Saturday, November 28, 2015

Celebrating your holidays on Sanibel Island

Well , Thanksgiving is over, and so is Black Friday, both gorgeous days on the Island.

The sun was brilliant, the breeze was refreshing, the Gulf sparkled.

And all of this with temperatures in the high 70's and low 80's.

What a stunning prelude to the December holidays coming upon us with amazing speed.

But if you have put off coming to our beautiful , tropical island , rest assured that there is plenty to do~And the menu of things to do is eclectic and enchanting.

In addition to your normal day time activities of beaching, pooling, boating, biking , fishing and walking, there is a charming venue for every taste and preference.

Here is a small sampling of what you can look forward to:

On November 30 (see you don't even have to wait for the month to change over!), there is a production at the Big Arts Straus Theatre guaranteed to have you humming ,  Duets.  This original production showcases just some of the ways two fantastic voices can come together in an inspired pairing that is truly special.

On December 2, relax to the sounds of the strolling Spanish Guitarists at the Sundial Beach Resort as you sip Sangria served in a French-Press with muddled fruit .  Children can enjoy "Fountain of Youth" punch and select gold (chocolate) coins from their treasure chest.  Complimentary Paella is prepared and served by the Conquistador Chef between 5-6 PM. Enjoy the breeze on the terrace overlooking the Gulf or at the bar.

On December 4, there will be a magical evening hosted by Tween Waters Inn. Bring a blanket and some wine as you sit back and enjoy beautiful operatic voices while the sun dips into the Gulf of Mexico.

And on both December 4 and December 5, you can become a real part of the Sanibel spirit by traveling the Luminary trail. Complete with trolley service, there are music and activities the length of the trail.

Beginning December 7, film buffs can get their fill.   Big Arts Schein Hall  popular film series returns for another 28 showing of the most-talked-about and award-winning movies of the year.  Films are followed by discussions and complimentary receptions.  

On December 12,  the 6th Annual Captiva Island Boat Parade begins at South Seas Island Resort Marina and cruises through Pine Island Sound to Tween Waters Inn Marina on Roosevelt Channel.  Visitors can choose to cruise in the parade with special passenger tickets with Captiva Cruises or watch the event from shore at McCarthy’s Marina, Tween Waters Inn, and Green Flash Restaurant.

And again at Big Arts, on December 18,  favorite holiday standards will take you through a musical winter wonderland.

But perhaps our most enthusiastic suggestion takes place on December 20 at Big Arts with the Southwest Florida Symphony.  It is not just the music, popular holiday tunes, but the conductor and soloist who are outstanding in their fields and a joy to watch and hear.

So much to pick from, it's near impossible to name them all.  But spending holidays on Sanibel are a pure joy, no matter what you choose to do. Or not do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Turtle or Tortoise ? Sanibel has Some Amazing Sightings!

We would have to admit that when people think of Sanibel Island, many beautiful things come to mind.

There is the Gulf of Mexico, never more than a stone's throw away, no matter where you stay.

There are the shells , so numerous and so lovely, Sanibel ranks in the top three shell collecting destinations in the world.

There is great fishing for the fishermen and great birding for the birders.

And the island offers something special  for people of all ages from restaurants to shops to water sports.

And among the visual delights are our turtles, tortoises and terrapins.

And here is a primer on how you can tell the difference in the three:

Turtle— Spends most of its life in the water. Turtles tend to have webbed feet for swimming. Sea turtles (Cheloniidae family) are especially adapted for an aquatic life, with long feet that form flippers and a streamlined body shape. They rarely leave the ocean, except when the females come ashore to lay their eggs, although some species, such as the green sea turtle, do come out on reefs and beaches to bask. Other turtles live in fresh water, like ponds and lakes. They swim, but they also climb out onto banks, logs, or rocks to bask in the sun. In cold weather, they may burrow into the mud, where they go into torpor until spring brings warm weather again.

Tortoise— A land-dweller that eats low-growing shrubs, grasses, and even cactus. Tortoises do not have webbed feet; their feet are round and stumpy for walking on land. Tortoises that live in hot, dry habitats use their strong forelimbs to dig burrows. Then, when it’s too hot in the sun, they slip underground.

Terrapin— Spends its time both on land and in water, but it always lives near water, along rivers, ponds, and lakes. Terrapins are often found in brackish, swampy areas. The word “terrapin” comes from an Algonquian word for turtle.

One of our unusual looking turtles is the Leatherback.  Leatherback sea turtles and softshell turtles have a rounded, flattened carapace, and the entire shell is covered with tough, leathery skin supported by tiny bones. The shell’s bone elements are reduced, making the shell flexible for swimming and diving. Leatherback turtles dive up to 3,000 feet (900 meters) below the ocean surface; at this depth, the incredible water pressure would crush a turtle with a heavy shell and less flexible body.

Our most famous tortoise is the Gopher Tortoise. Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) and their burrows are protected on Sanibel. Tortoise burrows can be found on almost any upland area on the island, although the largest concentrations of tortoises are now on conservation lands.

Sanibel's  diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is one of a few species (actually the only New World) of turtles that are adapted to live in brackish environments.  The diamondback terrapin ranges from Cape Cod, MA to Corpus Christi Bay along the Texas Gulf Coast. They exist only along the coastline in water that is a mixture of fresh and salt water. Depending on rainfall and time of year, the salinity (salt content) of the water can be identical to pure sea water, or higher, or close to 50% fresh/salt water. Their main habitats are salt marshes and mangrove waterways. Along the east coast of the United States (from Cape Cod, MA to Miami, FL) they are inhabitants of salt marshes. From the Florida Keys to the Florida panhandle, they live mostly in mangrove creeks and waterways. They again exist in salt marshes from the western Florida panhandle to Texas.

With very little effort, turtles , tortoises and terrapins can easily been seen on Sanibel...and well worth the look!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Yes, we have plenty of Orchids! Orchid growing on Sanibel Island

While Sanibel Island is best known for shell collecting and as one of the best birding locations in the country, flower lovers can be happy with visions of bougainvillea, hibiscus, oleander and other colorful and tropical plantings on view everywhere. 

But less conspicuous to the casual viewer are the orchids.

They do not grow in the wild, nor do the other tropical beauties, but the orchids are much more subtle in presentation.

To see them, one must visit some of the luxurious vacation rental properties where orchids are displayed in court yards, or some of the restaurants, such as Cip's,  where orchids hang from trees.

But orchids are popular enough on Island that there is a Sanibel-Captiva Orchid Society.

And at least one resident and member of the Society has gained some fame with his orchids because of his care and patience. 

Soon after purchasing his first orchid, Sanibel resident Joseph Salatino came across a book that read "welcome to a journey that many people begin and few finish," on the front sleeve. His journey continued in Dallas, Texas, with more than 1,000 plants in his greenhouse.

Salatino now has 175 plants on Sanibel at his home. He designed an outdoor space that fits into the environment where the orchids either hang or sit on a table. Salatino said a lot of the orchids have different needs, some which are special nutritional needs. A number of his orchids are kept shaded with a fan pointing on them because they strive better in cooler environments. Once the orchid is placed in the best climate, Salatino said you can pretty much leave them alone.

This orchid lover  was pleasantly surprised when one  morning he walked outside and noticed his exotic orchid in bloom for the first time since planting it more than a month ago. The Sanibel resident found a grower in northern California after researching the coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the "bucket orchid," online.

He said he wanted to take a chance and see if he could get it to grow. The bucket orchid is a native of South America and has a scent similar to licorice .

But don't let us throw you off the scent.  Sanibel's flora can be smelled as well as seen, and either sense will be rewarded with a stay on island!


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pier on Sanibel NOT Your Father's Pier: A Lot More than Fishing Going On

With all the things to do on Sanibel Island, many people do not get to see our lighthouse and the nearby pier.

The lighthouse has historic significance for the island but we are finding that the pier is just as fascinating.

And while you would expect the pier to be filled with those fishing, there are some other very nice surprises that come with pier time.

The pier faces the causeway and offers a unique and pleasant perspective on getting on to the island.  Far enough away not to be heard, close enough to be observed, the causeway view from that angle makes one feel a million miles from the mainland.

But the biggest joy for some who come to the pier are the myriad opportunities to observe a nice variety of birds who have figured out that the pier is the best deal in town.

For nothing more than their presence, they are given the free lunch that is often claimed as non-existent.  Actually, if they time it well, they can have free breakfast, free dinner and free lunch.  The fishermen arrive early and leave late, tossing the appreciative feathered audience pieces of their bait and their take.  And the birds are well aware of these daily gifts.

They gather by the dozens, often right on the pier, waiting for the bounty to come their way.  They have been observed poking around the bait buckets and getting so close to the active fishing, it is worrisome that they might get impaled on a fishing hook.

There are Little Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Reddish Egrets, Little Blue Herons and Great Blue Herons.  And dozens of shore birds line the water as well.  Willets, Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones and Dowitchers are just a few of the birds that scamper about the water's edge.  And if that is not enough for the bird sighter or bird photographer, then just look skyward and it is highly likely that you will spot an osprey a-top a tree or pole with a great big fish.

And , of course, there are also the opportunities to swim, sit and read or bring a picnic on the beach surrounding the pier.

Best yet, the pier is just a five minute drive from Gramma Dot's, a perennial favorite on Sanibel.  Great food, good service and lovely views of boats and tropical houses makes Gramma's a stand out and a wonderful way to end  a day at the Sanibel pier.

There are so many elements that make Sanibel a special place, and clearly the pier is one of them.