Thursday, May 31, 2012

Getting into your "Child" on the Island of Sanibel

Remember the old term "getting into your child"?

It was used to signify getting down to the pure impulses and joys in your life.

The kind of impulses and joys most easily experienced when on vacation.

And there are so many ways to get into your child on the Island of Sanibel.

We'd like to share some of our favorites with you and ask that you comment with your own particular preferences.

First and most obvious, there is the question of where is it easiest to experience childhood on the Island? And the answer is evident. The beach is the place to shed adult inhibitions. Loose that business attire and get nearly naked: when it's only that skimpy bathing suit that separates you from the world, you are a free person, a child like person.

Run, don't walk, into the welcoming turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Bob around in the calm, clear, warm and salty sea and you are virtually weightless, carefree and one with nature. You may find no one around you, or perhaps a school of dolphin passing by, or maybe one lone pelican who will keep one eye on you as it plunges and fishes.

If you are with your own children, teach them the art of sand castle building. Or if you are by yourself, with your spouse or with a friend, rekindle those skills as you dig into the sands with your hands. Or just sit in a beach chair and dig into the sands with your feet. There is nothing more fundamental in pleasure than digging down beneath the warm grains until you feel the damp, cool, coarse sand below.

But the beach is not the only place to experience the special quality of childhood.

You can get almost the same amount of joyful discovery, child like discovery by exploring the Island by bike, parasailing the blue skies, boating out to the smaller islands, or kayaking through the mangroves.

If you feel shackled by the responsibilities of adulthood, there is no better place than Sanibel to lose your chains and roam unencumbered.

Do you have a favorite route to a younger feeling when vacationing on the Island?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sanibel: a star gazers delight

When trying to describe the beauties and benefits of vacationing on Sanibel Island, there are the obvious ones and then the not so obvious ones.

The Island is a calm, serene place to be sure, but it is also a very dark place at night.

These black velvet skies present a major opportunity, if you are celestially inclined, and that is star-gazing. The City of Sanibel has a dark skies policy so that there is minimal ambient light. Being off shore, with a beach that is oriented to the Gulf, the island has heavenly night sky views. You may well wonder where all those stars came from, or where they were hiding when you were home.

Walking out of your condo or house, the glitter above you is quite astonishing. It is a picture you may never have seen, and the picture frame, towering palms, is nearly as lovely as the picture itself.

In addition to the silver twinkles, in the winter season if you gaze upward to the night sky and look to the east in the early evening, you should see a bright reddish object. This object that might look like a bright red star is actually Mars, the fourth planet out from our Sun.

In Roman mythology, the bright red planet signifies energy, ardor and aggression. They referred to it as "the little evil one" and it represented the God of fire and war. The earliest recorded naming of Mars is credited to ancient Babylonians - 6,000 years ago - who called Mars Negral, their deity of Fire, War and destruction. Greeks also called Mars Pyroeis, meaning fiery. In Hindu Mythology Mars is known as Mangala. Ancient Egyptians referred to Mars as Horus the Red while Hebrews labeled Mars as Ma'adim, "the one who blushes." One of the largest canyons on Mars is today classified as Ma'adim Vallis. Ancient Chinese called Mars the Fire Star, a name based on the ancient mythological cycle of five elements.

Today, science often trumps mythology and mystery, but as you gaze upward at the night sky try to see the objects above you through the eyes of ancient cultures. Let your imagination go, enjoy the spectacles, the colors and the magic.

And one of the nicest things about Sanibel is that there is an expert right on Island who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to star-gazing. Richard Finkel is an Environmental Educator with Captiva Cruises and conducts educational programs including the Sailing Under the Stars Cruise. Comments or questions can be addressed to

There is a whole world above you on Sanibel just waiting to be explored

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Sampling of Summer Fun on Sanibel

The crowds are gone.

The Gulf is warm.

The prices are down.

There are many reasons to visit Sanibel in summer, and paramount among them are the number of great things to do on Island during June, July and August.

Of course the usual fare is still available. You can swim and sun and collect shells, bird watch, boat and bike to your heart's content. And there are also some wonderfully entertaining and educational ways to spend your and your family's time as well.

Summer "camp" at the Sanibel Sea School promises to offer hoots, hollers and cheers with their menu of offerings. Frogfish Week begins on May 28. And if you were wondering, here is a brief description of a frogfish which is the object of study: "Its body is lumpy and can change colors to match its surroundings. Although it is a fish, it walks around the bottom slowly on its pectoral fins." There is also Dolphin Week, Shrimp Week, Manatee Week and several others to bring a smile of delight to the whole family.

And speaking of camps and an abundance of activity, rarely is there a dull moment at the Sanibel Recreation Center.

The Sanibel Recreation Department “Summer Day Camp” is a traditional ten week day camp which will run from Tuesday, May 29th through Friday, August 3rd. Summer Camp is offered to children entering grades first through eighth and will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on all days except Wednesday, July 4th. Campers will participate in activities such as swimming, arts and crafts and athletics, as well as, a variety of games. Special guests along with an enhanced field trip itinerary will also be a part of the action.

Last but not least, with support from the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS), the refuge is offering five free education programs this year. No pre-registration is necessary:

Reading at the Refuge, every Monday and Friday at 11 a.m. in the Education Lab: Attendees of each 45-minute reading-and-crafts session will receive a free Nature Journal (one to each child) in which to record their impressions of their refuge visit and future nature encounters.

Indigo Trail Hike, every Tuesday at 10 a.m.: Join refuge naturalists as they lead a one-hour tour identifying and discussing the ecosystem’s plants, animals, birds, and reptiles - fun for adults and children alike. Bring water and bug spray. Meet at the flagpole in front of the Education Center.

Refuge Caravan Tour, every Wednesday and Saturday at 9:30 a.m.: Ride along on a car caravan tour of the refuge’s Wildlife Drive. This 90-minute tour highlights the natural wonders of the unique mangrove ecosystem and the wildlife that call it home. Meet at the flagpole in front of the Education Center.

NEW!! Natural Wonders, every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 1 p.m.: What makes a bird a bird? Why is a manatee called a sea cow? Is it a crocodile or alligator? Find the answers to these questions and more as you join a naturalist in exploring the refuge’s unique ecosystem. Geared for adults and children, this 30-minute program meets in the Education Center Lab.

Family Beach Walk, every Thursday at 9 a.m.: Back by popular demand and in partnership with the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, the program convenes at Gulfside Park for a one-hour exploration of the refuge’s gulf-front Perry Tract. (City parking fees apply.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Walk Down Memory Lane on Sanibel

Although we did not know Sanibel, pre-causeway (1963)----the biggest influencing factor in the evolvement of the Island---we have known it long enough to gather some great memories.

We share these with you in the hopes you may share some of your own.

Our first big recollection was the creation of Jerry's supermarket. 

Jerry Paulsen, founder of Jerry's Foods in Edina, Minnesota worked during four of his winter vacations to get a supermarket built on the island. Having wintered at the popular "snowbird" getaway for 10 years, Jerry had long seen a need for a grocery store in the area. The public, which questioned in 1983 whether the new store would change the island's character, recently named the Jerry's "Best Grocery Store on the Island." The 27,000 square foot supermarket had many features unique to the area but similar to Jerry's other stores in Minnesota. News articles went into great detail about the unheard of practice of drive-up parcel pickup.

Jerry's in Sanibel, in turn, has many features unheard of in Minnesota. The store is built on stilts 13 feet above ground level because of frequent flooding by tropical storms. Although more expensive than the typical waterproofing construction, the stilts offer the side benefit of underground parking.

The out-of-state location can sell wine, which is prohibited in Minnesota. And it does offer a sizable section of tanning aids and snacks than the Edina store - for those folks who do golf, walk along the beach and relax during their vacations. 

Another milestone was the creation of the award winning Sanibel Library.  Built in 1994, less than three miles from the Gulf of Mexico, Sanibel's Public Library has the distinction of being Forida's first library constructed to withstand 155 mph winds.  Knowing the risks of being so close to the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico, library administrators hired engineers to calculate the wind loads and document design specifications to withstand those loads.  When library officials decided to expand the original structure in 2003, they maintained proactive engineering for the addition and used the same architectural firm to match the Category 5 standards of the original design.

Though the creation of both the old causeway and the building of the new causeway have had a major impact on Sanibel, having two great grocery stores (Jerry's and Bailey's) right on Island and an outstanding library make the island a great place to live and vacation.