Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Unique and Unusual Among Sanibel Bird Habits

Birders flock to Sanibel for the diverse array of birds that can be seen on our Island.

Sanibel Island is home to a significant variety of birds, including the Roseate Spoonbill and several nesting pairs of Bald Eagles. Birds can be seen on the beaches, the causeway islands, and the reserves, including J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Common sights include pelicans, herons,egrets, , and Anhingas,  as well as the more common birds like terns,sandpipers, and seagulls.

And though seasoned bird watchers are most certainly aware of the nuances of our bird life, many of us who just enjoy looking at them do not know the endearing and unique aspects of their behavior.

For example, the heron who is flapping his wings about in the water and extending them at his side is not just showing off his plumage.  He has a much more special use for those wings, and a very necessary one.  The wings cast a shadow on the water where he is grazing and enable him to see his prey beneath the water's surface.  Just watch how carefully he steps through the water taking care not to chase the fish away before he can sight them and catch them!

And those Great Egrets who make such a display of their feathers during their courting are not looking for a one night stand.  Far from it.  That elaborate ritual (and stunning as well) means a great deal in the future of all egret off spring.  Like many birds,  Great Egrets mate for life.  When searching for a mate, males will try to impress females with long plumes held up over their back. Once mating has occurred, females will lay anywhere from 1 to 6 eggs. Both parents will take turns incubating the eggs until they hatch. Baby Great Egrets will leave the nests 2 or 3 weeks after they hatch if they can survive that long. Young egrets are very aggressive to one another and it is not uncommon for stronger siblings to kill the weaker ones. The young ones that do make it though usually live around 15 years in the wild (the record is 27 years).

And speaking of longevity, when you see a Royal Tern, you should consider that the Royal Tern could well be your age or older.  OK, maybe not quite as long lived as Parrot species, but studies on Royal Terns have demonstrated that they can live at least 29 years!  Not yet impressed?  Well consider this:  Royal Terns not only do not show their age, they do not have diminished capacity either.  Imagine yourself living to 90 and not looking a day over 20 with all the stamina and flexibility of a post teen!

It is well worth reading up on our birds before you get here.

Not only will you be able to recognize them, but you will better understand and appreciate their behavior and capabilities!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quotes to remember and repeat on Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is a nature island, a green island, a tropical island.

It is the kind of place where dreams are realized and memories made.

Though not necessarily named, poets, philosophers, writers, artists and photographers have taken inspiration from destinations like Sanibel century after century and from around the world.

There are many beautiful words written about lands like Sanibel, and we would like to share a few with you.  And if you are so inspired, we would love to hear from you about quotes you have found that remind you of our beckoning barrier island. 

One of our favorite quotations is from Douglas Adams in his humorous treatise, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  We love the way he sees things, just as we, too, see them so specially on Sanibel.  For example, he fully realizes that while man mistakenly thinks of himself as the superior species, it is clearly the dolphins who live the better life:

"For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much-the wheel, New York, wars and so on-whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man-for precisely the same reasons."
Of course, you have to see it to believe it, but any one who has watched the dolphin ballet on Sanibel knows full well that the dolphins are having the time of their lives!
And there are endless verses singing the praises of seashells, a product of Sanibel that every vacationer finds in abundance.  We particularly like this emotive stanza from one of Amy Lowell's poems:
"Sea Shell, Sea Shell,
Sing me a song, O Please!
A song of ships, and sailor men
And parrots, and tropical trees."
And this quote by the recognized genius of our times, Albert Einstein, puts into perspective the love and caring we have for the creatures who inhabit Sanibel Island: "Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty."
And Sanibel embraces all of nature, and all of those who see the true value of living in nature ... or just vacationing in nature.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Whys and Wherefores of Dark Skies on Sanibel

There are so many small nuances to what makes a place special.

The sounds, the sights, the smells all contribute to the unique character of amazing places across the globe.

And the skies.

Yes, the skies, on Sanibel are so dark, so velvety, so unreflective of light below that every star shines brightly as the moon looks almost within grasp.  This not only a great attraction for hobbyists in astronomy, but for we folks who find the darkness romantic.

Now, of course we realize that these same skies lit by stars and moon light are the very same ones all of us look up to.

So why does this celestial carpet have such a glowing appearance?

It's all about the dark skies law on the Island which is going on its 15 year anniversary. The reasons that the Committee of the Islands supported the ordinance were the  obvious benefits to the environment and wildlife, not just nesting turtles but so many creatures that crawl, walk and fly throughout the Island.

By January 1, 2015, all outdoor lighting on Sanibel must comply with the Dark Skies rule.

What does this mean?   Most importantly, it means that uplighting is prohibited. All outdoor lighting, including display, sign, building, parking lot, and aesthetic lighting, must use fixtures which shine light downward.  This will be the rule for all of the Island.

The code also prohibits mercury vapor lighting, but encourages high-pressure sodium lighting for parking lots.

Furthermore, the code states, "Street lighting is, in general, inconsistent with Sanibel's rural character. No street lights shall be installed or maintained on private streets, roads, and rights-of-way."

For residential areas, the code encourages motion-detecting security lighting to "maximize safety, minimize overall illumination, and conserve energy."

The few exemptions to the dark skies law are for items such as emergency lighting needed by the police and fire department, and for the Sanibel Lighthouse, of course.

During the past 13 years, as development permits were issued, lighting on the affected properties had to be changed. Also, as existing lights were replaced, they should have been replaced with compliant fixtures. Many environmentally aware property owners voluntarily complied with the new rule since 2000.

While this may all seem like a technicality to our rental guests, it really is a critical component of what Sanibel is.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Let There Be Light: Luminaria on Sanibel and Captiva

Sanibel is a magical place all year long.
But the most magical time of the year is no doubt the Luminary Festival.
Candles line the streets, shops are open, food is free and good will prevails.
This coming week-end will be the most delightful time on both Sanibel and Captiva.
It will be the  28th annual Luminary Festival on Sanibel and Captiva Islands Friday, December 7th on Sanibel and Saturday, December 8th on Captiva. Luminary Festival is a community-wide holiday event that brings together residents, visitors, businesses and organizations, promoting goodwill and community spirit. Some of our visitors make early vacation rental  reservations especially for the event.
As you "travel the trail", look for the many fun places to stop and enjoy.
There will be a complimentary trolley service, Santa visits, photos with Santa, a live nativity scene, music and activities for the entire family. The  goal is to offer recognition to Island businesses and encourage local shopping while providing a fun-filled evening for family and friends.
Despite this being the 28th year for this sparkling and convivial event, there is always a way to make it new.
In addition to the lights and the food, there are bright moments to be found every where. 
One of our favorites is the sunset arias.  Yes, opera on the beach of Captiva.  These will take place at the beach of Tween Waters Inn on Captiva on December 8 from 4 to 7 p.m.    Just imagine: the setting sun, the sparkling gulf and beautiful music blending in operatic arias.
Can life get better than this?
We think not.
So come on down for this memorable experience on our two barrier islands!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sanibel Sightings: Recent Revelations of Sanibel Wild Life

In a fairly recent post we wrote about the great number of birds that reside on Sanibel or find it a beautiful and handy place to stay while on their migratory path. 
It is a joy to sight our fine feathered friends, and engaging enough not to look at the numerous creatures that inhabit Sanibel.
But there are so many, many critters that not only fly from perch to perch, but that walk, scamper, crawl, swim and slither through our tropical island.
In recent weeks, there have been some delightful discoveries.
One of these was the sighting of a coyote.  Although this beautiful creature had been sighted initially in January of 2011, the recent sighting was also a rarity. Coyotes are very shy, perhaps even more difficult to see than our bobcats. The name coyote is one of very few words that have come to us from the Aztec language. The Aztec name for this adaptive and intelligent member of the Canidae family was coyotl, meaning God's dog. We love every kind of dog on Sanibel!
Perhaps not as cuddly in appearance, the island watchers were also excited by the recent appearance of an Eastern Indigo snake.  The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation announced that its Pine Island Sound Eastern Indigo Snake Project has documented the first eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi) from Captiva Island since 1988.

This rare Florida reptile was thought to be extirpated from Captiva Island. This snake was found at South Seas Resort by a contractor from RS Walsh landscaping, and a South Seas grounds employee on Sept. 20. The snake was safely released back on Captiva.
Though the rare Sanibel rice rat hadn't been seen in three years on the island, researchers there say they've just spotted the animal twice in two days! Each fall, the team at the Ding Darling uses traps in an effort to find the rat, which is native to and only found on Sanibel Island.
Wildlife biologist Tara Wertz, Ding Darling, says they helps to keep the environment balanced. She says the fact that two have been found is a good sign for wildlife on the island.
"We're all scratching our heads going, ‘OK, so many years and we haven't seen any. What's going on?'" she said. "Anything's exciting when you haven't seen it for a while."
She says the Sanibel rice rat is small, does not carry diseases and many people say it's cuter than other varieties of rats.
But if the striking indigo snake, coy coyote and little rice rat allude your sense of beauty, things are looking up these days, and so should you.
Doing their best imitation of falling autumn leaves, the Gulf Fritillary butterfly is visiting again. The Gulf Fritillary or Passion Butterfly, Agraulis vanillae, is a striking, bright orange butterfly of the family Nymphalidae, subfamily Heliconiinae. These were formerly classified in a separate family, the Heliconiidae or longwing butterflies, and like other longwings this species does have long, rather narrow wings in comparison with other butterflies. It is not closely related to the true fritillaries. It is a medium to large butterfly, with a wingspan of 6–9.5 cm (2.4–3.7 in). Its underwings are buff, with large silvery spots. It takes its name from migrating flights of the butterflies sometimes seen over the Gulf of Mexico.
Any day in any season, Sanibel is a plethora of pleasant sightings!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why We Love "Winter" on Sanibel

Today is, November 16, just a few days before Thanksgiving.

Although the weather has been great til now, the gray skies and cool temperature (66 degrees on the Island), are harbingers of things to come.

This is a winter day, in our humble opinion, though most winter days are much sunnier and brighter and even a bit warmer.

But it's close enough to delight us with some of the pleasures on the road ahead.

For one, the cooler climes are cozier.  Visions of restaurants brimming with people, clattering with conversation, and sending wafts of indescribably tempting aromas come to mind.  Some of our favorite winter delights are the Lobster and Corn Chowder soup from Cips and the spicy Yucatan Shrimp from Doc Fords.  All those spices, all those flavors, all those delicious aromas.  Our stomach is growling at the mere thought.

And then there are the enticing smells coming from Bailey's Coffee Bar and Sanibel Beans.  Let's be honest.  A great cuppa is totally enhanced in winter weather, even the mild and moderate winter weather of Sanibel.  And the Island has several beckoning coffee shops with a wide array of coffees,cappuchinos, lattes, mochas at your disposal.

But let's not get too caught up with what's to eat and drink.

There are many other delights to be found on Sanibel as the both the temps and the sun go down.  As we have posted before, the cultural menu is as varied and inviting as the food menu.  Theatre, lectures, music and movies are among the selections all winter long.  You could, if you so chose to, do something different every night of the week, as there is coordination among the cultural venues to avoid too much competition on the same night.

Not a night person?

Then consider this.  If you find bicycling too demanding in the hot sun, you will love the gentle, cooler breezes here from December through April.  Sanibel's high season allows you and your family to bike the Island very easily, no sweat!  Tennis?  Again, the courts will not wear out your patience with the pounding heat.  You can stay and play all day!  Kayaking and canoeing?  It's just you and nature, but the biting bugs are not invited. 

Now, we don't want to over promise with all of this.  You can get some hot days in winter, you can find a bug or two during twilight hours, and with so many people vacationing on Sanibel in winter, you may have to schedule your tennis court time in advance.  Spontaneity works much better off season.

But we can pretty much guarantee that you will find at least some of these cooler weather opportunities very special, and very different than what the summer and even late Spring or early Fall months hold.  Oh, don't take our word for it.  Make your winter season plans now and see for yourselves!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Overloaded with Sanibel Shells? Some Ideas for you!

We see it time and again with our rental guests, our friends on Sanibel and some times, we too, err on the side of abundance.

The number and variety of beautiful, collectible sea shells on Sanibel begs each and every one of us to do the Sanibel stoop picking up the best of the best and taking them home.  Some of our guests, especially those who fly in, realize the error of their ways and either put the shells back or wrap them up carefully and ship them home.

But even at home, the question nags: What in the world am I going to do with all these shells?  Sure, you can fill up vases, use them as paper weights, clean and shellac the nicest ones to use with table settings, but let's be honest.  You have way more shells than that, don't you.  So the question still remains.

Well, we have the answer for you!

And more than provide the answer, we are going to provide special links where you can get more details.

In a word, it's CRAFT.

And the number of craft projects you can do with Island shells is almost as wide and varied as the shells themselves.

One of the nicest projects we have found on line is that of creating picture frames.  You really have to see it to believe it, in this instance, to get the full impact of what a sea shell frame can look like.  This illustration and tutorial on everything etsy shows you how to create a stunning look with a step by step description.  We are sure you will agree that the finished product would grace the living room, bedroom or den of any home:

With the holiday season coming up, those of you with a steady hand and lots of females on your gift giving list may want to consider making jewelry with some of your more delicate shells.  The biggest challenge with this craft is not breaking those beautiful fragile items in getting to the finished project.  But we think this tutorial will go a long way in helping you create some lovely designs for necklaces and other wearable art with shells:

OK, so now you have a lovely frame for your house, some really neat gifts to hand out, but you still have a few pretty pieces left over.  What about the kids?  This could be a fun project for them, and keep them busy on cold winter day as well.  Just think of the memories and dreams you can stimulate in having them create some little koala bear shells with those orphaned pieces:

Our words of parting advice?  Value your shells but think ahead to what you will do with them.  Shell collecting on Sanibel is one of the nicest ways to spend time here, however, not every shell needs to travel with you.  The beach will welcome them back!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Conversations" Heard Around Sanibel Island

September and October are generally quiet months on Sanibel, and this season is no different.

At the moment, there is a constant breeze, possibly a souvenir from Hurricane Sandy, but without the ferocity or rain.  It's quite nice and certainly creates a sound spectacular.

But when the breezes calm down, with so few people and so few cars on Island, it is now possible to tune into the many other sounds on the Island. And if you listen intently, you can hear conversations taking place in every nook and cranny throughout Sanibel.

There's the who, who, who of the Great Horned Owl, the ack, ack, ack of the water birds (Egrets, Heron and Anhinga among them), the screech of the Osprey, the growl of the Alligator, the chirp of the frogs.

Just the other night, rental guests who rode their bike at dusk through Ding Darling remarked on a squeaking coming from the brush.  They were certain it was neither bird , amphibian or reptile.  And about the only mammals we could think of that make the noise that our guests described are bobcats, specifically mother cats calling for their young.  And so ruling out other possibilities, we are pretty certain the squeaks were from a momma cat and we envision a conversation of this sort:  " It's getting dark.  Time to stop playing and come eat dinner.  Come on now, I am not going to call you again."  Since the squeaks continued for quite a while, we had to assume she was not getting any response.  So finally the squeaks changed tone, and we are pretty certain this was the last comment before silence fell: "If you make me come looking for you, you are really in for it!"

With Halloween rapidly approaching, we are certain that any one who encounters the sounds of a fox on Island will have a hair raising experience.  Both the red and gray fox can make many vocalizations, and some of them will truly raise the dead.   The one that we know will catch the ear and attention on Halloween and any day is the yip, yip, yip of the red fox, concluding with a loud, one note "woman's scream" which has yet to be explained. So we will explain it as we see the situation.  Although the red fox is increasing in number, your chance of seeing one of these small secretive animals in the wild is extremely rare. It tends to hunt at dawn and dusk, and its keen sense of hearing keeps it at a safe distance from noise-making humans. The fox is a surprisingly fast animal, disappearing into the understory in a heartbeat. So our interpretation of the scream is purely a try to see me if you can taunt to those of us who hear the cry but can not find the source.

Have you heard any unusual conversations on Sanibel?  If so, we hope you will share them with us!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Photographers We Really Like: Sanibel through the Lens

Although Sanibel  is one big "photo opp" ,   there are some out there who have captured the beauty, magic, drama and warmth of the Island in truly remarkable ways.

Yes, having a good camera, a good eye and a good location certainly make a difference in the results.

But stunning photography is much more than that.

To find the right place to grab the image, you may have to move around.

Then, to capture the sun, freeze a bird in motion, still the waving palm; you may have to possess the special patience of a saint.

High on our list of gifted and talented photographers is a Sanibel resident, Laitham Haddad.  His images make amazing use of light, creating an artistic chiaroscuro contrast of brightness and darkness.  Laitham's moody images of clouds, sunsets and ominous storms are definitely his trademark.  His photo images can be seen by the public on the Facebook page, Two Eyes One Image.

Another favorite is Gordon Campbell.  We find ourselves wowed by Gordon's detail, especially of birds, though we have seen one particularly outstanding hungry looking gator among his shots. Gordon not only provides fabulous photography, he offers advice on his website, Southwest Florida Outdoor Photography, covering every nuance....from what camera to buy, to when, where and how to shoot to get your best possible image.

A recent find has been Jim Anderson whose site, Our Islands in the Sun, feature photos of both Sanible and Captiva and range from vibrant flowers to cool greys water scapes.  Our favorite perspective, of course, is the beach.  And Jim has one scene of some rocks, palm trees and the Gulf that looks like something straight out of the South Pacific.  While Sanibel is uniquely Southwest Florida, on any given day and from any given place it can take on the tones of the Caribbean or Fiji and Samoa.

And speaking of Samoa (pun intended), in highlighting those skilled photographers out there, we can not possibly leave out Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez.  A visit to their site, Through the Lens Gallery, delights both the eye and the ear.  Their use of music reminiscent of South American Andean folk tunes----or maybe they are Indian----or possibly just a fusion of world music----- just enhances the visuals.  And the visuals are simply amazing.  Action appears to be the coin of transaction for Dick and Sarah with birds prancing as water flies in every direction and dolphins leap in the air.

And there are photographers who we do not know, but whose visions grace the pages of Audubon Florida, National Geographic and many other large sites that inlcude our beautiful little Island in their dramatic landscapes and nature photography.

Thanks to all!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Big Arts On Sanibel Big Draw in Winter

One of the things that differentiates Sanibel from most tropical, vacation resorts in Florida is the incredible number of cultural events a tourist can find on our Island.

And the core of these activities is Big Arts, a cultural series and symposium that covers everything from classical music to health and science lectures.  The events begin at the end of October,  and carry through until the end of March.

Here is just a small sampling:

  • Film: Women on the 6th Floor (France), Monday, October 29, 7 PM
Set in Paris in the early 1960s, this film tells the story of a serious but uptight stockbroker leading a consistently uninteresting life. Matters suddenly change when he is led by Maria, a beautiful new maid in his luxury building, to the servants' quarter, where he learns to open up to an altogether different world. Film critic Roger Ebert describes the movie as a "pleasant, even-tempered romantic fantasy."

  • Theatre:  November 13 - 20, 2012  
Theatre Conspiracy's production of Becky's New Car drives over the Causeway from Fort Myers onto Sanibel for an encore run at BIG ARTS Herb Strauss Theater. Becky's New Car is the story of a frustrated, middle-aged mother and wife who a wealthy widower mistakenly assumes is a widow herself. When she repeatedly neglects to correct his mistake, Becky finds herself swept up in a double life and charade speeding dangerously off track.Laced with adult humor, playwright Steven Dietz spins a touching tale about the detours we make on the road to happiness. Performances are 8 p.m. November 13 – 20, and a 4 p.m. matinĂ©e November 18. Opening Night Reception, 7 p.m. Thursday, November 13.

  • Classical Music:  December 2, 3:30 PM

Jinjoo Cho is the First Prize and Orchestra Award winner of the 2010 Buenos Aires International Violin Competition and the People's Choice Award winner of the 2006 Montreal International Musical Competition. She has appeared as a soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Seoul Philharmonic, Louisville Orchestra and the Aspen Concert Orchestra. A native of Seoul, South Korea, Jinjoo Cho is a graduate of Yewon Art School and the Korean National University of Arts. She moved to the U.S. in 2002 to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music. A Cleveland Plain Dealer review describes Cho as a "young artist of extravagant gifts ... a forceful, expressive musician."
Hyun Soo Kim completed his Master's degree in Collaborative Piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2011, where he received the Rosa Lobe award in Collaborative Piano. He has performed as soloist with the University of Delaware Symphony Orchestra and the Newark Symphony Orchestra.
Their program will include
John Corigliano: Sonata for Violin & Piano
Beethoven: Sonata for Violin & Piano Op.12, No.1 in D Major
Strauss: Violin & Piano in E-flat major, Op. 18
Paganini: "La Campanella"
Franz Waxman: Carmen Fantasy

  • Dance: Gulfshore Ballet's The Nutcracker Suites

4 PM Saturday, December 22, 2012

at BIG ARTS Schein Performance Hall

Southwest Florida's classical ballet school, Gulfshore Ballet, presents their performance of selections from The Nutcracker

  •  Lecture: Richard Norton Smith

Topic: America Divided:
The Polarized Presidency

7:30 PM Sunday, January 13, 2013

Richard Norton Smith is a presidential historian and former head of six presidential libraries. He has published numerous books, including, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, a finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize. Smith has served as director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Center; the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, and the Reagan Center for Public Affairs; the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library; and Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He is a nationally recognized expert on the American presidency and appears regularly on C-SPAN and "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" as part of the roundtable of historians. Smith is currently scholar-in-Residence of History and Public Policy at George Mason University.

There is so much going on this winter, we may have to do a second post!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fifteen Kinds of Turtles on Sanibel Add to Natural Diversity

Sanibel Island is a great place to live.

Not just for we two leggers, but for four leggers, winged friends and everything fascinating that swims or crawls.

And there are so many wonderful and varied friends on Island that walk, swim, fly and crawl!

According to the staff herpetologist at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation  there are  15 different varieties of turtles alone found on the island. They include the Florida softshell turtle, loggerhead, green, Kemp's Ridley, leatherback, Florida snapping, Florida chicken, ornate diamondback terrapin, Florida redbelly, peninsula cooter, Florida box, red-eared slider, yellowbelly slider, striped mud and gopher tortoise.

One of the  great presentations featured by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), entitled "The Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins of Sanibel and Captiva," explains the lifecycle of some of the islands most intriguing inhabitants, how they have survived through millions of years and how miraculous some of these shelled creatures really are.

Aside from the visual diversity the turtles provide, their behavior is a very interesting aspect of nature to study.  For example,  the temperature of sea turtle nests will determine what sex the babies will be. And, leatherbacks can dive to 3,300 feet, carry twice as much oxygen in their blood than other sea turtles and have a very high metabolism. Other interesting nuances about turtles include:  Walking helps snapping turtles draw in air to breathe, soaking in the sun assists turtles in synthesizing Vitamin D and helps reduce the growth of algae and parasites, and tortoises can go without water for up to six months, storing moisture in its bladder

The turtle's shell is beneficial in many ways.   It not only provides protection against predators, but it also helps regulate internal temperature, absorbing lactic acid and preventing dehydration.

It's fascinating to study the various body parts of turtles — including the carapace (top) and plastron (bottom) of the reptiles — as well as what methods they incorporate for breathing, digging and flipping over.

While visitors may not come to Sanibel specifically for our 15 varieties of turtles, having them here certainly helps the Island to offer the unique eco-diversity it does!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ding Darling Days 2012: What a treat on Sanibel!

This much eagerly anticipated, multiple day event just gets better every year!

The October nature spectacular will take place from the 14th to the 20th, and the organizers are making sure that there truly is something for everyone.  Most activities are free, and all are paced so that a family can really make the most of their day.

Opening day will kick off with games, snake demonstrations and a live animal program.  These are repeated at intervals allowing everyone to get a chance to view and participate.  They also include a variety of delightful distractions from a puppet show to face painting and nature crafts.

But don't knock yourself out on the first day as there is much more to come.

Perhaps one of the most exciting segments begins on the 15th.  On that Monday, from 10 a.m. to noon, there will be a free celebration of Flight program in the Environmental Center auditorium.  This colorful aspect to the day will feature bird kite-making and and life sized endangered species marionettes presented by Heather Henson, the daughter of the late Jim Henson.

A little later and offered at very attractive discounts, there are going to be cruises, kayak tours and a sunset paddle as well.  These delightful offerings will all be at a special 25% off the normal prices.

On the 16th, to the delight of all the bird watchers, there will be a free presentation of the Cuckoo study done at the Refuge.  This is a one hour program, so every one needs to set their Cuckoo clock on time to arrive at the beginning,  11 a.m. (sorry could not resist the pun on this one!)  A little later on the same day, there will be a presentation on Bear Management, this begins at 1 p.m. and will be held in the auditorium.

Another interesting presentation takes place on the next day, the 17th.  At 11 a.m. there will be an Osprey symposium led by Mark Westall and Claudia Burns of the International Osprey Foundation.  And following this at 1 p.m. there will be a discussion on illegal wildlife trade.

The amount of choices and activity are just too great to enumerate in one short blog post, but for more information, those interested should go straight to the source

October is generally one of the nicest months on the island, with sunny skies, temps in the low 80's and gentle breezes.  Wouldn't it be nice to create a beach AND nature vacation like no other?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grog Shop on Sanibel Enhances Island Vacation

Sanibel is a unique vacation destination in many ways.

One, of many advantages, to an Island holiday is that both nature and nurture live side by side on Sanibel.   With two thirds of the Island a nature preserve, there are few places in the civilized world with more bird watching, more shell collecting and more native flora.  But the Island also offers a genteel side ranging from comfortable accommodations to a wide array of dining experiences.

We also have lovely gift shops, art galleries, cafe's, spas and other niceties to nurture you on your vacation.

But one act of nurturing is not that which you would expect to find on a little, tropical barrier island.  And that is the Grog Shop.

The Grog Shop is located on Periwinkle Way in the Bailey Shopping Center.  Their courteous staff is not only friendly but very knowledgeable. They pride themselves  on helping their clients pick the perfect selections from their complete lines of wines, spirits, cold beer and specialty items!  If cigars are your preference, they will assist you in your choice from the Island's largest collection.   In fact, the Grog Shop is the only walk-in humidor on the Island.

Not that we are name droppers, but some of their fine brands of cigars include Arturo Fuente, Macanudo and Romeo and Julieta.

Looking for a way to cut costs, but still want to enjoy those memorable celebrations and special occasions? The Grog Shop appears to have your solution. They offer fantastic deals to help you create an unforgettable experience! They also  have a 10% discount on case purchases, and mixing and matching is OK.  Check out their weekly specials as well.  This week they are running some terrific discounts on Smirnoff Vodka, Gordon's Gin and Captain Morgan's rum!

So with thoughts of martinis and other before dinner cocktails floating in your head, just think of how pleasant a stop the Grog Shop might be on your next Island stay.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

All that Sparkles on Sanibel Island: Jewels within the Jewel

Many people, foremost we ourselves, consider Sanibel Island the jewel within the crown of Florida.

Like the rest of the state, it is ringed with great beaches, has a tropical terrain and offers warm weather year round.

But, in addition to the nature and shelling that is unique to Sanibel, the nice shopping on the Island distinguishes it from many other areas of the Sunshine State.

If you come to Sanibel with a yen to buy something pretty and sparkly to take home, either as a gift for some one or a reward for yourself, you will not be disappointed in the choices you are offered.

For starters, there is the delicate and lovely work done by the Sanibel Goldsmith Gallery. Capturing the essence of the Island in their work, the artists of the Gallery offer very Island-centric pieces. There are pendant earrings with beautiful etched sea shells entwined in the design, there are dolphin charms for your own bracelet or dolphin earrings. Other sea creatures include sea turtles, a variety of fish and sea urchins. And the beach is nicely reflected in the choice of subjects as well with some lovely renditions of the sun, flip flops and sand dollars. If you love the nature of the Island, you will love the nature of this jewelry. But keep in mind these are truly works of art and done in mediums such as gold and silver, so these are not mere knick knacks. That said, the Gallery does not maintain a physical space and spares itself the rental of such, so the savings may be passed on to consumers for certain items as it appears for the quality the prices are very competitive.

And then there is the Lily & Co., dubbed (we do not know by whom) "the coolest jewelry store in America. The merchandise is beautiful and diversified, but we love the whole concept of Lily.

Along with an expansive selection of couture jewelry that also includes silver, platinum and gems, Lily Co. also provides professional watch and jewelry repair. And with the Lily & Co. Positively Precious Program they can purchase previously worn jewelry and precious metals from customers for liquidation purposes. We also love the fabulous selection of distinctive artwork created by Sanibel artists – perfect for gift-giving or to spice up any room in your home or office. Located on Tarpon Bay Road, Lily & Co. was the first Island jewelry store and features exquisite collections from world-class designers including
  • Charles Garnier
  • Charles Krypell
  • Denny Wong
  • Gurhan
  • Kabana

But we have to be totally honest here. Our biggest attraction to Lily & Co. is the gorgeous brown poodle that is used in many of their ads to show off the jewelry. And, yes, the striking 4 legger is the "Lily" in Lily & Co.

But moving along and focusing on other most affordable works of jewelry that will help you bring home a real piece of Sanibel, there is Congress Jewelry on Periwinkle Way. The delightful diminutive charms that can be purchased for necklaces or bracelets are a collection of all the aspects of Island living that are so appealing. There is a pelican for only $30, a manatee for $40 and a heron for $55. These prices certainly will not break the bank, but for those who are not happy unless they spend a good deal more, you will have your pick. There are some beautiful works of art that range from $1,000 to $5,000. Literally something for everyone.

But this list is not claiming to be extensive. If you google Sanibel jewelry or just drive around, we are sure you will find many lovely places to shop til you drop!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Is that bird sun burnt on Sanibel? No, it's a Scarlet Ibis

While most of our residents and guests on Sanibel know the pink colored bird with the scooped bill is a roseate spoonbill, there is another brightly colored bird rarely seen.

The Scarlet Ibis, another wading bird, makes a visit to Sanibel infrequently.
But when it does, its presence is indeed noted. The brilliant red of so long legged and curved bill a bird is easy to spot, and the Scarlet Ibis will "hang out" with our native glossy or white Ibis making its appearance even more remarkable in the contrast.

But while the glossy variety is native to this area, the most important message about the scarlet ibis is that is an exotic, a special species of Central America and northern South America. It's like looking out the window and seeing a macaw or a monkey or any of the other notable escapees we tend to find here in Florida.

Since there has been no record of South American birds migrating to North America, the fact that the exotic bird has been seen in the Florida wilderness is a very uncommon sight.

Sources say the scarlet ibis has a body length of roughly 22 to 24 inches and has a long neck, long curved probing bill, black tipped feathers, and perching feet that are only slightly webbed. It is known to feed on insects, fish, meat, seeds, and fruits. Most of the wading birds are fairly long-lived birds.

Experts are confident that there is more than one scarlet ibis out there, especially since it's most likely from a released flock whether from a Hurricane or someone's personal collection.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On Sanibel, Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining: Update on Isaac

Well, despite the clamor and sense of fear, Tropical Storm Isaac has come and gone.

The Island was in high state of alert, and well prepared.

But the organized plans were fortunately unnecessary. The storm only amounted to a little wind and rain, some high waves over the causeway and a few branches down here and there.

There are several benefits to be derived through a missed hurricane.

It tests the existing lines of communication and by so doing, it strengthens them. It creates a need and opportunity for neighbors to talk to neighbors, empowering community bonding. It helps boost sales on the Island as both residents and visitors stock up on food and emergency items. It makes one very appreciative of the beautiful, non threatening weather Sanibel Island has for most of the year.

But in this particular instance, there is one more advantage and one Island visitors and residents are delighted to see. While the Gulf waters were not overly aggressive before, during and after Isaac, they were stirred up a bit. And the off spring of the stirring is a shell-rich shore, which for the past two days, has been a haven for those beach goers armed with baskets and bags.

We are watching them march off the beach, smiles broad on their faces, clutching their treasures with the greatest of glee.

Yes, there's a little more wind out there, but swimmers are jumping in glad for the slightly more "wavy" Gulf.

And mom and kids are saying that they never had a better time or collected more shells.

Once again, we are convinced that every cloud has a silver lining. And Isaac can be credited with bringing some clouds and some magnificent silver linings!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sanibel Fish House Provides New Venue and Menu for Hungry Visitors

As our guests know, Sanibel Island, for its size has an amazing variety of places to dine. While the closest thing to fast food we have is the Dairy Queen, (with great burgers by the way); we have so many choices on Island from pizzerias to fine dining.

Yet, we are always happy to find a newbie to the Island, and want to spread the word and the joy around on our discoveries.

The Sanibel Fish House on Periwinkle is the newest of the various Fish House options in SW Florida. There is also a Fish House in Bonita Beach and one in Fort Myers Beach. The menus are essentially the same, and those who have grown accustomed to finding a nice variety of options will not be disappointed in the Sanibel eatery.

With a bright, fresh decor, one is off to a good beginning.

But starters are not just visual, they are edible as well.

Take the blackened tuna bites for example. They will certainly put a zing in your mouth and in your meal, but if that sounds like a little too much pepper for you, then you might want to try the crab and shrimp dip. Minced crab meat and shrimp mixed into a bread crumb and Parmesan dip serviced with Tortilla Chips makes their Blue Crab & Shrimp Dip outstanding!

And their entrees are just as mouth watering. The Sea food pasta, is worth the trip. Shrimp and scallops served over fettuccine alfredo! All their specialties (unless otherwise noted) come with your choice of two sides:
•Parsley Potatoes
•Steamed Veggies
•French Fries
•Hush Puppies

And one of the things that most appeals to us is this is not just an eat out option for those staying at a vacation rental property, it is an eat "your own" catch for everyone on Island. If you are just off a charter boat and looking for a place to cook up your catch, do what the local charter captains do -- bring a fresh catch and the Fish House chef will prepare it for you!

Still hungry? Looking for a sweet treat to complete your night? The Key Lime Pie. Should do it for you! Every restaurant in Florida has bragging rights to serving the best Key Lime Pie, but we like to do comparisons. This home made Key Lime Pie is definitely among the freshest and most original we have ever tried.

It's always difficult to choose just where to eat on Sanibel, and while we play no favorites, The Fish House is special and well worth a try!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Best YouTube videos on Sanibel Island

We love looking at still photographs of Sanibel Island, it's a really nice way to feel that you are right there, on that beach, on that bike, on that boat.

But nothing quite captures the feel of the moment like a video.

Even a video totally home made with no enhancements can do the trick.

Capture that dog running along the Gulf's shore, the flock of egrets pruning and preening up in the tree, or the kids gathering sea shells in the golden light of dawn, and you can have a great video.

Especially now that most still cameras have video capability, almost any moment in any beautiful location, there is a video calling to be made.

But we do admit that like, in most comparisons, there are some videos much more appealing than others. The smoothness of the camera movement, the crispness of the image and the subject captured can take an ordinary point in time and make it something really special.

In viewing the videos made about Sanibel Island on YouTube, we came up with a few that we thought were particularly nice, and we will now link you to them with the subject and the reason for their inclusion on our "best" list:

This video , though done to promote a condo rental (not one of ours), leaves the commercial message for the last minute or two. Prior, it has some lovely scenes, both still shots and moving images, that give a great over view of the Island. Looking at this video would give any one a pretty good idea of what Sanibel is about.

This video is professionally done and narrated by an "expert". It does not just talk about shelling and what one might expect to find, it gives good, sound advice on how to shell, when to shell and how best to shell. It's very informative for a newbie sheller or one who has been to Sanibel many times.

This is one of our all time favorite videos. The dolphin dance is so nicely followed by the camera and the lovely and peaceful music greatly enhances the images. Any one who has ever been in a boat and had the extreme pleasure of being accompanied by a group of dolphins will love this one!

Again professionally created and expertly narrated, this six minute video about fishing on Sanibel offers great advice on how, when, where to fish. What to do and what to avoid. It gets right down to the basics and even lets you know how to hold your fishing pole!

We've included this one just cause it is so much fun.

Entitled "Sanibel Summer Drink Recipes presented by The Grog Shop Liquor Store Sanibel Island Florida", this is truly a splash of color with photos and recipes for some great tropical drinks. Yes, it's a video commercial, but we give a lot of credit to the creators for adding the music and the visuals and making a great, little promotion.

We are always open to suggestions about great videos that help guests get a good idea of what makes Sanibel so unique and so desirable. If you have any recommendations, we would love to hear of them.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Super Grouper Tournament A Benefit to All: Sanibel Doings

Every so often we like to highlight a good deed and this time it is the Annual Grouper Grab.

While we acknowledge that the Grouper is the loser in the tournament, we must also concede that the Grouper are going to be caught, cooked and consumed whether this event happens or not. A well managed event seems preferable in comparison.

So let's concentrate on the positives.

The Grouper is found in abundance in the waters surrounding Sanibel and all over the state. In fact, Florida is responsible for over 85% of all the grouper landed in the United States. Although there are many on-going studies and observations to make sure the Grouper are not over-fished, the populations of some Grouper species has actually increased in the last year.

Grouper is a popular dish in local restaurants; it has a nice mild flavor that many enjoy. If you’d like to catch your own, plan to attend the annual Grouper Grab Tournament on August 17 and 18, 2012! The Grouper Grab kicks off at the lovely Lighthouse Waterfront Restaurant with a mandatory captain’s meeting at 6 PM on Friday, August 17th, 2012. The tournament includes two divisions: the Big Boat Division for boats that are 30’ or longer, and the Small Boat Division for boats under 30’.

Providing fishing gear to the anglers this year is Tunaskin, makers of high performance aquatic apparel. Tunaskin is a new sponsor in this year’s Grouper Grab Tournament. In addition, Bahama Breeze Island Grille invites you to celebrate with them as part of your adventurous weekend.

The fishing will go all day Saturday, August 18th from 6 AM to 6 PM. Boats must return to the marina by 6 p.m. According to the tournament rules, each boat may offer three grouper and two snapper for the weigh in, but additional fish can be donated to the Awards dinner. After a full day of fishing, the catch will be weighed, filleted, and grilled for the big Awards Dinner, while the judges tally the scores. The public is welcome to attend the Awards Dinner and celebrate the efforts of the day!

This year, the Grouper Grab will donate proceeds from the auction and raffle to a local charity, choosing Blessings in a Backpack for this year’s recipient. Blessings in a Backpack provides local children with a backpack full of nutritious food each Friday. Test scores among these children have improved thanks to the help from Blessings. The funds collected in the event will be used locally for Lee County. It does not take much to feed a child for a year, and all support is appreciated.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Why was Sanibel so busy in July?: Some good guesses on Island popularity

While we do not have the statistics on the number of visitors to Sanibel in July of 2012, we are certain the number was up from past Julys.

A day at the beach, still not what you would call crowded, definitely revealed that there were more people on the sand and in the water. And the people on the beach were not just sitting in chairs and under umbrellas, many had their own little tents, creating "beach living rooms" for themselves.

The water activity was also a departure from the norm. Of course there were the usual swimmers, but there were also a lot of kayakers and people floating around for hours in tubes and on rafts.

July, was, a mild month. No big storms and the rains that passed through, did so with gusto but in the blink of an eye. That left the Gulf calm, very waves and accompanied by low tides on most days. Even little children could walk out a long way before getting into deep water. And the mirror like surface of the Gulf was ideal for the kayakers and tubers.

We are certain the word got around that the Gulf this July was particularly warm and welcoming and many families traveled down in their own cars from places such as Georgia, South and North Carolina and even from other parts of Florida.

And, air fares were also very affordable in July, making it easier for those from further locales to grab a plane. In fact, looking at our registers, we had a record number of guests who traveled from the west coast, particularly California, as well as the interior western states such as Colorado.

In addition, while foreign visitors were not in abundance last summer, they certainly were in July. Rental guests from Germany, the UK and the Scandinavian countries rounded out the roster. Listening to the beach chatter, it appeared that many were commenting how good the value is on Sanibel for European travelers. And that would appear to be true if guests were able to find competitively priced air tickets. Remember, summer is our low season and for far less than $1,000 a week, a family can have a spacious, well appointed and well supplied apartment, some times right on the beach and certainly a close walk to the beach.

So the calm climate, the tranquil sea, the lower air fares and the intrinsic value of an accommodation on Sanibel Island all helped to drawer travelers to the Island in July.

We can only hope that August proves to be as good a month!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Oh Baby It's a Wild World: New Sightings on Sanibel, A bird Watcher's Paradise

Sanibel Island is one of America's most popular bird-watching sites. Hosting approximately 240 species of feathered friends, the island is an ornithological treasure. Due to Sanibel's ecology-minded population, over half the island has been preserved as wildlife habit. In addition to J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge, you'll find endless trails and birding spots. Sanibel is only 15 miles long, but boasts freshwater wetlands, mangrove stands, beaches, dune and coastal ridge woodland. Located at the lower end of the Florida peninsula, Sanibel is a natural flyway terminus, as well as a stopover or destination for migrating birds.

Favorite birdwatching sites are:

J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge including Wildlife Drive, Indigo Trail, and the Shell Mound Trail

The Bailey Tract on Rabbit Road

The many SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) properties

The causeway islands approaching Sanibel from the mainland

All gulf beaches on both Sanibel and nearby Captiva Island

In the mangrove islands of Pine Island Sound, consider paddling via kayak or

Offshore, white pelicans are usually found in Pine Island Sound, visible by

Tarpon Bay on Sanibel

Along the bayous and back bay waters of Sanibel

Along Roosevelt Channel on Captiva Island

The lighthouse area of Sanibel

Osprey nests up above the bike paths and Sanibel-Captiva Road

Osprey nests at the Sanibel School

All local golf courses!

Wild life sightings on Sanibel have been diverse and exciting this summer in particular, making a holiday stay extra special. Just last week, there were nearly 50 species of birds recorded in Ding Darling alone. These included Killdeer, Willets, three different kinds of doves, six types of herons, and two types of wood peckers. Fine feathered friends we have a plenty.

The sheer volume of birds on Sanibel will astound you. They are a much-noticed and highly-appreciated part of island life. As a birder, you'll really enjoy being in a place that is so bird-conscious. One of the local newspapers runs a birding column. The local Audubon club is active. Resorts make guests aware of birds nesting on the beach, in order to protect their habitat. Traffic stops frequently for herons or egrets to cross Periwinkle Way or Sanibel-Captiva Road. Most fishing guides are knowledgeable of the birds that inhabit Pine Island Sound, and the island skies. (They can take you out to see the rare white pelican if you visit in the winter.) Even island children can identify several bird types.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Latest Buzz about Sanibel: Mentions on the www

Unless you have an infinite amount of time on your hands, you may not get or read all the links to Sanibel on line.

We receive a compendium each day of internet links, and though some are more interesting than others, it does give us a good pulse reading for who is saying what about our little Island.

Topics have a wide range, but most come to the same conclusion, and one we have known and bragged about. It's great to have so much corroboration!

Like the fact that Sanibel is such a great place to have a destination wedding or a honey moon. We all know that it has the basic ingredients: lovely beaches, nice accommodations, plenty of restaurants and a good range of things to do.

Still it's nice to see that at least one internet blog ranks us in the top ten of affordable honeymoon destinations:

As for enjoying the Island for its beauty and nature, seems like there is someone providing accolades for Sanibel nearly daily. We particularly like this description: "There are no high-rises on this cusp of land that extends like a big, asymmetrical grin in the Gulf of Mexico. No big box stores, massive malls or even traffic lights. Drive over the graceful arched bridges that separate Fort Myers from Sanibel, and you leave reality behind, entering a community where biking trails are ubiquitous, conservation is key and pristine, shell-soaked beaches are a part of everyday life."

Read more:

Well, we could go on and on, but you can also go to one of the compendiums we use and check to see not only who is saying what, but exactly when and where they are saying it.

And, of course, you can always check our own blog for new posts to see if there is anything new happening on the Island. Please feel free to share our blog link with others!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Exciting Adaptive Re-Use of Ship: Another Reason to Come to Sanibel

Although the Keys are best known as a premiere dive destination, the waters off of Sanibel Island now offer a unique diving site.

The USS Mohawk, a retired Coast Guard Cutter, was sunk on July 2. The vessel is the first official memorial reef dedicated to all US veterans. The Mohawk completed significant tasks such as informing General Dwight D Eisenhower that the weather was clearing for the D-Day invasion and launched 14 attacks against submarines between 1942 and 1945. To mark the warship's conversion into a dive site, a number of artifacts from St Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum have been hidden around it for (seasoned) divers to find.

The first person to locate a selection of items including an 18th century rum bottle, a non-explosive projectile dating back to the 17th century and a hand-drawn treasure map will win free passes to the museum in St Augustine and dinner for two at the Key West restaurant.

Scuba centers in the area applauded the action of the sinking, stating that there is a dual advantage in creating a reef of this sort and allowing the history to live on.

The newest artificial reef has quite a history and now it has become part of Charley's Reef system which sits in about 90 feet of water. The ship — with cannons and propeller intact — was sunk using a series of explosives, which were handled by the Lee County Marine Services Program and a Key West company called Reefmakers. Although there are several existing wrecks — including the Bayronto and Fantastico — off the coast of Southwest Florida, this is the first decommissioned military ship used for constructing a reef.

For those who know diving and divers, there is great optimism about this historical action. According to these connoisseurs of the deep, there are a lot of divers from all over the world who will come just to dive a particular wreck to cross it off their bucket list so to speak.

With the ship reaching the sea floor, it will only be a matter of time before a variety of marine life begins to call it home, making the site more attractive to divers. Although it will begin attracting fish immediately, it will take years, or even decades for other structures such as hard corals and sea sponges to take hold.

The sea floor in the Gulf is mainly sand so it should attract fish quickly. By next year it should have a lot of life on it.

Although the ship will be a welcome addition to the undersea landscape, some in the local dive community warn that it won't be the instant boon to the industry that some expect.

Two of the biggest issues for the new site will be the distance from shore and the costs, like fuel, associated with getting there, and the depth, which at 90 feet to the bottom will preclude most recreational divers from being able to explore the structure.

It will be available to advanced divers only since most divers are only certified to go about 60 feet. There may be other issues, however, holding back mass popularity. 80 percent of charter dives are around nine miles out, 15 percent are to around 20 miles and only about 5 percent go out further.

Technical divers are going to love it. There will be plenty to explore inside the ship. And because of the profile of the ship, the smokestack will be in only about 50 feet of water so there will be something for everyone to see.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What Debby Taught Us About the Island

We thought we knew Sanibel pretty well, but Tropical Storm Debby taught us a lesson or two about the Island.

Tropical Storm Debby brought pummeling rain, high winds and extremely rough surf the last few days of its visit. The islands of Sanibel and Captiva lost power a few times with just a few downed trees but no major problems for us…. well, except flooding in a couple of spots. For those of us who drove across the causeway on the way to or from the island, it was a rare sight to see the calm bay waters crashing so hard on the shore that they literally splashed on to the road way.

But the bigger surprise was in observing the wild life on Island. The animals on Sanibel changed their patterns to accommodate the storm. They tended to want to bring their young with them where they went, rather than leave them in the nest. And we saw them as clearly as Noah when he collected the pairs for his ark. Our colleagues saw a mama armadillo and her baby have a very hard time crossing the road and there were 5 cars and 10 bikes all waiting for them. Also later a baby alligator was trying to get across the road, and a mama raccoon and her baby were observed trying to get across by the Fire Station.

Many baby birds were blown clear out of their cozy nests. Several were discovered by rental guests who did not know what to do. They called C.R.O.W. (the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) to find out what to do, and they said because of the winds they were getting so many calls about abandoned baby birds that they couldn't keep up with it. C.R.O.W. advised that the best chance of survival was to try to build the bird another nest.

So the owners, workers and complex management across the island got out their tools and built “hurricane proof” homes for the families and their little ones, with great success in most cases. Now, it seems, the babies and their mamas and daddies are all at the nests and doing fine.

Keeping in mind this was a tropical storm and not a hurricane, we feel so blessed that hurricanes are few and far between in these parts. If a tropical storm can cause so much change and disruption, we fear what truly fierce winds would do to the patterns of our feathered and four legged neighbors!

Friday, June 29, 2012

How to Get your Best Fit on Sanibel: The First Steps in Tracking down the perfect Vacation Rental

We are a bit hesitant to write this post as most vacation rental guests who come to Sanibel Holiday have either rented from us before, or at least rented a condo or house previously on the Island.

But there are newbies to vacation rentals who might profit from this advice.

Or those who may have rented long ago or elsewhere and the vacation rental market is different here .... and now.

We hope this post will be helpful for all of the above.

There is always flexibility in vacation rental rules, but by and large private homes on Sanibel only rent for a period of 28 days, and almost always rent from first of one month to first of the following month. Similarly, condos rent for 7 days and most often Saturday to Saturday. While there is a chance the stay for either house of condo can be adjustable in terms or arrival and departure date, that is usually only not possible unless it is last minute, and most of the time off season.

There are some condos that allow one dog under 25 pounds and some houses that even allow 2 dogs of any size. When these conditions exist, there is always a non refundable pet fee. Even if a home or condo is advertised as pet friendly, it is necessary for the guest to inquire and provide information on their pet(s).

Because a vacation rental is so unique, each owner having their own taste and standards, it is best to look at as many photos as possible and, if there are questions, inquire specifically as to what you are looking for. Layout is important to some rental guests, so asking where bedrooms are situated in relation to one another, what floor they are on, etc. will give you a better idea of whether the property is a good fit for your party. If you want to be able to walk to the beach in 5 or 6 minutes, do ask about distance. "Near beach" is a pretty generic term, and most often applies to just about everything on Sanibel, a small island where a beach is never far away!

If you want a child friendly complex, it may be a good idea to see if the condo complex you are interested in has a children's pool, is more frequented by adults or has lots of play equipment. Though most guests on the island, especially in summer months, are families with kids and all enjoy the beauty of nature and the beach, some complexes are more active than others, and that is good to know in advance. The converse is also true: some guests really want to get away from it all, and there are particular complexes most fitting for that kind of stay.

Of course you can't anticipate every single need and preference you have in an accommodation, but you can make a good dent in satisfying yourself. Think of your family and what makes them happiest, then compile a list, whether long or short, before you search.

We love to make our guests happy, and it's easiest to do that when they know what they want and they tell us!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Attention Foodies: The Beach and Good Eatin' are Compatible on Sanibel

We know some people (not naming names here) who will not go to the beach unless they have something to eat there.

Honestly, as crazy as that sounds, the beautiful Gulf, the sight of shore birds, the dolphins leaping through the water...none of that is sufficient temptation to spend the day at the beach.

And while there are not a lot of beach bistros and restaurants on the Island, there are some.

But for our fussy eaters, they want their own food to eat on their own blanket or at their own beach chair, and a baloney sandwich is just not going to make their day.

Have heart, ye Alexajente's of coastal cuisine! Sanibel can provide you with the fuel you need to not only enjoy our natural wonders but savor some delicious and delightful treats as well. A stop at Jerry's before a beach day is a joy to behold. There are quiches to choose from, a wide variety of cheeses, smoked fish, stromboli and bruschetta and dips and spreads galore. If you think you left good snacking behind you in New York City (or where ever), come and see what Jerry's has in store.

Now, of course, we realize that smoked fish may not be what you think of for breakfast at the beach, so you might want to consider the Sanibel Deli and Coffee Factory for your early day meal by sunrise. The Island Deli will tickle your morning palette with its wide and tantalizing selection of breakfast sandwiches, bagels, hard rolls and croissants. And if an egg and cheese sandwich sounds too healthy, you might want to consider their diverse array of muffins (that range from Banana to Buttered Rum). Or take a liquid beach break with a Cappuccino, Espresso or Latte.

And Sanibel caters to those who prefer not to have to do their own shopping, packing ---or even thinking--- on the Island. In fact, the Island boasts a caterer, Leslie Adams, whose mouth watering concoctions can be the highlight not just of your beach day, but of your whole stay. Some of the sample menus on her website will be sure to make you and your vacation party swoon, including Shrimp or Chicken Asian Lettuce wraps drizzled with Thai Peanut Sauce and Dates stuffed with Gorgonzola and bacon served on Rice Crackers....and those are just appetizers! Catering by Leslie would make particularly great sense if you are an extended family or large group of friends looking to make a beach outing a most memorable dining experience!

For those who want to just go to the beach with no further thought or consideration, there is another gal who will do it all for you. Island Go-fer is a pick up and delivery service run by the owner, Ginny Huking. Island Go-fer will pick up and deliver almost anything, almost anywhere. They will shop for your list at Publix, Albertson’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club or just about anywhere else. They will deliver your items to the house and put them away. Or, deliver them directly to your beach blanket.

And, we have it on good word, that the sushi at Costco's is so delicious that you may never again want a baloney sandwich on the beach. Island Go-Fer is a popular service, however, and you must get on their schedule in advance.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Great Films To See Before You Come to Sanibel

We don't know about you, but we like to stretch out our holiday time.

We do that after a vacation by looking over our photos, talking about them to others, buying special books about the Island and taking them home to read and share, and even writing reviews.

Before visiting, it's fun and vacation enhancing to read about your destination, do a little research of the area and plan your vacation accordingly.

But we like conceptual preparations, as well as specific ones.

And seeing movies that put you in a Sanibel mood is definitely a good way to pave and extend your vacation time. Movies about islands, about the tropics, about wild life are among those that help shape, if not your destiny, then your destination.

Here are some movies we think are great preparatory films for a week or more on our Island. We would love to hear from you if you have more to suggest. While none of these movies are about Sanibel or filmed on Sanibel; they are sure to put you in the mood for an Island vacation and stir up some nostalgia as well!

Flipper is a stunner and for all ages. In this 1995 flick, Sandy Ricks is sent by his mom to Coral Key, a rustic island in the Florida keys, to spend the summer with his uncle Porter Ricks. Sandy dislikes everything about his new environment until a new friend comes into his life, a dolphin named Flipper, that brings uncle and nephew together and leads Sandy on the summer adventure of a lifetime. We can't promise that you will have the personal relationship that Sandy has with Flipper , but we can almost guarantee you will see some dolphins and that you will be duly touched and entertained.

The Blue Lagoon, is also an oldie but goodie. Made in 1980, the film is cast in the Victorian period when two young children, Richard and Emmeline Lestrange are passengers on a sailing ship in the South Pacific with Richard's father. (Emmeline's parents are dead, and she calls Richard's father "uncle".) A fire breaks out, destroying the ship. Galley cook Paddy Button gets the children into a lifeboat with him, but they are separated from the other survivors and drift out to sea. After days afloat, they come upon a lush tropical island. We won't reveal the rest in the event you have not seen the movie, but it is a delicious dish of eye candy from start to finish.

And thinking of getting stranded on a desert island, we can't help but recall all the Robinson Crusoe movies, the first being filmed in 1932 and the last one (to date) in 1997. All the plots and details are different for each movie, though the last several follow the same theme. Robinson Crusoe flees Britain on a ship after killing his friend over the love of Mary. A fierce ocean storm wrecks his ship and leaves him stranded by himself on an uncharted island. Left to fend for himself, Crusoe seeks out a tentative survival on the island, until he meets Friday, a tribesman whom he saves from being sacrificed. Initially, Crusoe is thrilled to finally have a friend, but he has to defend himself against the tribe who uses the island to sacrifice tribesman to their gods. During time their relationship changes from master-slave to a mutual respected friendship despite their differences in culture and religion.

Obviously, the appeal of being stranded on a small tropical island is pretty strong, as movies with that theme are still being made. Castaway with Tom Hanks was only made in 2000, but several other films have copied the name and the story line since, though not nearly with as much success. And if these movies seem a trifle superficial in plot, some of them not only leave us with some good lessons but with "characters" we will never forget. Is there anyone who saw Castaway who does not remember "Wilson"?

Fortunately for guests on Sanibel, while the adventure, beauty, nature and romance is all here, you will never be lost, threatened or abandoned on our friendly and comfortable tropical isle!