the M.V. Ocean and star of the National Geographic Channel television series "Shark Men," it almost seemed like he was coming home.

According to Fischer, the shark fin trade has reached epidemic proportions, with an estimated 50 to 90 million sharks killed annually by anglers who harvest the fish only for their fins. The fins are used in the creation of some traditional Chinese medicines as well as in recipes such as shark fin soup.

"Shark finning has made a terrible impact on the world's shark population. Sharks really are in peril right now," said Captain Brett McBride. McBride previously worked alongside Fischer on the TV series "Offshore Adventures," which won two Emmy Awards. "You really have to love this life. It has to be a passion for you or else you're not going to be here very long."

Fischer and his fellow "Shark Men" made an overnight stop off the coast of Sanibel recently, promoting the last two episodes of the second season. The finale will be broadcast on Saturday, July 2. The show is at 10 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.

Echoing the feelings of Sanibel residents, Fisher said of his visit: "What you have here in South Florida are a lot of people dedicated to protecting the waters. They take notice of what's going on, which is a really good thing for the environment."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Littlest Clams on Sanibel Island: Dance of the Coquinas

There are abalone, cherry stone and fact the list of varieties of clams is dozens long and goes from A to (nearly) Z.

But among the most interesting clams are the tiny ones found on Sanibel Island. They are called coquinas. Coquina is probably a Spanish derivative word coming from coconut, but we like to think of it as a variable on the word "coquette", a female flirt, human kind.

And there is something very flirtatious about the Sanibel coquina.

It's diminutive form, variety of colors, and habit of coming into view and then "disappearing" create an enchanting "act" for the little and delightful coquina.

Sanibel Sea School, one of our most trusted sources of information for the bounty of nature that the Island enjoys, describes the coquina's movement in this way: "Dig your hand into the wet sand right after a wave recedes, and coquinas will seem to pop out of the sand as they pull themselves back down under the cover of the sand. During the summer and into early fall, you can find live coquinas by the handfuls on sandy beaches from Virginia all the way to Texas."

The coquina lives in colonies just below the surface of the sand in the littoral zone (the area along the store which is usually exposed to the sun twice a day due to tides). Deposits of old shells, cemented by their own lime (calcium carbonate) compacted over time, create a limestone soft enough to be cut with a saw. (The shells of all mollusks are formed from lime which they extract from the sea.) This marine limestone can be used as a building material.

The little living clams burrow into the sand at the edge of the surf and are “unearthed” by the action of the waves. This is nature's plan, for each wave brings nourishment to the coquina. They position themselves in the best place for maximum exposure, following the direction (incoming or outgoing) of each wave wash.

Coquina Clams are known by quite a few other names, probably depending on the part of the country where they are found. Bean clams, Butterfly Shell Clams, Wedge Shells, and Pompano are some other names they are known by.

Though there are much bigger products of nature to observer on Sanibel, this beautifully shaped little dodger is an easy watch, delighting adults and children alike with its dance in the Gulf waves.

And shells found on the beach that are no longer living can help prolong your vacation on your return home. Coquina seashells can be used in various shell crafts. Although the seashells are small, the variety of colors and patterns they come in can enhance any item on which they are used.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Some Testimonials Are More Dramatic than Others: Captiva lauded in Family Fun Magazine

Published by Disney Publishing Worldwide, Disney FamilyFun magazine, which targets families with children 12 and under, has a rate base of 2.1 million and a total audience of 5.5 million . That's pretty impressive. And given the halo that has hovered over the Disney empire for quite some time, travelers are going to take any recommendations from FamilyFun pretty seriously.

A trusted resource for families, FamilyFun delivers real ideas for -- and from -- real families. FamilyFun magazine's lively and informative content focuses on making the most of family time together through cooking, crafts, celebrations, volunteering, travel, and other family activities.

So when readers of FamilyFun magazine named Sanibel's little neighbor, Captiva Island, as a great family destination, we all took notice.

Most recently, Captiva was recommended as a great family vacation spot in the May edition of the Disney FamilyFun Magazine. In its “Let’s Go” section, the Holland family of Hanover, Pa. recommended Captiva for its beautiful beaches and low-key family vacation.

“We saw an octopus and stingray and bald eagles at the near-by nature preserve,” said mother Aliisa Holland about the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. “We were amazed by all the cool wildlife around us.”

The article stated the gentle waters and superb shell-seeking make this small Gulf Coast Island, just over the bridge from neighboring Sanibel, a sure bet for families in search of a simple beach scene.

Captiva Island, sister to larger Sanibel Island, is just over a small bridge which crosses at Turner Beach. Turner Beach is a great place for catching that prize fish and also for finding the colorful shells that these islands are famous for. The beach stretches 5 miles to the northern tip of Captiva Island at Redfish Pass. From the bridge at Turner beach, Captiva Drive is a scenic drive past giant cactus, colorful bougainvilleas and other tropical flora along a stretch of sea and sand ending at "downtown" Captiva, which is more of a village than a town.

In 2010 alone, there were more than 400,000 people who visited the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Independence Day on and around Sanibel Island

Summers on Sanibel can be absolutely dreamy.

Sure, it's hot and humid, but with the Gulf so luminescent and the environment so peaceful, it's easy to bliss out and feel a million miles away from stress.

And for that jolt that perhaps the most harmonious vacation can need, there is Independence Day bringing in a bit of excitement to add diversity to your Sanibel Holiday.

This Fourth of July, the flags will be raised as will the cheer.

Several Independence Day Celebrations will be held on and off Island.

Date: July 4, 2011 Time: 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Event Description: Parade
This event will take place on Monday July 4th. Parade starts at 9:30am and begins at Tarpon Bay Road and Periwinkle (Bailey’s Center) ending at Periwinkle and Casa Ybel Road (Jerry’s Center).

Also, the 32nd annual Optimists' 4th of July Road Rally. It starts at Noon from the Timbers parking lot. Registration is $35. Forms are available at Bailey's, Sanibel Cafe or at the starting line. Contact Randy at 699-8739 or Richard at 292-4631.

Need a little more sound and light? Then travel off island that night!

An Independence Day Celebration called the Red White and Boom will be held in adjacent Cape Coral.

The Chamber of Commerce of the City of Cape Coral’s will present a 4th of July party, RE/MAX Realty Team’s Red White & Boom. For over 11 year the best of the Cape Coral business community comes together every July 4th to honor the birth of our Nation with Southwest Florida’s most spectacular fireworks show and party.

Held at the foot of the Cape Coral Bridge on Cape Coral Parkway the RE/MAX Realty Team’s Red White & Boom is a day filled with patriotic fun. Throughout the years the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral’s Red White & Boom has won the reputation as the best place in Southwest Florida to honor America on the 4th. By land or sea the experience is remarkable as over 20,000 citizens enjoy coming together in the Spirit of America.

The RE/MAX Realty Team’s Red White & Boom has something for the whole family from a “FREE FUN ZONE” for the kids with inflatable bounce houses, climbing walls and obstacle courses and over 100 vendors of food, drinks, novelty items, jewelry, arts & crafts along with free giveaways and drawings. Everyone will enjoy the live entertainment from the Boom Stage featuring national recording acts. The Caloosa Tent & Rental VIP Area will once again take your 4th experience to a higher level as a limited amount of tickets will be on sale to the public to this special area.

The Cape Coral Bridge and Cape Coral Parkway shut down between the bridge and Del Prado Boulevard beginning at 4 p.m., when music on two stages sparks a street party that more than 50,000 people attend. Four bands play, a kids carnival keeps the little ones happy, and vendors sell food and beer.

At dusk, watch the spangled fireworks over the river from land or boat.

For further information, call Bob:

But if you prefer to stay local and stay mellow, just set your sights on Sanibel's Doc Ford's where you can enjoy Yucatan Shrimp and tasty Mojitos. At Doc Ford's, whether its a seasonal celebration, the Big Game on their 27 TVs or a book signing by Randy Wayne White himself, you never know what will be happening!