Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Walks on Sanibel

If you are going to walk around Sanibel at night, maybe it's best you carry a flashlight. We learned this lesson the hard way.

When we first bought our vacation rental condo on Sanibel Island, we would arrive late in the day very stiff and sore from travel to the Island.

Before unpacking, eating, or anything else, we would venture forth on the beach path and go for a long walk to work out the kinks.

We are accustomed to long walks, taking 5 to 6 mile jaunts almost every day at our home in New Jersey.

And walking on Sanibel is certainly less arduous given how flat the terrain is.

But walking in the pitch black is a different story altogether.

On one particular day of arrival, we began our walk on the beach at dusk, always a beautiful time and experience with the brilliance of the orange sky and setting sun. The breeze off the Gulf was perfect, reviving our spirits and reminding us again how fortunate we were to have found the island, and the perfect place to purchase a vacation home.

But after a mile or two on the sandy surface, we decided to head inland and that was the flaw in our strategy, having no idea where we were.

Because the Island does not allow street lights due to not wanting to confuse turtle hatchlings with diversionary light sources (hey guys, the sea is here not there!), the velvet blackness of the island at night is only interrupeted by the moon and the stars. None quite bright enough to be a guiding light.

So we walked and we walked, often in circles, past bayous and bays and with me holding my breath the whole way, convinced that we would encounter a sleeping alligator who would no doubt see me as a very convenient midnight snack.

Of course, there were no alligators around, probably all sound asleep dreaming of fresh fish for breakfast.

But the walk lasted 8 long miles and my fear of an alligator encounter was so severe that we arrived back at Blind Pass Condominiums with my body as rigid as it was at the start.

A hot bath and hot cup of tea and I was cured, but I did learn my lesson.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Put Romance in Your Life with A Sanibel Holiday

The sun,the water, the waves, the breezes. There is nothing like the beach to create the scene for love and romance.

And there are so many ways to fan the fire of romance on the Island of Sanibel. Despite the Island's draw for families looking for action and adventure, a couple seeking seclusion, quietude, sharing and the opportunity to focus on one another will not be disappointed.

Some condos and homes have been renovated and decorated with romance in mind. Our own condo in Blind Pass features a king sized bed in a romantic setting, a romantic shower for two in the master bath as well as a jetted tub for soaking and relaxing. In the dining area there are dimmer lights for a romantic meal by candlelight, and many DVD's and CD's with a romantic flavor that can be watched and listened to later in the night.

Beyond accommodations, there are boat trips that will enhance those moments of romance. There are sunset cruises complete with music and cocktails where you do have to share the experience with others. And there are charter boats where you can sail out on your own with an experienced captain.

The two of you can get a restful and relaxing massage together at the Sanibel Day Spa where there are several treatments and services tailored to the him in your couple. Get lathered up with delightful sensual fragrances and come home smelling like a rose. You can purchase a number of spa items to take back to your hotel room, condo or house rental or to bring back on your return home, a nice reminder of the romance you sought and found on your Sanibel vacation.

Sanibel has many romantic enhancements from bicycles built for two to romantic eateries like La Dolce Vita.

If you want an island where you can give your beloved the moon and the stars, just look up on almost any night and you will see them gleaming above the palm trees just ready for the giving.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dining In? Sanibel Makes it as Easy as Pie

The greatest number of visitors to Sanibel choose self catering acccommodations. In fact, one of reasons that renters want a condo or house, rather than an inn or hotel room, is to have the ability to cook and eat in as desired.

Now, visitors to the island have it easier than ever.

Both of the larger grocery stores on Sanibel, Bailey's and Jerry's, have terrific inventories of all kinds of foods from basic staples to gourmet. And now they offer the added convenience of allowing you to call in your order or order on line. You can pick it up or have it delivered to your lodging. And they go beyond delivering. They will actually put away your groceries even before you arrive, so you can walk in the door and have your larder stocked. Would you like a cold beer after that hot climb up the stairs with all your luggage? It's right there in your own refrigerator!

As one would imagine, the delivery and put away services are at additional cost, but if you truly want a stress and responsibility free vacation, this is a great way to begin one.

Jerry's website has meal planning on the home page and Bailey's website offers a long list of gluten free and organic foods to be found in the store.

And your friends think you are roughing it by going to an island that's largely a nature preserve? Just wait til you tell them how pampered you were.

Monday, September 22, 2008

October is a GREAT MONTH to visit Sanibel

With a high of 86 degrees fahrenheit, a low of 68 degrees fahrenheit, rain fall at 2.9 inches and Gulf water temperatures at 80 degrees fahrenheit, October's "averages" may offer the optimum weather conditions for a Sanibel vacation. Every renter's dream, we think, is hot and sunny days, cooler nights, low humidity and a Gulf of Mexico warm enough for swimming, but yet refreshing.

Aside from weather, air and water temperatures specifically, October is a very restful time on the Island's calendar. There is usually a collective sigh of relief that the summer and tropical storms are just about gone, there are fewer people on the island and fewer cars. In short, it is generally the ideal time to see and enjoy Sanibel. And, there are deals to be had in the way of last minute discounts in October!

Of course, we can not predict the weather, but we can certainly look at the history of average temperatures for October, rainfall and ocean temperatures to make an intelligent guess.

For renters who have a week locked in for vacation because of school holidays, October may not be a possibility.

For snow birds who insist on being away from the cold of their home states, even cooler days on the Island will be a relief from winter time in Michigan, Minnesota and all the other climes where frigid conditions and lots of snow make the days less pleasant. October comes too soon to be of much help.

But for visitors who truly have a choice in when to vacation, they would do well to consider October's averages. If it's a vacation on Sanibel that is most important, to see, do and enjoy, then the 10th month of the year could be for you.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rentals on Sanibel: You Can Leave Home Without It!

Of course everyone knows that Sanibel Island has house and condo rentals, and there are scores of options when it comes to accommodations.

But if you are coming to the island with your plans assembled and wondering if you should shoo the cat from the bag and pack your tennis racket..... or deflate your rubber raft and cram it into your suit case..... you need not worry.

Sanibel Island has just about every rental you could possibly think of.

Would you like to rent a golf cart to travel to the shops? How about a body board, wave runner or scoot coupe? You don't even know what they are? Then maybe you should check out the interesting array of rentals at Yolo Water Sports!

Do you need a crib or maybe a baby stroller for your little ones? You can get anything you want at Island Rentals.

If you are inspired by the number of people you see riding their bikes around the island, there is no need to envy the cyclists. There are several bike rental shops on Sanibel. We generally refer our renters to Billy's Rentals. You can rent a variety of bikes from Billy's, including a bicycle built for two. You can even rent a segway at Billy's!

Other rentals available on the island include fishing equipment, sail boats, canoes and kayaks, motor scooters, and, not far off island, scuba diving equipment is available for rent.

So you can leave home without it. You'll be sure to find "it" on Sanibel!

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Sanibel Island Causeway Is No Cause for Concern

Spanning San Carlos Bay, the original causeway to Sanibel was constructed in 1963. From 1912 until 1963, the only way to get to Sanibel Island was via a steamer line ferry that connected the island to Punta Rassa. When the original causeway was constructed, it created the opportunity for this small and little known island to become part of greater Florida tourism. Sanibel Island experienced major growth in the early 1970s due to the causeway. The causeway, however, quickly became inconvenient as the greater access and "discovery" of Sanibel brought more and more people to the Island. The causeway was often clogged and when the draw bridge was opened for larger boats to pass under, traffic could be stalled for some time both coming on and off island.

In 1990, Lee County proposed the idea of replacing the original three-bridge causeway with a single four-lane high span bridge due to the age of the bridges. Many Sanibel residents opposed the idea in a referendum and it was later abandoned. But in 2003 after determining that there were cracks in the bridges and considering the increased traffic and congestion, the plan for a high span bridge was resurrected and successfully implemented. This was not done without a good deal of resistance, however, as many islanders wanted to refurbish the old drawbridge or build a new drawbridge.

We, too, had been worried about the new causeway as the charm of arriving on Sanibel had much to do with the causeway conduit. We were sure the new construction would destroy some of the old world charm of arriving at Sanibel and thought that the little islands that the causeway transversed would no longer be accessible by car.

These are enchanting spots, a man-made chain of islands that stretches from Summerlin Road to Sanibel Island. The islands were built to accommodate the Sanibel bridge, but have become a playground for sailors, fishermen, sunbathers and other beach enthusiasts. During winter and spring months the islands are the region’s top windsurfing and kitesurfing spots. High winds are consistent.

Most striking are the sunsets seen from the shores of the causeway.

But much to our relief, the new causeway completed a year ago still allows access to the islands. It continues to attract crowds at sunset because visitors can easily drive to the edge of the beach for spectacular views.

Additionally, the new causeway---from certain angles---looks like it is rising straight into heaven.

The original bridges, later demolished, were sunk into the water to create a number of artificial reefs in the San Carlos Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

The only concern still remaining, is that the financing for the causeway came with a doubling of the tolls to get onto the island. The toll is now $6.00 rather than $3.00. It is only charged one way, coming on. And though we wish it would be less, six dollars seems a paltry sum to enter paradise.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reduced Prices on Sanibel Island: The difference between a plane seat and a condo

The tropical storms seem to have passed, but now there is a financial storm brewing. Everyone is either curtailing travel plans or looking for the most cost effective way to vacation.

Getting a reduction on your vacation rental for weeks in October or even November will not be difficult, however, renters should bear in mind that a vacation rental condo does not operate on the same principal as an airline.

The plane, whether full, empty or somewhere in between, will have pretty much the same cost to travel from point A to point B.

A condo, whether occupied or vacant, has a very different cost for the same situation.

The condo owner will not owe a commission, have to do a cleaning or take a risk on damage if the condo is not occupied. Additionally, with no renters in the unit, there is a significantly decreased cost in utilities.

All this is to say that just because an owner has a unit vacant, does not mean he or she will take any offer to fill that vacancy.

If you see a unit that you like for a posted rate of $800 per week, anticipating that you can get it for $400 is more than likely a flight of fancy.

The owner will pay that much in costs for cleaning and commission as well as utilities.

Our condo is vacant for the week of October 18 and normally rents for $795. Will I discount to get it rented? Of course I will at this late date. Will I rent it for only $400? No, not with my costs and my risks in doing so.

I have it "on sale" on craigslist for $745 and would even consider less. But not that much less.

So if a renter is interested, the best approach is to consider what you want to pay balanced by the realities of operational costs for the owner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

So When is a Good Time to Visit Sanibel Island?

We are often asked what season is best to holiday on Sanibel.

Sanibel does not experience dramatic seasonal changes as we know them in the north east and other parts of the country, but there are subtle (and not so subtle) changes that distinguish the various segments of the year.

Winter season, January through March, can vary in temperatures from a low of 50 degrees farhenheit in the earlier mornings, to a high of 85 degrees in mid to later afternoon. Even in the warmer part of the day, there is generally no humidity and the sun light, as well as water color in the Gulf of Mexico, is distinctly "winter" season.

Spring season, April and May, with a mean temperature of 67 degrees does not dip so low in day time temps and stays consistently warmer. But there is a breeze that does cool down the air and actually makes night time "under blanket" time.

Summer season, June and July, are more often then not hot and with the average humidity at 76, but the "blessing" of this time of year are the late day showers, quite spectacular to view, and refreshing to the land. Sanibel gets much less rain in other seasons, and the summer rains do green things up more than ever. In addition to the benefits of the rain, the Gulf of Mexico is a beautiful blue-green, warm and inviting during summer, the crowds have thinned and prices on air fares are usually down.

Hurricane season runs officially from June 1 to late November but it is really concentrated in the months of August and September. Though Sanibel has only been hit by 2 major hurricanes in the past 45 years, they were both in August.

Fall season on Sanibel can begin as early as October and lasts as late as December. Temperatures begin falling, humidity lessens, and, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks, you can enjoy the island with little traffic, no waiting times for dinners in restaurants, few bugs and the calm of the island before high season begins. Boating is particularly delightful during this season.

So what's the best time of year to visit Sanibel? And the answer is...... all year long!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Activities on Sanibel Draw Internationally

Sanibel Island has become an international destination over the years because of its high vacation value and memorable moments it provides.

Now, there are additional reasons to choose Sanibel as the place to go.

One of these is the International Coastal Cleanup to be held on Sanibel this Saturday, September 20. It is the largest one-day volunteer event on behalf of clean oceans and waterways, with hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world participating in the cleanup of beaches, lakes, and streams.

Volunteers gather for this one-day cleanup while also collecting data on marine debris for the Ocean Conservancy. The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) coordinates the Coastal Cleanup on Sanibel and Captiva. Volunteers meet at 8:30 a.m. at one of three locations: by the restrooms on the Sanibel Causeway, at the SCCF Nature Center at 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road on Sanibel or at McCarthy's Marina on Captiva. Garbage bags and a data collection sheet are distributed, along with a free refillable water bottle. After the Cleanup, volunteers are invited to stop by the Nature Center for free refreshments and a free Coastal Cleanup T-shirt.

A second event will be held at the end of this month. A group of experts on wellness will host "A Day for Mind & Body Transformation" on Sanibel Island on September 27 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The daylong event will feature life coach and motivational speaker David Essel and a variety of wellness experts representing global concepts and world views on getting and staying well. Essel will discuss a theory he developed called the "One Thing - That Will Radically Change Your Life Forever."

Additional informative sessions will be offered by Brian Healy of Sanibel Wellness. Healy is founder and director of Sanibel Wellness. He is a licensed massage therapist and certified Kripalu yoga teacher. Healy will discuss "Learning transformation techniques that quiet the mind," based on 17 years of work in energy healing and yoga.

Other participants include Carol Simontacci of Sanibel Nutrition Center. Simontacci owns Sanibel's Island Nutrition Center and has written numerous books on healthy eating.

She will speak on how to "Transform your health and energy through exceptional food choices."

Registration is $99 per person. Book in advance as seating is limited. To register, go to www.sanibelcaptivadaily.com click on the events tab or contact IDEAS Event Planning.

Events such as these are reflective of the nature/nurture culture of the island. Sanibel can be as much or as little as you want and need for an unforgettable holiday. It's a BIG world, but Sanibel let's you experience it in a small and comfortable way!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Environment is the School Room on Sanibel

At a time when vacations have to be justified in the family budget, Sanibel Island's format for learning is just one more attraction for a beautiful resort island.

One distinguishing characteristic of the island is the ability to learn about nature in a variety of ways. One can learn on their own to be sure, but there are many more interesting ways to take lessons on Sanibel.

For those interested in getting a handle on the environmental issues affecting marine habitats—a matter of vital importance to anyone who eats seafood and is concerned about sustainability—this part of Florida is becoming a must see destination. Regardless of your idea of what a vacation is, the ability to get an up close and personal view of this unique environment is priceless.

Sanibel has beautiful wildlife refuges and ecologically minded outdoor outfitters that provide world-class birding, kayaking and shelling opportunities.

And quite recently, marine biologist Bruce Neill and his wife, Evelyn Neill, founded the innovative Sanibel Sea School to fill a gap in the ecotourism world: educating kids through fun, hands-on activities about the importance of preserving the ecosystem.

The school room for the Sanibel Sea School is the sea itself, the Gulf of Mexico.

Also of enormous instructional value is the Center for the Rehabilitaion of Wildlife (C.R.O.W.)

The primary mission of CROW is the rescue, care, rehabilitation and eventual release back to the wild of sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife. Inherent in this mission is the education of adults and children to insure their peaceful coexistence with their wild neighbors.

C.R.O.W. provides educational opportunities for students from schools across the United States and other nations to participate in the wildlife rehabilitation process while introducing them to both Western and Eastern medical traditions.

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is dedicated to preserving natural resources and wildlife habitat on and around Sanibel and Captiva islands. SCCF manages over 1300 acres of land on the islands (and owns an additional 500 acres on nearby Pine Island).

The SCCF Marine Laboratory actively conducts research in areas including seagrasses, mangroves, harmful algal blooms, fish populations and shellfish restoration. SCCF’s RECON (River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network) network of eight in-water sensors provides real-time, hourly readings of key water quality parameters – spanning a 90-mile area – which are available on their site. Their weather station provides current data from their station on Sanibel-Captiva Road on Sanibel.

SCCF offers a wide array of educational programs for people of all ages, from beach walks to trail walks, boat tours, wading trips and kayak tours plus classroom-based activities. And, their educational staff works closely with area schools.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The History and Impact of Hurricanes on Sanibel

On August 13, 2004, Sanibel Island was hit hard by Hurricane Charley, a category four hurricane and the strongest to hit southwest Florida since Hurricane Donna in September 1960. While much of the vegetation native to the island survived, the stately but non-native Australian pines suffered serious damage, blocking nearly every road.

Wildlife officials were also concerned that nests of birds and sea turtles were destroyed. The Sanibel Lighthouse survived with little damage, and the Sanibel Causeway suffered relatively minor damage, save for a toll booth tilted partly over, and erosion of a small seawall. Blind Pass was again cut through, but refilled less than one month later.

Most important to know is that every 20 or so years Sanibel Island takes a significant hit, and about every 40 years a major one.

But at this time of year,September, as tropical storms swirl around in the caribbean, panic strikes in the hearts of residents and property owners on Sanibel Island.

Statistically, based on 40 years between major hurricanes, any given person has only 2 chances in their life time to witness a major hurricane on Sanibel.

What that means for vacation rentals is a dearth of inquiries and bookings in September and often October as well. That's an opportunity knocking for those seeking discounts and last minute booking prices.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bargains on and around Sanibel Island

Let's face it. Sanibel Island is not a bargain priced vacation destination. There are many other places in Florida where prices all around are cheaper. But that brings us back to the discussion of value from an earlier post, and on that note, Sanibel is a great value. It is unsurpassed for the quality of holiday you will have based on the enjoyment of the Gulf waters, views of nature, tropical environment, serenity as well as comfort and convenience.

However, despite the slightly higher price tag than other locales in Florida, Sanibel Island does have bargains to be found and had if one keeps a look out.

There are many nice shops on Sanibel, but we have found that Wilford and Lee has a large selection of gifts for more competitive prices than other shops on the Island.

There are also good deals to be found in the eclectic and always treasure filled Islander Trading Post. This is not a cookie cutter collection of goods: you will have to spend time to go through the huge, unique and varied merchandise to find your treasure.

Looking for the latest fashion at low cost prices? The Sanibel Good Will is the place to go. The store which opened in 1995 has a wonderful selection of brand and designer names like Gap, Chicos and Tommy Bahama. The Goodwill location is a magnet for fashion bargain hunters.

Immediately off island is the Tanger Outlet Center, almost worth the trip off island even if you don't go shopping as the new, brightly painted buildings create a pretty and "islandy" environment. Shopping categories include accessories, children's apparel, footwear, and housewares. Not everything is a bargain, but if you are judicious you will find plenty of nice things for good prices.

And there are other non commercial, non material great value and price treasures to be discovered on Sanibel. There are over 200 varieties of beautiful shells that line the beaches, all available for free. Scoop up a bundle and take them home as gifts.

The Sanibel Library with its lovely reading rooms, free high speed computer stations and breezy porch overlooking the pond is a great way to spend some time and not spend one dime.

If you are a serious swimmer and your condo or house pool is just not cutting it for doing laps, check out the Sanibel Recreation Center's new and huge pool where you can buy reasonably priced daily, weekly or monthly passes.

And remember the golden rule of vacation rentals. There is always a bargain to be found for last minute bookings.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ten Tell Tale Signs That You Are on Sanibel Island

1. You feel your stress depart and spirits lift as you come on Island over the Causeway.

2. You are awakened at 3 a.m. by the sounds of silence.

3. You have had nothing to drink but you see a flock of big, pink birds
fly over your head.

4. You observe many people stooped over on the beach gathering sea shells.

5. People rush past you at sunset heading to the beach with a bottle of wine and wine glasses.

6. Your nine year old goes to sleep before 10 p.m. and your fourteen year old wakes up before 10 a.m.

7. You have no idea what time it is or even what day it is.

8. Your biggest decision is choosing where you will go to dinner.

9. You finished that book that had been sitting on your nightstand at home for nearly a year.

10. You wonder why you feel so sad and realize it's your last day on the island.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Eats and Treats on Sweet Sanibel

Although two thirds of Sanibel is preserved land and there are no high rise buildings, fast food restaurants or traffic lights on the Island, do not think of vacationing on this island resort as "roughing it".

With a refined search for accommodations, you can land yourself a very delightful condo or home for your stay.

Your search for good eats will be much easier. There is great food all around you.

Fine dining in the truest sense of the phrase can be found at the Thistle Lodge where the Gulf view, presentation of food and professional service set this lovely restaurant apart from many others on the Island.

But there are a plethora of restaurants, perhaps not so sophisticated, that are geared and prepared to provide a nice environment and good food. Among our favorites are Matzaluna, Traders Cafe and Gramma Dot's.

For a more casual bite, a lunch at the outdoor deck at The Green Flash on a breezy day is delightful:the food is tasty as is the water view. And the Lazy Flamingo located on the far west end of Sanibel is a step back into the casual island experience as well as a step forward in finding the freshest fish in town.

Also casual, there's Amy's Over Easy Cafe or Jerry's Supermarket for an appealing breakfast and if those are not quite casual enough, stop at Schnappers for one of their hot dogs or a bag of fries.

You won't go hungry on this pretty little Island, and you can bring home a taste of Sanibel Island as well. The Cheese Nook carries Sanibel Island preserves and seasonings that you can purchase as gifts or for your own enjoyment on your return from the Island.

Where Indians Roamed: Sanibel Island

Thoughts of Sanibel bring to mind emerald green waters, gentle breezes, swaying palms and unlimited views of bird life.

An archaeological site is certainly not the first thought that one has of this secluded tropical resort, yet it is fundamental to the understanding of an island that has become a world reknowned vacation destination.

About 5,000 years ago, rushing rivers deposited an enormous amount of silt in the Gulf of Mexico forming the tropical barrier islands along the Southwest Florida coast. Its newly formed islands and bays were awash with a bountiful supply of fish and shellfish that attracted archaic peoples from across southern Florida who established a permanent settlement. These people were the early predecessors of the Calusa Indians.

The Calusa set up villages near their life source – the water. There was not enough land to grow the amount of crops needed to feed all the tribe members, so the Calusa looked to the bays, streams, rivers and Gulf and turned up a smorgasbord of shrimp, crab, trout, snook, and just about every possible delectable seafood.

Without the worry of where the next meal would come from, the Calusa were free to develop a complex society, which they did at an astonishing rate. There was a two-tier caste system, a well-armed, highly structured military and an extended noble family. Common people provided food, dug canals and labored at the construction of immense, complex shell works and water systems.

From these roots sprang the Sanibel Island that we know and love.

In 1963, a 3 mile causeway was constructed from the mainland to the eastern end of Sanibel. Soon after the bridge was completed, Sanibel incorporated, and the municipal government passed strong zoning laws, with much of the island set aside for protection. As a result, half of the land in Sanibel is designated as natural areas, with two preserves protecting the island ecology and wildlife. This preservation and conservation of land and wildlife make Sanibel a unique resort island, unlike any other in Florida and with few rivals within the continental USA.

Come and enjoy this paradise and experience the Sanibel difference!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Being a Virtual Inn Keeper

Owning vacation rental properties on Sanibel Island and doing all the marketing and communications attendant to this role is virtual inn keeping.

For me, the pleasure is not just in the owning, decorating and promoting the condo and house, but in communicating with our guests.

Though there are some guests who are pure business, and that is also fine with me, many other renters want to transact business in a much more personal way.

They ask many questions, make suggestions, and tell me a little about themselves.

The more conversant the person, and the more sharing they are about who they are, the easier it is for me to help them as the "inn keeper", and the more likely it is that we will keep some level of communication going into the future.

Because of the depth of the relationship that builds on-line with repeated emails, I learn about our guests reasons for coming to this wonderful resort island.

Some are there for a family vacation, and during the summer, that is the majority of rental requests that I receive.

Couples frequent the island at any time of year for a romantic get-away or to celebrate a special event. We have had honey mooners, birthday celebrants and those marking an anniversary rent our places. On these occasions, I feel a sense of joy along with the renters.

And there have been sadder reasons for vacationing as well.

One family gathered at the house as a reunion to mark the passing of a dearly beloved. They held sunset services on nearby Bowman's Beach many nights that they were there.

Another couple rented the condo for what they believed would be their last vacation together as one of them was terminally ill. They took boat cruises around the islands to keep their spirits up.

One woman came on her own to come to grips with her recent divorce. She struck up a friendship with another divorcee by the pool at the condo, and felt the conversation was very helpful to her.

At these times, I am happy to have a nice place to offer our guests, but I do feel their losses and admire their strength. I often get more from than I give to our guests, and I thank them for all their kind communications.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Birds of Paradise on Sanibel Island

There are plenty of flowers on Sanibel Island, though no Birds of Paradise. Neither are there feathered Birds of Paradise to be found.

But Sanibel Island is the habitat for nearly 240 species of birds, ranging from the tiny beach goers to the large raptors.

And, because Sanibel is referred to as a paradise, virtually all its resident birds could be considered "birds of paradise"!

It is not just the variety of birds that live on the island that make it so special, but the sheer numbers of birds that are present every where that makes bird watching so easy.

The Ding Darling Nature preserve is a great place to see almost all the birds that call Sanibel home, but they can be seen in every day activities as well.

The sandpipers run freely along the water's edge on most parts of the Island, and especially so on Bowman's Beach.

Any body of fresh water with a low level will attract the gorgeous spoonbills with their pink finery. We have seen them frequently in the lagoon behind our vacation rental condo at Blind Pass.

Sitting on our porch at at our vacation rental home, Toucan House, we have heard the delightful call of the chuck's will-widow, seen pileated woodpeckers at "work" on our palm trees and watched osprey and eagles perched high above keeping a look out below.

You don't need to make a special effort to see birds on the Island, and you don't need any special equipment. Even binoculars are not necessary given the abundance and accessibility of these beautiful feathered angels.

For a complete list of these "Birds of Paradise", see the PDF document on the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation website.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Don't Leave Your Pooch Behind: Pet Friendly Sanibel Island

If it doesn't feel right for you to take a trip without Fido, you should know that Sanibel Island is more than welcoming of four legged friends.

There are many options in
vacation rentals where your pet will be considered, and often invited.

However, please note that most condos do not allow any pets at all and even many of the cottages and homes that do allow a pet have limitations on breed and weight of dogs. So you do have to ask if your species of pet and size of dog is ok with the owner and/or manager of the property.

In addition, make sure you clarify if there is an additional fee to bring your best buddy. In almost all instances, there will be a pet fee, and most times it is non-refundable. The fee generally ranges from $250 to $400, often contingent on the breed of dog. The fee is used by the owner to do a special clean up on your departure, banishing any tell tale signs that there was a pet in the place.

If the fee puts you off, consider the alternatives.....leaving your beloved at home with friends or family or boarding the adorable beast which will probably cost you as much as the pet fee. And where will your dog, bird or cat be happiest? Well, that's up to you to decide.

In addition to being able to find a house that allows a pet (and sometimes even 2 pets), you will find that the people on Sanibel and business owners will be pet friendly as well.

This extends to your being able to take your dog with you to the beach. Our vacation rental home, Toucan House, is within an easy walk of Bowman's Beach and many of our guests take the short cut behind the house to walk their pooches to the beach.

Bowman’s Beach is considered to be one of Florida’s most beautiful beaches, and is one of the most remote beach areas on Sanibel Island. Dogs must be on a leash, but this is a very small price to pay for access to such a beautiful spot. Here you’ll see lots of birds, tropical plants and wetlands. Pets (leashed) are also permitted on Algiers Beach, Lighthouse Park Beach, and Tarpon Bay Road Beach.

You, the sea, the setting sun, a glass of wine and your constant companion at your side. Can life get better than this?

When a House is Not a Home on Sanibel Island: Home Exchanging Made Easy

One of the pleasures of owning vacation rental properties on Sanibel Island is being able to set up "house" for revenue, and use it, when possible, for your own vacations.

We got into the business of vacation rentals because we were usually disappointed in places we had rented, whether they were hotel rooms, villas or condominiums.

So we greatly enjoyed setting up our Sanibel
condo and our vacation rental home, Toucan House, to be vacation rentals assuring that both properties met our standards in aesthetic appeal, comfort and convenience.

In the last several years, we have discovered another pleasure in owning vacation rental properties, and that is the joy of
home exchanging.

Having a second home to exchange is a much easier transaction than exchanging on a primary home. There is nothing one needs to do to put the house in order for an exchange. It is turn key, always clean and ready to go. In addition, a vacation home provides the most flexibility and latitude, allowing for non simultaneous exchanges and "banking" vacations into the future if the swapper on the other end is comfortable with that arrangement.

We have done some great exchanges with our Sanibel condo including Sardinia, Coastal South Carolina, the Dominican Republic and have banked exchanges to France and California.

But we have found even greater value in exchanging our Sanibel Island home, Toucan House, as the size of the home is very appealing to exchangers.

We have done exchanges to the beautiful Smokey Mountains of North Carolina on Toucan House as well as Spain and Croatia, and have banked exchanges to Arizona, Scotland, Jamaica and the pan handle in Florida.

Now we just need to find the time to carry through on all our banked exchanges!

In a time when money is tight and vacations must be weighed carefully against other expenditures, home exchanging is a fabulous way to get the most value and most fun out of a vacation rental investment. Even when money is not a major factor in where or when to holiday, the home exchange possbility is more often than not a much more comfortable means of vacationing. And because Sanibel Island is a greatly desired and world class destination, finding appealing swaps is as easy as pie.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

October Discounts on Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals

In an earlier blog post, I spoke about discounts.

I, and many, if not most, owners, are amenable to last minute discounts and those are now possible for weeks in October.

We are offering great prices at our condo for weeks in October not just because it is last minute, but also because of the low inquiry rate at present.

This is not new. Often when storms are threatening, renters are hesitant to make plans in areas where they may hit.

The truth is that most of the times, the storms miss. And, most of the times when they do hit, the damage is minimal with every body up and running as usual in a matter of days. But bad memories die hard, and the unusual but devastating hurricanes of Charlie and Katrina left their mark on everyone.

The lack of inquiries for owners at this time will certainly make them at least consider reducing prices.

So polish up your negotiating skills, find the nicest place you can, and do due diligence in seeking out what are the best prices AND best value.

Again, those are not equal terms.

A badly maintained vacation rental is not a good value if you seek cleanliness, comfort and convenience.

But a nicely maintained vacation rental with a discount could be a great value.

You need to ask all the questions (determining age of mattresses, level and year of updates, quality and quantity of linens and electronic equipment, etc.) then compare and contrast before you make your decision.

The timing is right if you have the time to do the right thing!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sanibel Island as a Destination Wedding Location

Brides and grooms to be might want to consider Sanibel as a destination wedding locale. All the elements are there to make the wedding memorable for the intended couple and delightful for all who attend.

For six months or more out of the year, the temperatures are sunny with nice breezes and no humidity.

The Gulf is a beautiful back drop for a marriage ceremony.

And all the resources a couple will need from reception venues to florists and photographers are easily found right on the Island.

The bridal party and invited guests will have a wide variety of things to do together or independently as well as diversity of choices in lodging for the wedding, and hopefully to add some time before or after as their own vacation.

For engaged couples considering wedding locale options, Sanibel should be on the forefront for its beauty, romance, charm and even for the convenience of transportation for wedding guests.

Fort Myers is the closest airport, only 40 minutes from the island and a hub for planes coming from all over the country as well as much of Europe. Miami airport is only a 3 hour drive and services national and international flights. Sarasota airport is less than 2 hours away and Tampa is again, a 3 hour drive.

In addition to these 4 airports that can be the transportation connection for guests traveling by plane and from hundreds of locations, the highways into Florida are very good and easy to travel for guests who may be closer and wanting to use their own cars to get to the island.

Although Sanibel is the site for many weddings a year, it is still surprisingly relatively unknown as a destination wedding.

Considering the reasonable cost, convenience and appeal of a wedding on a small and well managed resort island, it would appear the ideal spot to tie the knot!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Shades of Sanibel

A lot of people, myself included, have withdrawal symptoms when we leave the island or have been away from it for too long.

So, I have shared with those I know some of the ways I cope with my longing for "the bel" and will outline them here as well.

If you never heard it, listen to the song "Sanibel" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It's on their CD, Looking Forward. The sweet melody and poetic lyrics will transport you right onto the Gulf shores.

If you have never read him before, read Sanibel Flats by Randy Wayne White.
White's main character in all his books is Doc Ford and his background for the stories are largely Sanibel and Captiva.

Carry your treasured sanibel shell around with you. Rub its ridges. Take a whiff of that salt air it emits.

Look at your photos, or go on line and look at some one else's photos of the island.

Make your plans to visit again. Then think about your next trip day and night and all the things you want to do.

That'll do it!