Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Must See "Movie" on Sanibel Island

This is not a gripe, but it is a reality.  We come to Sanibel, fall in love with its beaches and swimming. Bike through the nature preserve, gather shells, explore the shops and feast on the delicacies of the Island. 

We all know Sanibel is a very unique place, but it is often disappointing to see photos and videos on the Island.  Many are nice, but really don't capture the charms of the island.

And while the newest depiction of Sanibel is not really a "movie" it is so in depth with images so vivid, it does a very good job of illustrating the many, many joys of Sanibel.

The video quality is excellent, and portrays the diverse charms of Sanibel life in a way no single video we have viewed to date has been able to do.

We are taken on island over the beautiful causeway, seeing the emerald bay spill out on either side of this architectural wonder.  The narrator talks about the causeway as being the bridge between the magic of the island and the reality of life on the main land.  The aerial shots over the causeway are stunning and aerial shots are one remarkable thread through out the video.

The segue from the causeway to the island is the blending of nature and beauty.  Lovely shots of various birds bring the viewer into Ding Darling and aware of the wild life all over the island.  And the appetite is whet, not just with birds, but with discussions of foods available in the various restaurants.

And perhaps in the most stunning images of all, the discussion of the dark skies and starry nights is awesomely enhanced with night photography we simple folks would not be able to capture on our "ordinary" cameras.  The footage is , indeed, extraordinary with timed photography and almost special effects like scenery.

In just 9 minutes of video, the wide range of subjects covered is quite impressive.  Reaching out to nature is portrayed in engaging images and narrative by the director of the Sanibel Sea School.  Seeing tiny sea creatures held in young hands and watching the wonder on their faces is an innocent kind of love, and one we familiar with Sanibel know and appreciate.

And the upbeat music moves the video from first glimpse to last chord.

But don't take our word for it.  Take a look here and tell us what you think:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How we see Pre-Christmas on Sanibel Island

Twas a week before Christmas and all through our paradise,
Children (and adults) are ever so wise.

They have chosen these islands for their holiday fun,
And fun they will have here--- each and every one.

From 3 days before Xmas and straight til New Year's Eve,
there will be something at Herb Strauss Theatre for all who believe.
 And close to the beaches, every creature is stirring from alligator to mouse, 
As beautiful sounds of music can be heard from our pretty lighthouse.

At this icon of Sanibel on Christmas eve early evening til late night,
songs we will sing and candles we'll light.

As majestic as Eagles stand our palm trees so tall.
And decorated with lights ---- for the pleasure of all.

Come dance with the sea,
Come discover our island mystery,
Come take a boat tour of our beauty,
Come and explore a pirate's booty.
Come eat in festive places,
Come and see our happy faces,
Come escape your winter woes,
Come to warm sands and wiggle your toes!

And if you do all we suggest, we are sure you will find the best of the best.
For no doubt you will see the highlight of the season, our Santa at rest.

He'll have a tanned face, and a little round belly
That will shake when he laughs, like a bowl full of jelly:
He'll be  chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And you'll laugh when you see him in spite of yourself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
He'll soon let you know there's no winter to dread.

He'll spring from his beach chair, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they'll all fly, like the down of a thistle:

But you'll  hear him exclaim, as he flies out of sight-
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Some strange names on Sanibel Island

When we look at the sightings of wildlife on Sanibel, we are always amazed at the variety and quantity of critters.  Any given week on Island is a superb opportunity to observe all six classes of animals: mammals, birds, fishes, reptiles, amphibians,and invertebrates (primarily insects).  

In doing so, and taking a moment to do the research, you will find that some of our critters have unusual names.  And though you may be tempted to guess at why they have the proper and common names they do, you might be surprised to find out the real reasons.  They are all special!
For example, there is the ubiquitous pig frog.  The pig frog (Rana grylio) is a species  of aquatic frog found in the Southeastern United States from South Carolina to Texas. Some sources also refer to it as the lagoon frog or the southern bullfrog.  Almost entirely aquatic, they are found predominantly on the edges of lakes, or in cypress swamps and marshes that are heavy with vegetation. They are nocturnal.  Their name, however, has really nothing to do with their appearance.  Rather, they are called pig frogs because of their vocalization, not their adorable looks.   Their pig-like grunts can be heard during the warm months of the year.

And then there is the lovely cloudless sulphur butterfly. The cloudless sulphur, Phoebis sennae (Linnaeus), is one of our most common and attractive Florida butterflies and is particularly prominent during its fall southward migration. Its genus name is derived from Phoebe the sister of Apollo, a god of Greek and Roman mythology (Opler & Krizek 1984).

The upper surface of the male is lemon yellow with no markings. The female is yellow or white; outer edges of both wings with irregular black borders; upper fore wing with dark spot in cell. The lower surface of hind wing of both sexes with 2 pink-edged silver spots.

Not everyone realizes it, but there are two kinds of crows across much of the eastern United States.  The Fish Crow found on the Island is one of them.   Looking almost identical to the ubiquitous American Crow, Fish Crows are tough to identify until you learn their nasal calls. And they neither look nor sound like fish, but fish, indeed, is their dinner of choice.  Look for them around bodies of water, usually in flocks and sometimes with American Crows. It is worth nothing, however, that they are supreme generalists, eating just about anything they can find. Fish Crows have expanded their range inland and northward along major river systems in recent decades.

Which brings us to one of favorites on Island, the Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), commonly known as the North American Opossum, is the only marsupial found in  North America north of Mexico A solitary and nocturnal animal about the size of a domestic cat, and thus the largest opossum, it is a successful opportunist. It is familiar to many North Americans as it is often seen near towns, rummaging through garbage cans, or sadly lying by the road, a victim of traffic.

The Virginia Opossum is the original animal named opossum. The word comes from Algonquian 'wapathemwa' meaning "white animal", not from Greek or Latin, so the plural is opossums. Colloquially, the Virginia Opossum is frequently called simply possum.

We would love to know what you consider to be Sanibel's most unusual critters!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Observations at the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival

Though it's been a few weeks since the Festival took place, it was such a lovely setting and such nice weather, we have to look back at the history and the highlights as a heads up for next year.  We know our rental guests, even if not kayakers, canoe enthusiasts or paddle boarders themselves, would love the feel and the sight of this special time.

Almost every section of Florida offers great places to kayak or canoe. But the southwestern section along Lee County is doing more than any other to promote itself as a great kayaking destination.

The 2013 Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival is a good example of how to bring attention to kayaking and canoeing.

The Calusa Blueway Paddling trail is a 190-mile marked and meandering saltwater trail. The annual Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival is designed to draw attention to what a great place it is to kayak.

The 2013 Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival, was held November 1 to 3. The event, which started in 2006, was named one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events for 2012.  And for good reason.

The festival included demos, competitive canoe/kayak races, a kayak fishing tournament, paddling clinics and demonstrations, seminars, family activities, environmental events, guided tours, and celebrations along The Great Calusa Blueway.

Matlacha’s Bluegrass for a Blueway and A Taste of Matlacha were certainly highlights of the Festival.   Free to the public, the events featured music from Wild Caught and served as a fundraiser for the Pine Island Food Pantry. There were “tastes” from area restaurants and event attenders were offered a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board for free courtesy of Florida Paddle Sports and Gulf Coast Kayak.

As interesting as the planned activities were, however, we were smitten with the unplanned images that typify the Festival.

We took home in our mind's eye, so many picture perfect moments.

There were the numerous couples sharing a kayak or paddle board and exemplifying the concept that couples who play together stay together.

And there were dads, and even moms, who paddled along with a youngster en board.

But our favorites "co-paddlers" were those with their pet pooch along for the ride.

Those that achieved the biggest kudos were the great gymnasts who flaunted their accomplishments on their paddle boards,  and the courageous wheel chair paddlers who managed to keep their balance even with their equipment on board.

To the organizers of this iconic event, we applaud you all.  To all those who have not yet attended, keep a look out for the dates set for 2014.  You will not be disappointed!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sanibel Island a great place for seeing Butterflies

“Butterflies are self propelled flowers. ”
― R.H. Heinlein

And so we who love Sanibel would agree.  While there is so much wild life on Sanibel Island that the "mere" butterfly can easily be missed, those who love these self propelled flowers will not be disappointed.

When it comes to the sheer variety in butterflies, Sanibel stands tall.  In fact, there are approximately 28,000 butterfly species worldwide. In the United States and Canada there are about 725 species. 80% are in the tropics, and Sanibel has quite a few to brag about.

In fact, one nice aspect of a Sanibel holiday is the tour of the Butterfly House at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF). 

The Butterfly House was conceived by the Native Plant Nursery as an extension of the Landscaping for Wildlife program. It was constructed by Foundation Volunteers (the screen enclosure was subcontracted), and financed through the Lolly Cohen Memorial Fund and donations.

One of the exhibit’s primary functions is to educate residents and visitors about butterfly biology and wildlife ecology. One can observe butterflies at all stages of their life cycle, from egg to caterpillar to pupa to adult. Plants within the exhibit provide nectar for adults from flowers and leaves as food for their caterpillars. The larval plants for the caterpillars are essential to the completion of a butterfly’s life cycle. .
Butterfly House Tours are Tuesdays at 10 a.m. for a suggested $1 donation. A guide will teach you about the life cycle and behavior of butterflies. The butterfly house is open year-round to all visitors without a guide.  It's a very special place, and we highly recommend a visit.

Some of the Butterflies you will learn about at the Butterfly House are those you will see commonly throughout the Island.

The Dingy Purplewing has an upperside  that is brown-black with a slight purple sheen. Dull, blurry white spots on forewing apex. Underside is brownish gray with no distinct pattern.  The purplewing in caterpillar stage can be found in Gumbo Limbo trees, quite prevalent on the Island.  As adult butterflies they eat otting fruit, dung, and sap; seldom flower nectar.

More brilliant in appearance is the Ruddy Daggerwing. The tip of  Ruddy Daggerwing's forewing is elongated. The hindwing has long dagger-like tails. Upperside is orange with 3 thin black lines. Underside is mottled brown and black, resembling a dead leaf. In caterpillar stage, the Daggerwing can be found living in Common fig trees (Ficus carica) and wild banyan tree (F. citrifolia) in the fig family (Moraceae).  As adults their diets are largely nectar from giant milkweed in Florida; Cordia, Casearia, Lantana, and Mikania in the tropics.

But perhaps our favorite on the Island is the Gulf Fritillary, easily and often seen. This "popular" guy has an upperside bright orange with black markings; 3 black-encircled white dots on forewing leading edge. Underside brown; forewing with orange at base; both wings with elongated, iridescent silver spots.  As caterpillars, they can be found in various species of passion-vine including maypops (Passiflora incarnata) and running pop (P. foetida).  As adult butterflies, their food is nectar from lantana, shepherd\'s needle, cordias, composites, and others.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sanibel is a "tasty" place, and this past Sunday proved the point!

Generally when it comes to a Sanibel event, we like to announce it before, rather than report on it after the fact.

But the Annual Taste of the Islands bears reporting even though it is over.

It appeared to us that this was the largest of the annual tastings, and we think there may have been a couple of reasons for the growth in attendance that are very relevant to vacations on Sanibel.

Looking at all the not only happy but familiar faces, we are left suspecting that some vacationers choose this time of year because of the event.  And why not?

Being on Sanibel in November is always a joy.  The weather is usually great, the Gulf is often still warm, there are no crowds and accommodations are still at low season rates.  It's the best combination of an island vacation, and very special time in this sweet tropical place.

In addition, the combination of the "Taste" being on a three day week-end, at a time when visitors from the USA have school conventions and time off for the kids, and when Europeans are starting to experience the cool and gray weather so common in November in places like Germany and northern France.

We also wonder if the change of venues might have been a draw as well.  The Dunes Golf and Tennis Club was an excellent choice with a lovely, spacious setting ....and free parking to boot. 

And some of our favorites were again in play.  Cip's , Traders, Jacaranda nearly 20 other restaurants were there with their great fare.  Food that helps to

But perhaps the most compelling reason for the attention and popularity was the opportunity to support the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife.  C.R.O.W relies heavily on this event.  It is their premier fund-raiser of the year.  And as C.R.O.W. continues to get known for the wonderful work they do, more and more people want to attend Taste of the Islands as a way to support C.R.O.W. and get to see their friends who are there for the same reason.

So, as a heads up for next year, you might want to consider a fall vacation on Sanibel for you and your family.  And there might not be a better time to be here than for the Taste of the Islands.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Meet some of our crabby neighbors on Sanibel!

We have a lot of nice people living on and visiting our tropical Island.

But we also have a lot of crabs.

No, not human crabs, but the kind that live in our lush vegetation, or crawl on or beaches or live in our trees.

We'd like to introduce you to a few of our favorites as well as hear from you on your favorites as well.

One of  most unique neighbors is the hermit crab.  What makes the hermit crab so unusual is that he borrows "homes" from other sea creatures.  Most frequently hermit crabs use the shells of sea snails .  The tip of the hermit crab's abdomen is adapted to clasp strongly onto the columella (central axis) of the snail shell.

As the hermit crab grows in size, it has to find a larger shell and abandon the previous one. This habit of living in a second hand shell gives rise to the popular name "hermit crab", by analogy to a hermit who lives alone. Several hermit crab species, both terrestrial and marine, use vacancy chains to find new shells: when a new, bigger shell becomes available, hermit crabs gather around it and form a kind of queue from largest to smallest. When the largest crab moves into the new shell, the second biggest crab moves into the newly vacated shell, thereby making its previous shell available to the third crab, and so on. Hermit crabs often "gang up" on a hermit crab that has what they perceive to be a better shell, where they will actually pry its home (shell) away from it and then compete for it, and one will ultimately take it over.

Now how is that for strategic living?

The horse shoe crab is another favorite of ours, perhaps the most unusual looking of all our island crabs.  The entire body of the horseshoe crab is protected by a hard carapace. It has two compound lateral eyes ,  plus a pair of median eyes that are able to detect both visible light and UV-light, a single endoparietal eye and a pair of rudimentary lateral eyes on the top. The latter becomes functional just before the embryo hatches. There is also a pair of ventral eyes located near the mouth. But despite all these eyes, the poor horseshoe crab has relatively poor eyesight. The mouth is located in the center of the legs, where their base have the same function as jaws and helps grinding up food. It has five pairs of legs for walking, swimming, and moving food into the mouth, each with a claw at the tip except the last pair. The long, straight, rigid tail can be used to flip itself over if turned upside down.

Horseshoe crabs are the most commonly seen shell in the area because they are so large and many raccoons like to dine on them.

And speaking of fine dining, we must admit that our number one special crab is the blue crab. Oh, maybe they don't have the wit of the hermit crab or the looks of the horse shoe crab but they sure taste good~!

What is your favorite crab on Sanibel Island?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Biking Safety and other Tips for enjoying Sanibel Island

A 12 mile long tropical island, mostly a nature preserve, is an idyllic hide-out from the rest of the world. 

Traffic moves slowly, crime is close to non existent, and life is good. Very good.

But no place as natural as Sanibel Island is completely free of concern.

There are the usual considerations one would give to any place in the sun.  One must pay attention to being hydrated while walking, biking or beaching.  And covering up to avoid both sun burn and bug bites is clearly a good step to take.

As for the alligators, the rule is simple.  Stay away from still waters.  Walking close to the edge of a bayou or lake is never a good idea in any tropical climate.

All this said, we recently came across an article with detailed and excellent bike safety rules that we would like to share with you.  Though Sanibel is one of the best and safest places to ride a bike, with 22 miles of bike trails to entertain the eye and ear, it is always advisable to heed the special direction of experts.  And this is what they say.

If riders decide to use the public roadways, it should be noted that in Florida bicycles are considered vehicles and subject to the same rules of the roads as vehicles. Hand signals should be used when turning; headsets are not allowed; lights must be used at night, and bicyclists under sixteen must wear helmets.

On the bike paths, riders should yield to pedestrians and demonstrate courtesy when overtaking other cyclists. An audible signal should be used to alert people on foot, and passing should be done to the left. In marked crosswalks, bicyclists have the same rights as pedestrians. Treating each other with respect keeps everyone safe and enhances the vacation experience.

In a nut shell: Florida Bicycle Safety
• All bicyclists under the age of 16 must wear helmets.
• On the roadways, bicycles are considered vehicles and must follow the same rules of the road.
• Use hand signals when turning.
• Headsets are not allowed.
• Lights must be used at night.
• Yield to pedestrians.

Bicycling is a great way to visit the many shopping areas along Periwinkle Way. It is also a fun way to explore the beaches of the islands. By using an island map, you can make your own itinerary. Be sure to bring along water and sunscreen. And above all, have a great ride.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Leaping Lemurs: The strangest sighting yet on Sanibel

As a nature island dedicated to the preservation of wild life, we are always happy to learn that a new species has been spotted on Sanibel...or that a species thought long gone is back again.

In the past couple of years, there have been some delightful sightings.  There  was the bear who made it over to visit, gray fox have been heard in the night, and the indigo snake believed long gone is enjoying the Island once again.

But all the above are critters indigenous to the Island, or at least the area.

The sightings last month have certainly created much more of a stir.

Ring tailed Lemurs are only found on Madagascar, so imagine the surprise when there were a couple of calls into the city's environmental office reporting their appearance.

The first report was largely dismissed, the thought being that the person who saw them mistook 2 raccoons for lemurs.  Even the second call did not raise real concern.

But when a third sighting was reported, by a city employee well versed in just what a lemur looks like, the reality set in. 

There could really be a pair of Lemurs roaming the Island!  Though no one has yet been able to capture a photo of the special couple, the accuracy in detailing their appearance leaves little doubt after the third sighting.

If it does turn out lemurs are roaming Sanibel, the city will work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to decide what to do.    Holly Milbrandt, the city’s environmental biologist says the Island's WCC will probably catch and move them. Milbrandt thinks it’s most likely that someone let them go on the island or they’re escaped pets, though none have been reported missing.

Thanks to their fuzzy coats, big golden eyes and black button noses (remember King Julian in “Madagascar”?) ring-tailed lemurs easily win human hearts. They star in zoos and preserves around the world and in Southwest Florida, live at the Naples Zoo, North Fort Myers’ Shell Factory and Sanibel’s Periwinkle Park Campground, — and yes, all of the park’s lemurs are accounted for.

With rounded fingernails instead of claws and fused lower teeth, Milbrandt doubts the lemurs pose a major threat to humans, “though we do want the public to be safe.”

“If they’ve escaped from somewhere, they’re probably more scared than we are,” she says. “We just want to be sure the animals are safe. It doesn’t make sense to just let them fend for themselves.”

So keep your eyes  and mind open and pay attention to movement in the bushes.  You might just find a rare visitor in your midst!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Issues on National Stage Effect Little Sanibel: The Toll of the Government Shut Down

Please be aware that this blog post is not going to take sides on the Government shut down.  We believe all parties in our capital have contributed to an environment that has allowed this shut down to happen. 

We also believe that greater struggles in our country have been addressed and overcome. So we are hopeful that agreements can and will be reached.

But we can not ignore the fact that our tropical island paradise has been effected by conversations that are , or are not taking, place hundreds of miles away.

It is easy to live and work on Sanibel and feel shielded from the problems in the world.  The beautiful weather, the lush environment, the belief that time is passing more slowly than on the main land all lull us into an almost dream like state.

Indeed, it is almost a shock when anything bad happens to or on the Island as we are so accustomed to life being just about perfect.

But the impasse in Washington D.C. has landed with a heavy thud on our soft territory.

The closure of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island hasn’t just inconvenienced visitors hoping to bike its trails or glimpse magnificent birds such as the roseate spoonbill. It’s costing jobs.

Tarpon Bay Explorers, a tour business that caters to the refuge’s nearly 800,000 yearly visitors, has had to cease operations, leaving 23 workers with no paycheck until Congress ends a government shutdown that has closed hundreds of national parks and preserves since October 1.

Obviously, everyone is concerned about the shut down and pulling for as quick an opening of Ding Darling as possible.  We recognize particularly the special nature of our preserve.

Everyone, however, except the creatures who live in the preserve are worried.  And that is a big exception.

The alligators, the Roseate Spoonbills, the four legged creatures and fish in the lagoons are going about their business as usual.  They do not need us at all, and are perfectly content not to have cars or bikes or walkers strolling through their neighborhood.

The preserve is not a zoo, or a circus or a national museum that can not sustain itself with out the upright residents of the earth.  Everything a Ding Darling resident needs is right there within their grasp.

Clearly, the shutdown is dumping buckets of cold water on the heads of business owners, vacation guests and those who cater to the visitor trade.

But the animals?  No, they have hardly even noticed the signs saying Ding Darling is shut down.  That, at least, does give us some peace.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Is Deceived Deceiving? A Sanibel Thriller that raises questions.

Randy Wayne White is a big name on little Sanibel.  The author, now restaurateur with two great eateries on the Islands, is a well known figure in these parts.  He is best recognized for his series of crime novels featuring the retired NSA agent Doc Ford, a marine biologist living on the Gulf Coast of southern Florida.

White has contributed material on a variety of topics to numerous magazines and has lectured across the United States. A resident of Southwest Florida since 1972, he currently lives on Pine Island, where he is active in South Florida civic affairs and with his restaurants.

With that much going on, his ability to write as often as he does is admirable.

But his newest novel, Deceived, is raising questions about his involvement, with readers often commenting that it does not "sound" like his older books.

While we realize that writers sometimes step back at points in their career and others take over the task with the finished piece in name only, we also recognize that all styles change over time. Architecture, art, music all morph as a person or area ages, takes in new stimulus or has a mood change.  The creative bent is a special talent, and there is no predicting its direction.

So we are going to give Mr. White the benefit of the doubt and assume that Deceived is all his.

And, with no further personal research, we do find the premise of the book quite interesting.

A twenty-year-old unsolved murder from Florida’s pothauling days gets Hannah Smith’s attention, but so does a more immediate problem. A private museum devoted solely to the state’s earliest settlers and pioneers has been announced, and many of Hannah’s friends and neighbors in Sulfur Wells are being pressured to make contributions.

The problem is, the whole thing is a scam, and when Hannah sets out to uncover whoever’s behind it, she discovers that things are even worse than she thought. The museum scam is a front for a real estate power play, her entire village is in danger of being wiped out—and the forces behind it have no intention of letting anything, or anyone, stand in their way.

So, there you have it.  Florida history, a strong female character, a museum being the bad guy and a murder all rolled into one.  Sounds like a page turner!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cronut or Dough'sant, you can find it on Sanibel!

We all know and agree that things are sweeter on Sanibel.

As September dwindles ,  we have to relish the serenity we found on Island this month.   So few people, so few cars, so few deadlines.

And, those of us who have become addicted to the sweetest treats of all, the Dough'sant at Bailey's were actually able to satiate our sweet teeth these past few weeks without a wait.

Never heard of the Dough'sant?

Then you are in for a particularly lush surprise.

Modeled after the pastry called the Cronut created by Chef Dominique Ansel's New York-based bakery , the Dough'sant has joined the national craze of people clamoring for a sweet.   A fresh batch of Dough'sants from the oven at Bailey's won't last until lunch. Bailey's General Store Bakery Manager Ginny Wagner starts her latest batch the night before. She rolls croissant dough over donut, folded it, rolled it again, let it proof or rise, and deep fried the final product. And for the finishing touches, she glazes the warm pastries and filled half with homemade vanilla pastry cream. What makes the early morning shelf at Bailey's General Store is the island's version of the Cronut. Total preparation time: Three hours.

Now, the Dough'sants are so popular they can't keep them on the shelf. Each day Wagner makes 200 Dough'sants but they sell out by 10 a.m. They retail for $2.99 each, cheaper than the $5 Cronut, and Wagner said the customer is getting their money's worth based on the ingredients and labor to craft the pastry.

While the original Cronut features flavors like rose-and-vanilla, lemon-maple, and blackberry, Bailey's Dough'sants only come with plain and vanilla filled. For now. But if the popularity grows and continues, we are sure the transition to more varieties will begin. Not only has Cronut fever caused long lines and a limit two per customer, but it even spurred a black market where the pastries are going for as much as $40 on the street.

Of course, islanders are in a special position to enjoy the Dough'sant, because they don't have to contend with those types of conditions on a daily basis. They only have to arrive early enough to get one before they sell out.

And, if you are lucky enough to visit Sanibel off season, you may not have to be the early bird to catch the worm!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Setting the table on a new Doc Ford's: Captiva VS. Sanibel

Sanibel and Captiva, small neighboring and tropical islands, have never really been in competition.  Collaboration, yes, but not competition.

The reasons to go to either are varied, but each offers a different experience.

The larger of the two, Sanibel Island, is home to Ding Darling Nature Preserve.  It is ringed with bike paths , has two grocery stores and hosts dozens of restaurants.  Captiva is defined by a few things: the village area, proximity to both Gulf and Bay, and the ability to walk to different activities.

Because the two islands, connected by a tiny nearly imperceptible bridge, are quite alike in topicality, and only a couple of minutes drive from one another, it sometimes surprises visitors that there are many observable  differences which often includes pricing, Sanibel being the more affordable of the two.  Generally, the island vacation goer knows in advance if Sanibel or Captiva is the place that they want to be.

But now, within a 15 minute drive or less, there comes a more difficult choice. 

Captiva has opened its own Doc Ford's.  This popular eatery on Rabbit Road on Sanibel has taken up residence in South Seas Plantation, replacing the BBQ eatery, Holy Smoke. 

And this is going to be a tough choice. Do you eat at the dowager Doc Fords on Sanibel or the newbie Doc Fords on Captiva?

Both restaurants will be offering similar menus with identical pricing.  From the feedback we have seen, both casual dining options have great cooks.  For example, we have seen specials posted that ring a most familiar bell, such as Fresh Grilled Grouper over Pork Belly and Shrimp Fried Rice Finished with an Asian Sweet-Ginger Citrus Sauce.  A high yum, yum quotient to be sure, but also one that is available from time to time on Sanibel.

Both restaurants have a sports bar and both draw on the name of Randy Wayne White's most famous character, Doc Ford.

Both are very comfortable places for couples, groups and families.

So, how does one distinguish exactly where they want to go?

We can only see a couple of differences that may help you decide.

The Sanibel Doc Ford's is a much larger place, and on busy night, the probability of getting a table may be better.  In addition, being on the main road of the Island, it is easier accessed.  That said, the Captiva Doc Ford's has outdoor, as well as indoor,  dining.  And the access in South Seas Plantation is quite attractive.

As reviews and experiences roll in, we will be sure to keep you apprised of how the new kid on the block in Captiva is doing.  Let us know your thoughts should you give it a try yourself~!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

October a hum-DINGER of a month on Sanibel~

It's been a long summer as far as Ding Darling Preserve is concerned.

The refuge's major vehicle venue, Wildlife Drive, has been undergoing repair and repaving. It was closed down in May and will re-open in October.

We are delighted to learn that the repaving has been on schedule.  The new surface will be an asphalt concrete that will extend the life of Wildlife Drive for 20 years, and will enhance visitor access, especially for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Even more exciting is the line up of activities scheduled for Ding Darling Days, the annual multi-event celebration of the refuge that takes place every October.

Beginning on Sunday, October 20, a wide variety of activities will be available for the public, many of them free of charge.

In fact, the first day of the celebration will be free for everything, a very special experience for the whole family!  Most begin or take place at the EC (Education Center).

12noon FREE Live Florida Animals Program, EC parking lot

12noon FREE Naturalist-narrated 60-minute walking tour of Indigo Trail and the NEW Children's Education Boardwalk, limited spaces - pick up ticket at Archway Info Table

1pm FREE Snakes Alive! Program, EC parking lot
2pm FREE Amazing Live Animals Program, EC parking lot

2pm FREE Naturalist-narrated 60-minute walking tour of Indigo Trail and the NEW Children's Education Boardwalk, limited spaces - pick up ticket at Archway Info Table

3pm FREE I Love Reptiles! Program, EC parking lot

Also featured are the FREE hourly (on the half-hour) life-size Endangered Species & Wildlife Puppets and puppet crafts garden presented by Heather Henson, daughter of the late Muppets creator, Jim Henson.

What a great kick off to a wonderful week of activities, but they go on (and on) from there.

On Monday, October 21st, birds will be a major focus of the day. 
From  11am-12noon
  there will be a Reddish Egret Talk in the EC Auditorium byDr. Kenneth Meyer, from the University of Florida. And a little later from 1:30-2:30pm FREE Story of Ospreys Presentation featuring Mark “Bird” Westall and Claudia Burns, of the International Osprey Foundation. The pre-presentation showing of the Refuge's Big 5 Coastal Birds video is equally interesting.

For other days and events, as well as more details, click here:


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are you a Foodie? The Sanibel area will not Disappoint!

We all know that Sanibel is a natural paradise.  A place where children of all ages find delights of all kinds.  The sea, the shells, the wild life, the Island ambiance: all of these attract visitors from around the world to our Gulf waters, our beaches, our nature preserve.

But one does not have to pack a brown bag in order to eat well and eat uniquely on Sanibel.

There are more than enough culinary pleasures on the Island and close to the Island to please the most demanding palates.

And we are not just going to round up the usual suspects in this post.

Surely, such eateries right on Island have become familiar to those seeking a breakfast, lunch or dinner out.  Among such favorites are the Bubble Room, Amy's, Traders, Matzaluna, Gramma Dot's, Cips as all stand out for ambiance, specialties of the house and overall catering to the hungry traveler.

But there are some discoveries to be made that are not static but dynamic experiences.  Not restaurants per se, but special places to taste the best of the Islands, some times solid pleasures and sometimes liquid ones.

One of the sweetest treats in the area is a moving target, generally held some time in summer when Mangoes are ready for eating.    The Mango Mania Fruit Fair is a quirky festival  held on Pine Island. A celebration of all things mango, the fair includes mango cook offs, mango pie-eating competitions, mango juggling competitions and the longest mango throw competition. Local chefs whip up mango-based drinks, starters and desserts for visitors. Those with a taste for variety will be relieved to hear lychee, carambola, longan, papaya and chocolate pudding fruit – all grown on the island – are also available.

And then there are the liquid heavens that surround the Island.

For the beer and wine drinker, exciting experiences are just a causeway away.

The Fort Myers Brewing Company is the city’s first brewery. Centrally located, it produces a number of award-winning craft ales ranging from Gateway Gold to Cypress Strong. The
tasting room is open on Fridays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Beecher Brewing Company opened recently in downtown Fort Myers in June. The microbrewery is located in the large, historic McCrory Building, near the waterfront. At the time of writing, Beecher planned to have 25 craft beers on tap, with a regularly rotating menu of beers depending on the season. They also asserted visitors will be able to enjoy tastings with complimentary food pairings.

Eden Vineyards is the southernmost bonded vineyard and winery in the United States. It’s located just east of Fort Myers in the rural region of Alva. The family-run, old-Florida-feel establishment has been running for more than 30 years. Today it produces six wines ranging from the dry white Lake Emerald, to the sweet white Eden Stars. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the venue gives visitors a chance to choose from tutored tastings with the owners or a drive through the vineyards, sampling wines along the way.

These are just the tip of the savory seekers Sanibel.  We will post further suggestions in the future!



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I think I saw a Sawfish! Yes, you did see a Sawfish on Sanibel

We get more than our share of rare and exotic creatures on Sanibel.

They fly into us, they cross the bay by swimming over and some probably hitch rides on trucks and other vehicles that transport them to our Island paradise.

Some are welcomed and allowed to stay, some are a danger to our own natives (humans and non humans) and some are so special that we go out of our way to ensure their release and safety.

On this last consideration, we test our case on the giant Sawfish recently reeled in to our shores.

Recently two teenage visitors , Alexander and Jordan Crabb, staying on Sanibel with their family hooked a really big one.  That night they were trying to catch something big, maybe a shark, but what they caught was a 14-foot, 350-pound endangered Sawfish.

"It's insane we had no plan on catching a sawfish," one of the teens said.
Jordan took half a Spanish mackerel out about 75 feet to use as bait.
"We were about to kayak another rod out and we looked over and the other rod was going off," Alexander said.   And thus began one of the best fishermen's tales to hit Sanibel.

The sawfish was hooked, but it was a battle to bring it in.
"We weren't gonna lose that fish, we didn't want to lose it," Alexander said.
They took turns, fighting it and working together for an hour-and-a-half.
"During the fight I remember looking back and there had to be at least 100-150 people. It was insane," Crabb said.

Finally they were able to drag it onto the beach and got a good look at their catch.
"We actually didn't see the saw until we brought it up on the beach it was amazing," Alexander said.
The teens knew sawfish are endangered, so they took some photos and measurements, and then let it go. Even though they can't bring the fish home, they're bringing home a pretty great story.
"Definitely the coolest thing I've caught just 'cause it's such a rare fish and it was so big," Alexander said.

Sawfish have been listed as endangered since 2003. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, they can be up to 18 feet long and 700 pounds.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

See this, Skip that: Travel Zoo and Good Morning America Visit Sanibel

Travel Zoo, a quickly emerging and growing web business, bills itself as "The Deal Experts. Over 26 million Subscribers Worldwide".  So when the deal experts team up with Good Morning America to make suggestions about what to see and do on Sanibel, we sit up and pay attention.

Their "See this, Skip that" travel advice is a great read for those who are planning a first or even a return trip to Sanibel, Captiva and the surrounding area.

And we knew we were off to a good start with the introduction to the Island:  In some ways, the Ft. Myers/Sanibel area is quintessential Florida, from the beaches to the fairways, and thanks to some pretty enviable weather. But this beautiful spot in the southwestern shores of the Sunshine State is also a destination all its own: history, culture and nature collide here, offering a unique travel experience that other Gulf Coast areas simply can't match.

Their very first recommendation takes the visitor into the most intriguing of Island water activities.  The USS Mohawk is a former U.S. Coast Guard cutter that was involved in more than a dozen attacks against Nazi subs during World War II. It was sunk off Sanibel Island in July of 2012 and is now an artificial reef. Located a bit more than 25 miles offshore and 90 feet down, it's paradise to the more experienced diver, for sure. But this summer, it's especially worth the plunge, as it hosts an underwater exhibit of works by Andreas Franke; the Austrian artist superimposed images of models in WWII-era dress onto pictures he took of the Mohawk, encased them in Plexiglas, and then hung them off the side of the submerged vessel. Come October, the images will resurface and go on display at the Alliance for the Arts in Ft. Myers.

And we fully appreciate the knowledge that they pass on about the Island lexicon.  "Pink Gold" is our name for shrimp, both for its color as well as for its value. 

But the good counsel offered does not end with our looking down on our  beautiful , tropical islands.  One of the great suggestions proffered is to visit the  The Planetarium at the Calusa Nature Center,  the only one in Southwest Florida, and the only one west of Miami. There, a high-tech digital projector plays jaw-dropping shows that encompass the entire 44-foot dome, and twice-daily presentations focus on stargazing, tracking the planets and introducing guests to the wonders of the telescope. After your galactic visit, stick around and explore the rest of the 105-acre site, which features a butterfly aviary, several hiking trails, a museum, resident critters – from a fox to a skunk – and a bird display that houses permanently injured eagles, hawks and owls.

What are your suggestions for see this, skip that when it comes to Sanibel?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What you need to know about Sanibel's Cane Toads

We love our wildlife on Sanibel Island, but when a species that is not indigenous makes its presence known and also threatens our native species, we do take notice.

Such is the case with the Cane Toad, a very large toad, reaching up to 5.5 inches in length and possibly near five pounds in weight.

And though that might not sound frightening, given other Island creatures that are significantly larger, the Cane Toad gives new meaning to the term: Don't judge a book by its cover.

This species poses a SERIOUS threat to wildlife on Sanibel, as well as domestic pets. The large glands behind the eyes and above the shoulders (parotoid glands) produce a toxin (bufotoxin) that is both irritating and deadly to smaller wildlife. When a predator grabs a giant toad in their mouth, the toad inflates its body and the toxin oozes out of the parotoid glands into the mouth of the predator. It is well documented that the poison has killed pet dogs in south Florida. The literature and conversations with veterinarians and pet owners indicate it is a horrific death for the animal.

There have even been human fatalities from this species from toad-licking. The tadpoles are also toxic, which can lead to fatalities in many animals that consume them. Special care should be taken to prevent dogs, cats, etc from biting or grasping these toads in their mouths.

And yes, we realize there are no doubt those reading this who are wondering why in the world would any human being lick a toad, so we will provide the answer.  Toad licking is a "sport" among those wishing to get high.  While the toxin can kill, it apparently also can create a drug like effect.

So the Cane Toad is not exactly a welcome guest on the Island, as you can imagine.

The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) is asking assistance in finding these toads so that they can be found and removed. They have provided multiple photos and details as well as the sound the toad makes at this page:

It is also good to note that , as in many other cases, the Cane Toad was deliberately introduced into the Florida landscape.  Cane toads were brought to Australia in the 1930s to control cane grubs in sugar cane fields. They did not control cane grubs and started eating smaller vertebrates. They have spread throughout northeastern Australia and are still a serious threat. They were released in sugar cane fields in Florida to control a larval form of a beetle as well, hence the name "cane toad." Just like in Australia, they escaped from the area and became established. Also, there is a record of approximately 100 being accidentally released in the 1950s in Miami by a pet dealer.

Their existence on the Island is most likely accidental.  They were probably brought here in mulch, pine straw, sod, plants, or even tadpoles hiding in a small pool of water on any object transported to the island.

When using the term unintended consequences, certainly the importation of the Cane Toad is a good example.  Please keep  a look out during your stay on Sanibel.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Lion's Paw: Children's Book or Adult Dream about Sanibel & Freedom

Back in 1946, author Robb White came up with a brilliant idea for a book.

Titling it The Lions Paw, a lovely seashell found on Sanibel and Captiva and the name of the boat in the book, White wrote a story designed successfully to capture the imagination of every child from 9 to 90.

It wove together adventure, excitement, mystery, thrills, beauty and even a great deal of true to life descriptions of  boating.

While the two orphans in the story escape an orphanage to find freedom and love, the  young man they connect with is not so much fleeing as hanging on to the memories of his long lost father and the boat that belonged to him -----now in jeopardy of being sold.

Who could not be enchanted with a story of the sea, animals, friendships, a treasure hunt and an escape from some very nasty adults?

Apparently no would could escape the magic, and The Lion's Paw was a special  book for decades, read in schools and in the homes of millions of Americans. 

It had gone out of print, but now in its new edition,  it is gaining the popularity it once had, despite the fact that it was published so long ago.  And, quite honestly, much as it did in its original publication, there are probably as many adults caught up in the magic of this Florida tale as there are children enjoying it.

We have a strong hunch that the descriptions of our tropical islands and the entire sense of escaping reality are strong drivers in the popularity among adult readers.

The rousing dramas described as the boat gets tossed about in storms, as the two orphans find their sea legs and as the young boat captain out thinks and out maneuvers those hunting him down are crowd pleasers and page turners. 

And those of us who live on and work on these tropical escapes of Sanibel and Captiva totally relate to the desire to get away.  Though we may not be avoiding anything negative, the positive experience of being on a barrier island, away from it all, surrounded by turquoise seas and in the lap of mother nature with her creatures at beck and call is exhilarating.

We encourage all our vacation rental guests to pick up a copy of The Lion's Paw before they arrive.  It will only heighten their enjoyment of our beautiful islands!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fodor's pick for 5 must do Activities on Sanibel Island

Once again, it is accolade time for Sanibel.

And when travel experts like Frommer and Fodor applaud our little island, we have to share the wealth.

We loved the article on Sanibel, and how could we not with an opening stating: Sanibel—an island situated in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Southwest Florida—is one of America's most precious vacation destinations.

We love the word precious, because it is exactly the word we would use to describe Sanibel, meaning of great value; not to be wasted or treated carelessly.

We do appreciate that the piece mentions one of the biggest distinctions between Sanibel and the rest of the state, indicating that , thanks to careful city planning, residents have effectively controlled development and encouraged the preservation of the island's ecology.  This has been so since passing the Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan in 1974.

But most of all, we like the "activities" suggested in this article because the emphasis is on the natural enjoyments of the Island.

Rating highest on the list of "must do's" is seeing the island the slow and easy way, on a bike or a segway or even better, on your own two feet.  What ever method you choose to navigate will allow you a special view.

Also on the natural side, the suggestion to do the Sanibel stoop focuses attention on two of the highest values on the Island, the beach and the shells.  As a side suggestion, and a good one, is the mention of Sanibel's Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.  Though there are more shells on display than on the beaches themselves, it is impressive to know that over 250 kinds of shells can be found on the Island.

Another discovery possibility, and one that never every visitor is aware of , is the exploration of Tarpon Bay.  Tarpon Bay, on the north side of the island, is a fantastic place to spend the day. There's Tarpon Bay Beach and an expansive bay on which guests and residents alike can kayak, canoe, or enjoy by pontoon boat or standup paddleboard. Tarpon Bay Explorers is the licensed concessionaire at Tarpon Bay as well as the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. They rent fishing equipment, boats, and bikes. They also offer guided kayak and canoe tours plus breakfast, daytime, and evening cruises on covered pontoon boats.

Their final two recommendations are those probably best known and possibly best loved.  Ding Darling, by car, foot or bike, offers an undisputed incredible view of bird life and encompasses the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the country.  And, of course, the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is on the must list.  The CROW complex features a state-of-the-art hospital manned by veterinarians and volunteers. At CROW's Education Center, get in on interactive games like "Be the Vet," in which participants try to diagnose an animal's medical issue.

While we think there are many more must do's on Sanibel, we see this list as an excellent start!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More nice words on Sanibel: A compendium of compliments

We who live and work on Sanibel totally appreciate how unique a place it is.

And we realize our vacation rental guests recognize the value of all this topicality and nature in such a wonderfully convenient location.

But despite all this adulation, we must admit we do feel pleased when others , not quite so familiar, write glowingly about our island.

Recently we received international recognition with a BBC publication lauding the island as a sanctuary.  And just a few days ago, Sanibel was again applauded for being among the top ten best family beach vacations in the country by US News travel.

We wanted to share some of the lovely language used in the "penning" of these two pieces.

The BBC article lavished praise in great detail, much of it focused on the geographic and natural elements of the Island, distinguishing it from most other beaches in this sunshine state. " Amid Florida’s theme parks and overdeveloped beach fronts, a slow-paced, family friendly refuge cuts against all Sunshine State stereotypes. Sanibel Island, located in the Gulf Coast near the city of Fort Myers, is part hard-won watery nature reserve, part vigorously defended small town, where more than a century of careful design continues to pay dividends to its people and its wildlife."

And we could not agree more that despite its popularity and comfort, Sanibel's development has not significantly compromised its "islandy" feel .  "Because of the length of the beach and the set back and height restrictions on the resorts, much of the island feels secluded. Wildlife spills from the refuge, and it is common to see flocks of snowy egrets perched on lawns and several gopher tortoises crawling beside the heavily speed-restricted roads and numerous bike paths."

Similarly, the US News piece concentrates on what is different about Sanibel in its article ranking Sanibel 4 of 10 best family beaches in the USA.    According to US News ,  Sanibel is considered even more low-key, quiet and quaint than its Gulf Coast neighbor, Fort Myers.  " Casual is the order of the day on Sanibel Island; a shabby chic vibe permeates the galleries, restaurants and shops; seashells cover every sandy and linoleum surface. In fact, the abundant seashells have become this island's  claim to fame. You'll find plenty of beachcombers practicing the "Sanibel stoop" -- what locals call shelling -- on any lengthy stretch of sand. Plan on joining them for at least one afternoon of your stay; that is, if the mood strikes you. The residents of laid-back Sanibel wouldn't have it any other way."

And both publications are absolutely correct.

Sanibel fits no stereotypes. And we would not have it any other way!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's in a Name (on Sanibel)? Bailey Legacy Will Live on in Many Ways.....

The obit was simply stated: "Francis P. Bailey, Jr., the remaining son of a pioneering Sanibel family that opened Bailey's General Store in 1899, died Saturday. He was 92."

But there was huge chunk of Sanibel history that was highlighted that day, June 8, as well.

Those who know and love the Island, are most familiar with the name of Bailey because of the supermarket established in his name, but the history of Sanibel was so tied into the life of Francis Bailey that a memory lane for the man is also one for the Island.

Bailey's  father moved to Sanibel at the age of 24, when land in our tropical paradise was only a few cents more than dirt-cheap. Though he was born only a few miles away in Ft. Myers, Francis Bailey was nearly a lifelong citizen of the island. Except for a few years in prep school, four years at Hampden-Sydney, and a stint in the Army, Bailey had lived his entire life on the island.

And he saw it in the best and worst of times.  Looking back, Bailey stated about his life on Sanibel:   “We had eight grades in one room, one teacher, one front door, one stove, one pencil sharpener, but we had two two-hole outhouses.”After the “snow birds” left Sanibel for the summer, the Baileys remained. Of course, there was no air conditioning and the hot, muggy weather was perfect for breeding mosquitoes “that were so thick you could take a quart can and swing it above your head and get a gallon of mosquitoes.”Escaping the mosquitoes was a constant struggle. Bailey says, “We had smudge pots and you always brushed off the screen door before we came in and were careful not to leave it open. Threaten to shoot the dog if he pushed it open. If you had to go some place in the evenin’, you’d get everybody all set together and run to the car and drive down the road with the doors open.”Despite being only a ferry ride away from Ft. Myers, Sanibel Island might as well have been on another planet. “We had no paved roads, no sidewalks, no drug store, no furniture store, no barber, no beauty shop, no movie theater. It was just here. Nobody felt deprived. That’s what we had.

Bailey’s General Store was along the shoreline where locals—and the many vacationers—disembarked from the ferry. A stop at Bailey’s store was one of the first things visitors would do, which proved to be relatively lucrative for the family. As the island grew, the store also grew. They enlarged it by closing in a porch. Later, the Baileys built a new Standard Oil station on the island along Periwinkle Way, which had become Sanibel’s main thoroughfare. The island, though only a few miles from Ft. Myers, was still remote and in a perpetual state of recovery from hurricanes.

Everything changed in 1963—on May 23 to be precise. That was the day the bridge connecting Sanibel to the mainland opened to traffic.

“At the time, Bailey said once in an interview, "I thought it would instantly change the island radically. It took two or three years for us to notice any big change. The island was growing—or regressing, depending on how you looked at it—anyway, but it was two or three years before we noticed any appreciable spurt. I think some of the real estate speculators started saying, ‘Hmm. It looks pretty good over there’.”

The beginning of the bridge was the end of the mail boat, which put Bailey’s General Store at the end of a dead-end road. Three years later, in 1966, the family moved the store to its current location on Periwinkle Way. The store also grew substantially. During the last 45 years, the store has evolved and now offers a wide variety of products, from baked goods and fresh vegetables to hammers.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Always something to C.R.O.W. about on Sanibel

As we say (repeatedly), Sanibel Island is a one of a kind.

The jewel in Florida's crown.

A unique spot on the map of America.

And, the home of one of the most impressive animal rehabilitation centers in the world.  Yes, the world!

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, better known as C.R.O.W. , is a major bragging point for our very special tiny tropical island.

C.R.O.W. treats 4,000 animals annually, and while their patients are quite properly not permitted visitors, its public education center is worth a look, especially if you were previously unaware that acupuncture can be employed to treat tortoises.

What it has accomplished in the way of education and rehabilitation is quite remarkable and has won the Center applause, accolades and awards from a great number of agencies over the years.

Most recently, it took first place in the Gulf Guardian Awards.

The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc. (C.R.O.W) will receive a First Place 2013 Gulf Guardian Award in the Civic/ Non-Profit Organization Category. The awards ceremony will be held on June 26 at the Tampa Bay Grand Hyatt beginning at 6 p.m.

C.R.O.W has been caring for and rehabilitating sick, injured or orphaned wildlife, including many threatened and endangered species, through a conservation medicine approach to care. In addition, C.R.O.W. provides education to young people and adults that increases awareness of appropriate human/wildlife interaction and emphasizes the need for conservation of Southwest Florida's coastal wildlife habitats.

Since its establishment in 1968, C.R.O.W. has treated and released more than 60,000 wildlife patients. C.R.O.W. sees thousands of patients each year representing more than 200 species of mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians. Many of these animals are threatened or endangered including wood storks, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, least terns, gopher tortoises and loggerhead, Kemp's ridley and green sea turtles.

C.R.O.W. is the only gulf coast facility between Sarasota and the Florida Keys licensed to care for sea turtles.

C.R.O.W. takes a conservation medicine approach to wildlife rehabilitation with the ultimate goal being the reintroduction of wildlife into their natural habitats and a reduction of wildlife casualties from human interaction through public education.

We hope you will forgive us this bit of bragging, but having witnessed the survival stories year after year; we can't help but take enormous pride in this outstanding organization!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pond Apple Park: A new attraction on Sanibel

As if having Ding Darling and the Bailey Tract was not enough room to roam in search for nature, Sanibel Island now has an additional preserve!

Pond Apple Park, despite its somewhat unusual name, is a 40 acre wild life preserve.  And the name really reflects the nature of the Preserve as it is filled with pond apples, a fruit favored by alligators. The fruit, when ripe,  is yellow to orange instead of white. The fruit is edible for humans and its taste is reminiscent of ripe Honeydew melon! 

The 1.6-mile loop trail of Pond Apple Park meanders through a pond apple slough, wetland marsh and West Indian hardwood hammock. The park is home to several rare and endangered species including bald eagles, wood storks, alligators, otters and bobcats. The trail is open year-round for hiking and biking during daylight hours.

Officially opened in 2011, it is a secret to many people, and one we may spoil with this post.

But for nature lovers, and many guests who frequent the Island are there for nature as much as for the beaches, it is one more great place to explore and enjoy, so we feel we need to get the word out.

The Pond Apple Park project, commenced July 2010, and was 100% grant funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009–2011 Forest Health Improvement Initiative Grant Program. A grant of $18,020 was provided to the City to establish four separate stands of native South Florida slash pine on City-owned lands known as Pond Apple Park and Paulsen Preserve.

In addition to pine trees, a variety of other native shade trees were planted along the trail at Pond Apple Park to provide shade for park visitors. In total, 487 trees were planted as a result of the project.

James Evans, Environmental Biologist with the City’s Natural Resources Department explained that funding provided by the Forest Health and Improvement Initiative Grant allowed the City to meet all of their project goals including: 1) establishing pine flatwoods at two city parks to provide critical wildlife habitat and to attract visitors to the parks; 2) stimulating the local economy by providing work for local contractors using a competitive bid process; and 3) reestablishing canopy nesting sites for bald eagles, which were impacted when Hurricane Charley destroyed the Australian pine canopy that previously provided nesting opportunities.

Citizens and visitors to Sanibel are encouraged to visit the City’s parks and enjoy the new habitats. The Pond Apple Park trailhead is located in the southwest corner of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce parking lot. A 1.6 mile loop trail takes visitors through various habitats including tropical hardwood forest, pine flatwoods, wetland forest and open water habitats where they can observe wildlife in their native habitats including bobcats, alligators, wading birds, migratory songbirds and bald eagles.

As always, caution is suggested and staying away from the water is the safest way to avoid any contact with the resident alligators.

But if you feel you have seen everything Ding Darling and the Bailey tract has to offer, you might well consider a stroll through Pond Apple!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Calling for comments on the Best KeyLime Pie on Sanibel!

No doubt about it.

Key Lime Pie is iconic of Florida.

Every town, city and suburb has at least one place that boasts the best Key Lime Pie in Florida.

And we have tasted many selections.

They have varied from the super good to the mediocre.

And the differences are quite discernible.

There are Key Lime Pies that are tart, Key Lime Pies that are sweet, Key Lime Pies that have the consistency of cheese cake and Key Lime Pies that have the texture of jello.

So, to be honest, choosing the best Key Lime Pie on Sanibel Island is very contingent on your expectations and tastes.  They are all special in their own way.

We would like to point out some of our favorites in this blog post, but also invite you to comment with your reactions and suggestions.  We hope you will view this post as interactive, and the more people who chime in, the better sense we will have of where to go for the Island's best.

Cip's Key Lime Pie has got to be in the top considerations.  In fact, all Cip's desserts rate five stars! Their Key Lime Pie and the Whiskey Walnut Pie are must try’s, but be prepared to share, serving portions are ample for two.  Cip's pie is definitely tart, but of a thicker consistency than others on the Island.  If that is to your liking, you will probably love Cip's!

The Sanibel Grill has great key lime pie. Doc Ford's is not as tangy but has great flavor and texture.  We also  also like the key lime pie and BEST key lime martini at Jacaranda.

We also have to admit that Key Lime Pie with a view is better than Key Lime Pie without a view.  And on that level, we thoroughly enjoy the Key Lime Pie at Grandma Dot's where the boats and waterways totally enhance the taste of the food.  In addition, Grandma Dot's Key Lime Pie has a very distinctive taste as it has ginger snaps for a crust.  You can ask for your whipped creme on the pie or on the side, so we suggest an on the side allowing you to taste and savor the flavor before adding on the extra sweetness.

Sanibel Cafe  used to serve a classic key lime pie, the filling had the perfect fragile set and was very creamy, but not at all dense. The filling was maybe 3/4" thick only - which is exactly what it's supposed to be.

Trader's is next closest to the classic filling.

Timber's and Grandma Dot's are similar to each other but the filling is a cross between a classic and cheesecake style.

Those are our top picks, but we would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Incredible Courage of Sanibel Sea Turtles

If you pay any attention to Sanibel and its devotion to wild life, you will quickly and easily see that our Sea Turtles are among the most loved of all our critters.

There are signs all over the Island's beaches asking that people not trespass on the areas marked as sea turtle nesting spots.  The dark skies program was created to help sea turtles find their way to the sea.

And now, there is a program being launched to educate the general public, adult and child, as to the need for sea turtle awareness.

Through a $20,000 grant acquired by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society (DDWS), the refuge has coordinated a Saving Sea Turtles program with two publications: a 16-page coloring book featuring fun sea turtle facts, puzzles and word search games for kids as well as a full-color tri-fold brochure offering simple steps to protecting sea turtles for both adults and children, in addition to information about various sea turtle species.

According to supervisory ranger Toni Westland, the grant funding came from funds generated through the Florida sea turtle license plate sales. “Our goal is to put these books and brochures into as many hotel rooms as possible in order to maximize our visibility during sea turtle nesting season,” said Westland, who noted that more than 300,000 Saving Sea Turtles brochures and 63,000 activity books were printed.
So why all this attention to these little hatchlings?
Well, there is definitely a cuteness factor involved, we won't deny that.  The wee babes are about as adorable as any baby animal, 4 legged, winged or finned, on the Island.
But the reality is that these special hatchlings are endangered by so many elements.
Sought by predators and susceptible to dehydration, sea turtle hatchlings have only a one in a thousand chance of survival.  Human activities can and do further reduce that chance.
By following a few simple rules, we can all help to ensure the greatest rate of survival for our brave sea turtles, hatchling and adult alike:
Turn off or shield lights near the beaches
Remove furniture and other items from the beach and dune area between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Pick up all trash
Honor the leash law
We are worried that our adorable babies will not even make it as far as that dash to the sea, let alone survive the journey.  And we want to help them in every way we can!