This week’s travels take us to Sanibel Island, a twelve mile long island off the southwest coast of Florida. I told you we go to the beach a lot 😉

While I was a natural science curator I took care of our shell collection at the museum. I had the opportunity to go to Sanibel Island, expenses paid by the museum, no less. Of course I had to work, which involved buying some shells for the collection and visiting a museum or two. But honestly, most of my time was spent on the beach, just the way I like it:)

If you love the beach or nature in general, Sanibel is the perfect place. Bird watching and shell collecting are popular activities and its not surprising since both are found in abundance. There are so many shells on the beach that in certain spots the sand underfoot crunches as you walk. You’ll also see plenty of dolphins cresting the waves. At one point I was about knee-deep in the water and a dolphin swam by not ten feet from me. In the spring, you might even spot sea turtles hatching from their nests.

There are plenty of restaurants with water views, which is really the way to go when you’re visiting the ocean. As for things to do…well, most people collect shells and merely enjoy the beach. But if you’re interested in something more…there is a Shell Museum which has information not only about shells but also about their use throughout history. Of particular interest is the artwork made by sailors throughout time, using shells of course. There are also plenty of shops, including a historical downtown center (near a lighthouse), where you can find pretty much everything, including lots of jewelry stores. I was there for the shops that sold sea shells and was thrilled to study the many species. One particular favorite, in case you’re interested, is the Carrier Shell. A Carrier shell is a shell that picks up debris along the ocean floor (pieces of shells, pieces of glass) and cements them to it’s own shell either for protection or camouflage. I find them absolutely fascinating! Okay, I’ve bored you enough with shell knowledge. Back to the Island!

There is also an animal rehabilitation center where you can visit some of the island species (they’re known for their land and sea turtles, birds and alligators). There are plenty of places that offer boat tours. We took a tour to an uninhabited island where we were able to roam without crowds. On the way back, Dolphins swam alongside the boat. And finally, there is the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Center and J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Both places have walking trails and kayaking through marshy waters. Just a warning, you can get rather close to wild Alligators.

So, if you’re in the mood to enjoy nature, or just relax on the beach, and most definitely if you love to collect shells, you’ll have to give Sanibel a try. I’m sure poor Florida could use the tourism at the moment; between the bad economy and now the oil spill, the state is taking a hit.

And as a side, once again these pictures were taken from the web.