Tag Archives: Sanibel Island

Gopher Tortoise

I came across this Gopher Tortoise while riding my bicycle on Sanibel Island along the Sanibel-Captiva Rd.  The Gopher Tortoise was slowly crawling along a grassy area and eating grass. This reptile is a land dwelling animal and lives in a burrow that it digs for itself with its’ strong claws.

The burrow that it digs averages 6.5 feet deep and 15 feet long. The burrow provides refuge or habitat for up to 350 other species. The Gopher Tortoise is called a keystone species for this reason because of its importance for helping to insure the survival of other species in its ecosystem.  The animals that typically live in the Gopher’s burrow include burrowing owls, rattlesnakes, crickets and many others.

The habitats that this reptile lives in include dry uplands, sandhills, pine flatwoods, scrub, dry prairies, xeric hammocks, pine mixed hardwoods and coastal dunes. They depend on natural fires to burn away the brush, dead leaves and shrubs so that new plants and grasses can grow. The Gopher Tortoise has been around for a long time and its estimated to date back  60 milliion years. The Gopher Tortoises’ life time averages 40-60- years.

The Gopher Tortoise itself is as a threatened species in Florida and is protected by the laws of the state against poaching or hunting.  No land clearing or development can take place in an area where a tortoise lives unless it is relocated to a similar environment and permits are issued for its relocation. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has additional information about this animal. http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/

Click on the pictures above for larger images.





Sunsets on Sanibel

Sunsets on Sanibel have been popular for vacationers and residents to enjoy because of the wide vistas and open skies in which to enjoy the views. The myriad of colors and variations of lights caused by clouds and the suns vanishing appearance draws many people to the beaches to see the sun disappear below the horizon.

Popular spots to see Sunsets on Sanibel are the beaches on the island along the Gulf of Mexico and the Sanibel Causeway Islands which runs across the Pine Island Sound and carries the 2 lane road which is the only access point to Sanibel by vehicle. It is not uncommon to see groups of people standing or seated along the beaches and causeway islands watching the sun set and disappearing below the horizon.

The actual time of sunrise and sunset varies of course depending on time of year. The City of Sanibel Web Site has a link which gives the time of sunrise and sunset in this area. It has the chart of tidal information for fisherman and the temperature of water for swimmers.

The pictures shown above were taken at different times of the year and display sunsets at different times of the evening. One of the prettiest sights to see are the rainbows across the sky near Sanibel after a rain storm. Click on one of the photos in this post to see a larger image.












Sanibel Island Mailboxes

Sanibel Island is famous for the sea shells that cover its’  beach shorelines. Residents and vacationers roam the beaches looking for a wide variety of shells that wash up on the shores each day. The Florida Current and Sanibel’s unique shape allow Mollusks and shells to wash up on its shores. Sanibel Island residents take pleasure in decorating their mailboxes with these shells and artwork with displays wildlife and nature.

Some of the mailboxes are on display in the photo gallery shown above. Click on one of the images for a larger view. Taking a bicycle ride through some of  Sanibel’s neighborhoods gives you a great opportunity to see the artwork and shells. The Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel has a great display of shells from all over the world. It is definitely worth the visit. The museum also gives daily  beach walks  with a marine biologist pointing out the marine life on the beaches. There is also a touch tank in the museum with live shells at Baily Matthews.

While you are on the island,, visit the world famous Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve. You can walk, bicycle or drive through the preserve and see hundreds of migratory birds, alligators and mangrove lined lakes and estuaries. Remember to bring your camera. The Visit Florida website has some good information about where to go and what to do on Sanibel.





Sanibel Island Bridge

The Sanibel Island Bridge was built and opened in 1963 which allowed traffic to freely move between the mainland of Ft. Myers and Lee County to Sanibel Island. Access to Sanibel Island use to be available only by ferry boat. Commercial traffic and businesses sprouted up on the island after the bridge was built but residents have saved the quaint and  small island feel of Sanibel by not allowing high rise Condo’s or fast food restaurants.

The Sanibel Island bridge is actually 3 bridges which reach across two man made islands which together make up the Sanibel Island Causeway. The causeway is 3 miles long and consists of several areas where people spend the day to fish, play water sports, picnic or spend time with family and friends. Since the new bridge was repaired and re-opened in 2007 which replaced the old draw bridge, bicyclists can now use a bicycle lane to trek across the causeway and 3 bridges. Caution should be taken however as there is no barrier between cars and bicycles other than a white line.

The main span of the new bridge is 17 ft 6 inches high and allows yachts and most kinds of boats to travel under who are making their way up the Caloosahatchee River or out to the San Carlos Bay or Gulf of Mexico. It’s fun to watch the boat traffic pass under and by the bridge. There are also several kinds of birds especially Pelicans who use the wind drafts along the bridge to glide  and look for fish to eat.

On windy days there are many wind surfers who use the wide open Pine Island Sound to race across the water. There are also kayakers, paddle boarders and people using jet ski’s who travel across the bridge and use the causeway islands to launch their craft. The toll to pass over the bridge is still a hefty $6 per car.

Click on any picture to enlarge







Sanibel Lighthouse

click on any picture to enlarge

The Sanibel Lighthouse has been an icon and landmark on Sanibel Island since 1884 and has drawn visitors to Sanibel Island for it’s historical significance and nearby beautiful beaches. It had acted as a navigational beacon for ships traveling around the barrier islands of SW Florida for over 100 years. There is a full time lighthouse keeper living next to the lighthouse and a nice path to walk around the lighthouse.

I made a trip to the Sanibel Lighthouse and beaches which surround the lighthouse on both the west and east sides of the southern tip of the island. It only takes a short walk to see the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico side of the island. If you walk to the east side of the island you can see the Pine Island Sound, Ft. Myers Beach and Sanibel Bridge in the distance.

There is a lot of activity near the lighthouse with a fishing pier and water sports such as parasailing. I enjoyed seeing a man throwing a ball out into the Gulf and watching his Golden Retriever swim after it.  The waves are usually choppy and currents strong on this part of the island so swimmers should be very careful. It is safer to swim on the Gulf of Mexico side further north on the islands’ beaches where the currents are not so strong. There is public parking in a few different lots next to the lighthouse and its costs a few dollars per hour. There are also restrooms nearby. The pictures above show the lighthouse from both the Gulf and Pine Island Side as well as the beach. There are a couple of good websites to learn more about traveling and or staying on Sanibel including the Chamber of Commerce and official Sanibel City website.





U.S. National Wildlife Refuge – Ding Darling on Sanibel Island


Click on any picture for a larger view

The U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System of Parks and Preserves are public lands set aside to protect wildlife from extinction, over hunting and habitat loss. The National Wildlife Refuge System (NWR)  is different from the National Park Service.The NPS is composed of 59 national parks scattered across the U.S. with unique land features and ecosystems. The the National Wildlife Refuge System has over 500 preserves in all 50 states with much more land and marine environments to protect and manage.

The first NWR, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. Teddy Roosevelt was an avid outdoorsman and environmental conservationist. There were many more lands added to the NWR as it became clear that many forms of wildlife including mammals, birds, reptiles etc., were being wiped out by the rapid urbanization of land, industrialization, habitat loss and pollution.

Florida is home to over 20 NWR’s and one that I am familiar with is Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. Ding Darling NWR takes up a large part of Sanibel Island at just over 6,400 acres of mangrove forests, sea grass beds, and salt water lakes and rivers. Ding Darling NWR was named after Jay Norwood Darling who resisted efforts to have the land turned over to commercial interests and land developers. Harry Truman designated the area as a national refuge in 1945. The refuge is now home to thousands of migratory birds and marine life and is visited by thousands of people every year.

There is a great visitor center at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge  with full size replicas of mangrove forests, birds and other wildlife. They have guest lecturers every year to talk about birds of Florida and national conservation efforts and an active volunteer group called the Ding Darling Wildlife Society.  If you like to kayak, or take nature trips to see dolphins and birds there is the Tarpon Bay Explorers who rent out kayaks, and give boat tours in the preserve. Most visitors take a drive through the preserve, about a five mile loop and stop to look at various parts of the preserve where migratory birds are wading, swimming or nesting. It’s one of the only places I have seen white pelicans. If you are there to take pictures of birds it’s best to bring a telescopic lens to get full size pictures but you may be lucky to get close up pictures of birds that are walking or standing on the lakesides, mangroves or roadsides.





Sanibel Island

Beach on Sanibel Island

Beach on Sanibel Island




Sanibel Island Beach

Sanibel Island Beach









click on pictures for larges images

Southwest Florida has a lot of great beaches and the ones I have visited  range from  Marco Island, Naples, Bonita Springs,  Ft. Myers Beach and Sanibel Island.. The ones I like the best are on Sanibel Island, Bonita Beach and Naples. Sanibel Island in particular has great beaches and are not crowded and offer the beach goer plenty of room to stretch out, go shelling, swimming or walking. The only drawback to visiting Sanibel to beach goers is the limited public parking areas for visitors. The public beaches I know about are the ones near the Lighthouse, Bowmans Beach and the one at the end of Sanibel near Blind Pass. They all have restroom facilities and public parking. It costs a few bucks to park but is worth it.  You can visit Sanibels website at www.mysanibel.com  to learn more about Sanibel. There are also some wildlife refuges like Ding Darling for bird watchers and plenty of good restaurants. It does cost $6 to cross the toll bridge but a lot of people don’t mind after they spend the day there. The Island also has great bicycling paths. The Causeway Islands are also popular to set up a picnic, fish from the beachside, or rest in the shade and enjoy the  great views of Pine Island Sound.