Monday, December 27, 2010

Dolphin Story and Sightings Make Sanibel/Useppa Cruise Unforgettable

Despite the atypically cool, windy weather today, we took off with visiting friends to cruise to Useppa from Sanibel Island.

Thankfully, it was sunny and the very shallow water did not make the crossing rough.

It's always fun to visit this tiny, verdant island, only an hour from Sanibel, and to take lunch at lovely hotel there.

But today was a special trip home.

As we had been told would happen, the cooler weather makes the dolphin population particularly lively. On the way back, we saw dozens of them, one pod of females and babies with a couple of especially large ladies.

The tour guide on the boat was as excited as we to see such a large group of dolphin traveling together. And she told us a story that really moved everyone on the boat.

Not long ago, a few men out gathering crab traps noticed that an especially small and young dolphin had been caught up in the crab trap nets. It could not get free and the momma dolphin was going under the baby and pushing it up so that it could get air. The fishermen knew that they had to free the baby or there would be dire consequences.

So they brought the little one on board and wanted to cut the net around it to set it free. But the little dolphin was so frightened and stressed that it would not stay still and the fishermen were afraid to set their knives to the net in the event they cut the baby dolphin. But then the mother edged up onto the ramp of the boat and began communicating to her child through a series of clicks and whistles. In no time at all, the baby dolphin stopped its thrashing and the net was cut.

They released it back into the water where momma was waiting.

Not far off were several other females, and the baby with mommy dolphin swam over to them, and off they went, the fishermen standing and staring in awe.

There was no doubt in their minds that the mother dolphin had "told" the baby to stay still, that she had sensed their good intention, and "knew" that they meant the baby no harm.

Those who work in and with the sea, who live on and know Sanibel and all the treasures that the Island holds, are delighted by such stories, in the seeing and in the telling.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sanibel: THE Place for a Baby Moon

Are you expecting?

Are you needing a break with your spouse before the new baby arrives?

Are you looking for a romantic getaway?
A tropical retreat?

A break from the cold and icy weather where you are?

Sanibel could be the magic bullet for all that ails you, offering near perfect destination for mom and dad to be.

This quiet, lush Island will provide the expecting couple an opportunity to connect and enjoy each other before the bouncing baby boy or baby girl enters their world. With 12 miles of walking and biking trails, 2/3 of the Island a nature preserve and beaches that are only gently used by other humans, Sanibel is a rare find in the continental USA.

Want to enjoy a candle lit dinner where you can whisper sweet nothings to one another? Several Sanibel restaurants will give you the white table cloth and beautifully presented meal you need to feel pampered. You might dine at The Thistle Lodge or The Mad Hatter, both Gulf view restaurants renowned for the creativity in their kitchens.

How about a massage geared for the pregnant mom? The Sanibel Day Spa has just the right therapy for you. Enjoy this therapeutic relaxing massage on the comfort of our specifically designed body cushioning system. (Mommy to be must be past the first trimester for this massage)

Want to bring home something that baby can keep for ever and be told stories of how mommy and daddy enjoyed themselves while expecting? The beaches of the Island never disappoint. There are miles and miles of beaches with beautiful shells for collecting. What more lovely and symbolic a souvenir of your trip than a sea shell from the Island that offers the best shelling in the continental USA.

And if your preferences for a baby moon include some gentle exercise, there are many ways to stretch your legs and limber up. Walk the beach, bike the trails, explore Ding Darling Nature Preserve by foot.

Best of all, Sanibel Island has many vacation rentals so that you can spend your baby moon in a condo, house or cottage where just the two of you can really find the quietude and privacy to enjoy talking and thinking about your joyful event.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Best Christmas Gift? Condo E201 at Discount

It's been an odd time for vacation rentals all over Florida.

The confluence of 3 factors have greatly slowed down tourism to the Island of Sanibel.

Oil never hit Sanibel, but the perception it did had an impact on traffic to the Island.

The overall economy made people leery to spend money on leisure.

And, the tighter squeeze of financials led many owners who only utilized their vacation homes for personal use put them on the market for rental, creating not only a glut of vacation rentals but many places for rent under market value.

All of these were bad enough in the aggregate, but then the Christmas and New Year's holidays falling on Saturdays, the usual day for changeover on Sanibel, complicated matters even more. In general, folks like to be ensconced in their vacation accommodations the day of the holiday.

So it's been quite a challenge to get those two weeks booked at our condo, E201 in Blind Pass Condominiums.And thus far I've failed for the week of December 18 to December 25 considered Christmas week.

The usual $1740 rate is now reduced to $1540, and we will consider reasonable offers of even less. Taxes and fees will apply.

Christmas on Sanibel is magical. The green of the Island is ablaze with light, star light and moon light. Cheer is in the air. Shopping is easy and gay.

Consider it. Imagine it. Do it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sanibel Island Through A Child's Eyes

Though I am kind of embarrassed to have left this blog sit idle for so very long, I really had to write this post.

For several years, I have been gifting books about Sanibel to the little boy of my second cousin.

He is an adorable little boy, precocious and precious and, like his mom, very fascinated by animals and nature. He is not yet in school, but as articulate as a first grader and as good a reader as well.

So I have given him the wonderfully educational book put out by C.R.O.W, the calendars with extraordinary photos of the birds of Sanibel and, most recently, the book DILLO which tells the tale of a baby Armadillo living on the island.

His mom has told me that every night for the past year, he insisted that she read him some pages from DILLO before going to sleep. He now knows what comes next, and like those fans of cult movies, can recite the words out loud simultaneously with the reading.

When his birthday was coming up, mommy and daddy offered a trip to Disney World as his gift, having taken him to the various natural museums on previous trips. He (remember we are talking smart young child here) said he wouldn't mind going to Disney World but that he would like to get to the Bailey Tract on Sanibel where much of DILLO takes place. In fact, truth be told, he stated that if he had to choose, he would prefer Sanibel Island over Disney World.

Well mom and dad are no fools and it was an easy choice for them. Why deal with the crowds in Disney World when the beach beckons and Sanibel is not yet inundated with winter warriors and snow birds? And so the 3 of them came to Sanibel.

And they walked the Bailey Tract, rode their bikes through Ding Darling, got up with the sun to gather shells on the beach and rejoiced in the calm, gentle waters of the sea green Gulf. They visited C.R.O.W. and the Periwinkle Campground Zoo, marveled at the tropical birds at Jerry's, went canoeing and took a boat cruise to see the dolphins dance.

Each night they ate out or in and then told stories on the lanai about adventures taken and imagined.

In short, it was a magical experience, for all 3 but especially for my precious little third cousin.

Weeks have gone by, and when ever and where ever he can, the little guy expounds on his experience with Sanibel. Ask any question...."what birthday gift did you like the best?", "where would you like to go?", "where would you like to live?", "what would you like to do next year?" and the answer is always the same.

Sanibel Island.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Matzaluna Moves to Top Spot for Dining on Sanibel

One of the very nice things about Sanibel Island is the wide variety of choices in restaurants. Our trips to Sanibel Island to check on our vacation rental properties always have us looking forward to a new adventure in eating out.

Though the truly casual places such as Schnappers and the Island-elegant such as Thistle Lodge are on either end of the spectrum, the middle is crowded with contenders for best.

We love Grandma Dot's for the easy, breezy (no AC) marina feel and great view. We enjoy eating at Traders because of the large menu and comfortable seating. There are dozens more.
And we have eaten at and enjoyed our meals at Matzaluna on many occasions.

But in the past couple of weeks, we "discovered" an aspect to dining at Matzaluna that has propelled it into the number one spot on our preferences.

The seating in Matzaluna is comfortable, the decor is delightful and the service has always been good as has the food. Yet, because I have to be gluten free, I have not been able to eat much in the way of Italian selections and have stayed with the chicken or fish entrees. The world has opened up with the introduction of a gluten free menu.

The General Manager, Sal, whose charge it is to over see the preparation of food, came to our table when he heard I wanted a meal that was gluten free and was considering the eggplant parmigiana. He explained that he could prepare it in two ways, grilled or fried, and that both would be gluten free. Well, other than home made eggplant parmigiana that was made gluten free, I had never had this dish out and was contemplating my choices.

Recognizing my dilemma, Sal said because it was a light night for business, and he wanted my feed back, he would prepare it both ways and I could have and evaluate both.

The eggplant in both styles had the added ingredient of ricotta cheese (in addition to the mozzarella) and that made the difference. I had never tasted eggplant this good, not even before my diagnosis of having Celiac Disease. It was not just good or even great, it was extraordinary.

That first experience was two weeks ago and we returned 2 nights ago and I did make the selection of the fried style and was once again bowled over with delight. My only "complaint" was that the portion was too large, but that was easily remedied with a leftovers package that sits tauntingly in the refrigerator.

To all you gluten free eaters out there (a growing number to be sure), put Matzaluna on your musts for your next trip to Sanibel Island. You won't be sorry, I promise that!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dick and Sara Do it Again: Looking through the lens at Sanibel

Some time ago I did a post on photographers extraordinaire Richard Fortune and Sara Lopez.

Dick and Sara do not live on Sanibel Island, but they live it, breathe it, adore it through their camera lenses.

I have known this for awhile, but just remembered it again yesterday when we spent the day on Island, a beautiful day full of sunshine and fresh breezes. It did not feel like summer at all, more like early fall. We did some freshening up at Toucan House, met with some contractors, did a long walk and then shopped a bit at Bailey's General Store where we saw the latest Sanbel- Captiva calendar.

We pick these up often, gifting friends and relatives, but this year's calendar may be the best yet and, for me, it is the most stunning due in large part to the photo contributions of Dick and Sara.

Their images are just remarkable, they come alive before your eyes. My joy at viewing the cover, two Ibis frolicking in the surf, was a huge enticement to open up the calendar and view more.

And I was not disappointed.

All the images are lovely, but my favorites were those by Dick and Sara.

And, I enjoyed reading the descriptions as well, though not composed by Dick and Sara they were revealing.

One of them, a bit surprising, is related to the picture here. Of course I would have recognized it as an Egret, but never would have guessed that it is a Reddish Egret. What the information under the picture provides are the details (written by Charles LeBuff) and they are fascinating:

"The Reddish Egret occurs in two color phases; most common are those that are dark gray with a reddish neck, and less abundant are the white morphs seen here. In Florida plume hunters once hunted the reddish egret to the brink of extinction for their beautiful feathers....(which were used for) decorating the hats of the socially elite women of the day."

Today, Reddish Egrets receive federal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Thank God for the MBTA....and for the great vision of preservationists like Jay D. Darling as well as for those like Richard Fortune and Sara Lopez who capture these creatures forever--- with no harm done.

Sanibel Island would be a poorer place without any of them, especially the beautiful egrets!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Even a Hot Dog Tastes Like Gourmet Cooking on Sanibel

As Joe and I advertise blatantly on our website, we are fussy. We got into the vacation rental business because we are so often disappointed with accommodations and bought several of our own so that we could make them the way we want. We insist on a comfortable king sized bed, lots of cooking aids, good electronics and decent linens in our places, as much for our selves as for our rental guests.

We are equally fussy about food and ambiance....most of the time. We don't mind paying more for fresh ingredients, a nice presentation of food including the table setting, good service and a pretty restaurant.

There are several restaurants on Sanibel that meet our needs in all of those respects and we do go there when we want to eat out on the Island.

But we were on Sanibel today doing further inventory on our Toucan House and bringing over some things from our Naples condo to prepare for some updates to Toucan House.

It was a bright, sunny, breezy day and we needed to take a break so we went to lunch.

We were in a bit of a hurry to return to the tasks at hand, so we went to Schnappers, the closest thing you can get to fast food on the Island. The bright colored "shack" is exactly what you would expect inside. Simple, easy, limited in choice but not in taste.

My hot dog (without the bun) and french fries were so particularly good, better than ever, in fact, that I had to ask at the eatery if they had changed cooks, or formulas or owners. No, I was assured, everything was exactly as it has been for years. I told them things were crisper and more delicious than ever and all seemed pleased.

But not nearly as pleased as I. The crispy dog and crispy fries hit the spot. And sitting under the umbrella at the outdoor table feeling the breezes and watching few cars pass by was all I needed to feel on island and on point.

Even fuss pots like us can appreciate the simple things in life, and life on Sanibel can make even the simplest things feel absolutely grand!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sanibel Manatee Easy to say some

At our little farewell wine and cheese with our French neighbors here in Naples, we were entertained with a variety of stories.

The funniest one was of the French family's recent trip to Sanibel Island. Like us, they love Sanibel, and, like us, do find some distinct differences between the main land and the Island.

Apparently, the mom and dad are accustomed to getting up early and going to the beach while the two daughters sleep in. And this one morning, they jumped into the Gulf for a refreshing swim, but it did not last long. No sooner were they in the water than the dad felt a heavy hit to his torso. He yelled, mom began a desperate swim away and both were amazed as a huge, bewhiskered face lifted from the water and sprouted water from its huge mouth. They, and all those watching from shore alerted by the father's yell, just thought this was hilarious.

To be honest, I would have been frightened to death were it me. And to be perfectly honest, we have never seen a Manatee on Sanibel Island. Dolphins yes, birds of all kinds, yes, alligators, yes, even a couple of glimpses of bobcats, but not yet a Manatee. Yet our French friends claimed that they saw Manatees every day during their stay on Sanibel.

I have to believe them. A Manatee is a pretty hard thing to miss. Manatees have a mean mass of 400 to 550 kilograms (880 to 1,200 lb), and mean length of 2.8 to 3 metres (9.2 to 9.8 ft), with maximums of 3.6 metres (12 ft) and 1,775 kilograms (3,910 lb) seen (the females tend to be larger and heavier). When born, baby manatees have an average mass of 30 kilograms (66 lb).

In addition to their pure bulk, they have a face one would not forget. They have a large flexible prehensile upper lip that acts in many ways like a shortened trunk, somewhat similar to an elephant's. They use the lip to gather food and eat, as well as using it for social interactions and communications.

And, they are "up in the air" a great deal of the time, again making them an easy target. Half a manatee's day is spent sleeping in the water, surfacing for air regularly at intervals no greater than 20 minutes. Manatees spend most of the rest of the time grazing in shallow waters at depths of 1–2 metres (3.3–6.6 ft). The Florida subspecies (T. m. latirostris) has been known to live up to 60 years.

Though sometimes attacked by sharks and alligators, their main threat is man. Hurricanes, cold stress, red tide poisoning and a variety of other maladies threaten manatees, but by far their greatest danger is from watercraft strikes, which account for about a quarter of Florida manatee deaths.

They are mutilated by propellers on a regular basis, and the descriptions posted are pretty horrifying.

As on land, operators of moving vehicles are told to "slow down"....a good piece of advice for their own well being as well as those of the creatures threatened by life in the fast lane!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Island is an Island is an Island: Sanibel breaks the mold

Again, I have been lax in keeping this blog more current.

It's summer.

I've been away.

I'm still adjusting to life in SW Florida.

Oh, I can think of dozens of excuses for my lack of activity!

But having just returned from a simply wonderful vacation on St. Lucia, pictured here, I have been musing over the differences between Caribbean nations and the island of Sanibel.

The nomenclature alone, speaks to one significant difference.
St. Lucia and other islands in the Caribbean have an independent life and unique culture. Sanibel is part of main stream USA, though it is not without its own unique character.

Topographically, there are strong differences as well. Most Caribbean islands are hilly, if not mountainous. And I certainly love those lush rises of land. In fact, even more than the sea, the mountains and hills of the Caribbean draw me in.

We don't have mountains or even hills on Sanibel. In fact, we don't even have tall buildings to climb to get vistas. The best vista you can get on Sanibel would be parasailing, and that is fun.

But much as I love the Caribbean islands and would never give up going there just because we own vacation rental properties on Sanibel, there is much to be said for an island not only governed by American law and finances, but subject to its own set of restrictions as well.

Because of its privileged position as a part of Americana, the blight, poverty, medically indigent and health risks of the beautiful Caribbean do not exist on Sanibel. It is a pristine island, a nature preserve, a place where families can roam freely and safely. Farm animals are largely not allowed and domestic pets must be vaccinated, leashed, protected---- along with the animals in the wild.

There is good health care, shops with options upon options, paths to walk and bike where cars are no threat, restaurants galore serving fresh food not compromised by sitting in the sun for hours.

If such a safe, secure, clean, comfortable and convenient as well as protective environment existed in the Caribbean, I am not sure who would be able to afford to visit, let alone live there.

I am not "American centric", only realistic about my own needs. And while I can pine over being back in flat and predictable Florida, I do appreciate the opportunities it offers.

Most of all, I am just bubbling over with glee that I can have my cake and eat it too with owning a piece of Sanibel Island and having the beautiful and welcoming Caribbean only a short plane ride away. Oh, lucky me!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sanibel Offers a Different Kind of Shoe (Store)

Had to run over to the Island today. It's actually a short run from Naples where we are currently living while we plan and ponder as well as implement the renovations on Toucan House.

It's an interesting transition going from the very lush and uncommercialized area we live in through the kind of honkey tonk and colorful environs of Fort Myers Beach, then onto the little tropical paradise of easy, breezy Sanibel.

And after coming to the Island for so many years, I find little corners with nuances yet undiscovered.

Today, we had some meetings to attend with a little time in between so we explored by foot.

Stopping at the charming Sanibel Library to jot off a quick email, I was pleased to see that in my absence the heart of the Library had grown significantly larger. Just a year ago the number of computer stations may have numbered 8 at most, but there is a large expanse of the library now devoted to the new technologies. There must have been 20 computers in the large and airy space, testifying to the growing number of people reliant on internet communications.

One meeting later with more time on my hands, I wandered off to the little strip mall where Chico's used to be. As it was the original store with lots of Island lore, I was sad to see it was gone. But several doors down I found a nearly hidden and delightful
shoe store, Rinaldi's Fashion Shoes.

No Ismelda Marcos, my quest for the perfect shoe, a unique foot fashion, something that can stop (foot) traffic is practically nil. My indifference is based on my frugality (less is more) and my demand for comfort.

So I was duly impressed that there were so many pretty AND comfortable shoes at Rinaldi's. OK, they were not inexpensive, and even the pair I purchased on sale was nearly double what I normally pay for shoes, while the other pair--- not on sale--- was quadruple the price.

But I put them on, they were pretty, and my feet felt like they had landed in cushion heaven.

I walked out of the store with one pair on (the other tucked under my arm) and the bright breezy day went through my well being right down to the soles of my feet.

A good shoe should never been undervalued. And neither should a day spent on Sanibel Island.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sanibel and Environs: The Upside of Electrical Storms

Florida is known as the lightning capital of the world, and for good reason. Lightning bolts are as common on late afternoon summer landscapes as are Palm Trees, and, quite honestly, just as pretty.

Though the Sunshine state has a flat topography and does not offer spectacular views (as in Grand Canyon) in other ways, the electrical storms on and around Sanibel are awesome.

They provide a sound and light show not to be seen in most of the other states and they do have a pattern that is fairly predictable so one can make ready for the performance.

Somewhere between 4 and 6 p.m. from June to October, the clouds roll in, the sky darkens to deep gray bordering on black and thunder can be heard rolling at a distance. Because there are no mountains and barely any hills to obscure the view, the show can be seen (and heard) from miles and miles away. And a unique feature of these gala events is the chiaroscuro of shadow and light that they present. The sky can be nearly pitch black, but rays of sunshine will be breaking through highlighting and making buildings appear "lit" in orange or yellow florescence. It is quite a sight!

These phenomenal storms are memories in the making, and worth every dime spent in travel to Sanibel Island or almost anywhere in the state of Florida.

And if you have found the water in the pool at your vacation rental a bit too luke warm for your taste, the secondary benefit of the afternoon "visitor" is the cooling off the heavy rains bring with them----- refreshing the pool with every visit.

But caution should be taken with each passing of a new storm. Mother nature can be deadly and you need to abide by her rules.

Here are some simple guidelines to help make your summer stay on Sanibel and the area as safe as can be during lightning storms:

  • Follow the 30/30 rule. If the time between seeing the flash of lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds, take shelter. You are in a strike zone.

  • Immediately get away from pools, lakes and other bodies of water.

  • Get off the beach.

  • Never use a tree as a shelter.

  • Avoid standing near tall objects.

  • Keep away from metal objects including bikes, golf carts, umbrellas, fencing, machinery, etc.

  • Get indoors if at all possible or get in a hard-topped vehicle.

  • Remain in shelter for 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning.

Once secure, enjoy. You won't find visions like this most any place else!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

On and Off Island: A Sanibel Sampler

It's been a while since I posted.

The oil spill worry has been consuming me. And though the experts are predicting only a 10 percent chance of the oil hitting Sanibel, I am concerned none the less. I am concerned for Sanibel and for the Gulf as a whole. Florida is accustomed to hurricanes, they come through on occasion. They are a major inconvenience, but they leave. The spill may take a very long time to dissipate, and the damage it has/is/will cause is yet to be calculated. All these thoughts kept me from posting more regularly.

And then there has been the move. We left New Jersey 2 weeks ago, settling into our condo in Naples while we renovate our house on Sanibel and fulfill our rental agreements.

The area where we are living in Naples is quite lovely. It's low key, nothing fancy, but quite lush and tranquil, only a 5 minute drive to a great beach and a 10 minute drive to the glamorous sections of this beautiful town.

Being as comfortable with these current surroundings as I am, it was a really nice comparison to leave Naples yesterday to do some business on Sanibel.

And, yes, Virginia, there is a difference between being on and off island.

The island environment is just smaller, more compact. The roads are smaller. There was no traffic anywhere to be seen, and, of course, no traffic lights. We opened up some bank accounts on Island and the fellow who helped us was dressed in a polo and chinos. He said that is how he comes to work every day.

We stopped at Jerry's for groceries and a light bite surrounded by folks who had thrown something over their bathing suits, but with their hair still wet and sand clinging to their toes.

There are few GRAND houses on the Island, and if you want to see them you need to search. We remembered when Hurricane Charlie had come through Captiva and how surprised we were to see the vegetation blown away revealing very modest homes on that very pricey island. No high rises on Sanibel or Captiva, and nothing taller than a palm tree on Sanibel itself.

The few cars moving moved slowly, almost the pace of the Island tortoises. The few people we saw were on their bikes. The few birds barely moved at all. It was as if time was standing still.

The towns off island such as Naples, arguably the liveliest and prettiest of them all, have a lot to offer. But if one is looking for a truly laid back, tropical and natural experience, none of the towns can compete with the 12 mile long Sanibel.

We love where we are. We love where we are going. We are so, so lucky!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oil Spill Not on Sanibel (yet) but Still Raising Questions of Who's to Blame, Who will Pay?

Like the tricolored heron pictured here, who "shades" the water with his wings to better see the fish below the surface, we all need to take a better, deeper, more historical look at the Gulf spill.

Though it has not reached Sanibel Island, and perhaps, with luck, will not reach Sanibel Island, its impact is felt up and down the west coast of Florida.
But as the onion unravels about the spill, the more unsettling the truth becomes.

A couple of weeks ago, BP claimed it was not their accident, but that they would take responsibility for it.

Well, I'm not sure just whose accident that were saying it was, but the information out there certainly points to their finger prints.

On a Sixty Minutes interview of Mike Williams, a Transocean engineer on the Deep Water Horizon who barely survived the explosion, fire and swim to safety, Mr. Williams was very credible and very clear that BP was very culpable.

First there was the issue of the obviously too quick approach to the drilling at the behest of BP who was losing money because the drilling was taking too long.

Second, there was the issue of the broken annulor, a piece of apparatus that was supposed to be a safety valve of sorts. BP knew full well that the annulor was broken.

Third, there was the process of the expeditious closing of the well, which was determined by BP and which was the final straw in creating the explosion.

If these observations and accusations by Mike Williams are proven accurate, there is no way that BP can take the stand it was not their accident.

And, to be fair, they have stated publicly that they will make good for the damage done to the environment and to the industries, largely fishing and tourism, that are suffering and will continue to suffer from the spill.

Giving the company the benefit of the doubt, accepting that they will do as they have offered, the question still remains as who is really going to pay?

Clearly, it's the earth, once again sullied by man's continual quest to spent less time in making more money.

The question of whether it is wise to allow off shore drilling has been answered with Deep Water Horizon. But is any one listening?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When Oil and Water Do Mix: A Sanibel Lodging Perspective

Although the oil spill is still far away from the pristine island of Sanibel, it is on the minds of everyone devastated by this disaster and wondering what next?

The efforts made thus far, do not seem to be working and the conversations about stopping off shore drilling need to be of more frequency and greater volume.

There is an excellent post about oil clean up alternatives at the Sanibel Sea School blog. In the post by Doc Bruce, he questions the very terminology "oil spill" with these words:

"I do know that we should stop calling it an oil ‘spill’. Over 200,000 gallons of oil are pouring into the Gulf of Mexico each day. The size of the surface oil slick has tripled in the past few days; it is larger than the state of Rhode Island. Broken pipes are spewing 8,300 gallons of oil in to the Gulf each hour – 138 gallons per minute. This is hardly a spill."

And he goes on to dissect the various, and seemingly bad, alternatives to clean up.

Though the situation is distressing to say the very least, and I am both worried about the environment short and long term, I also wonder if the spill does ever reach the Island the impact it will have on the economy as well as the impact it will have on the ecology. Sanibel really has no industry and the Island's financial health rests to a large degree on tourism. Vacation Rental agencies and offices are already amending their cancellation policies in the event that the "spill" reaches Sanibel Island, so rental guests can be assured that should the spill arrive and beaches officially closed, they will be refunded all but the reservation fee for their paid in full stay before arrival or unused portion of monies paid after arrival.

That, hopefully, is of some consolation to travelers, though not to
vacation rental owners, managers and the like.

One glimmer of hope regarding the possibility of oil reaching Sanibel shores is the merge of business with pleasure. There will be fewer vacationers if this happens, but there will, I must assume, be a sizable number of environmentalists, engineers, health care professionals and others assisting who will need to be on the Island.

One way this cross over of population can be facilitated is through the newly formed partnership of a vacation rental Facebook application, and a corporate housing web portal,
Second Porch and today announced a partnership to distribute and enable thousands of furnished rental property listings from to be seen and accessible via Second Porch’s integrated Facebook application and social vacation rental marketplace.

This "marriage" should not only enhance the potential for both companies, but for vacation rental owners as well.

I wish them the best, but do pray that this oil disaster is contained and that the relationship and its bearing on Sanibel becomes one of convenience and not one based on catastrophe!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Way to Help Sanibel and Wildlife on the Gulf Coast

The oil spill that continues to spill and the enormity of the damage that will be caused by this "accident" has made me relinquish my space to promote my properties and, instead, create a message with more meaning.

Though Sanibel is currently unaffected by the BP spill, we don't know for sure what will happen in months to come. We can only hope for the best.

But even with that hope, the reality is that wildlife through out the coastal areas will be injured, compromised and even destroyed.

At this moment, many organizations up and down the Gulf are not yet prepared for volunteer efforts, but in an email I received today, there was a cry for help.

In my sincere effort to pass on the message and offer readers of this blog a way to get involved, I am posting that message here.

Dear Friend,

The Roseate spoonbill is one of scores of Gulf Coast birds and hundreds of other species at risk..
Please donate now to support our recovery efforts.

The Gulf Coast oil spill is a rapidly evolving catastrophe and there is a lot we don't yet know about the full magnitude of the ecological devastation. But here is what we do know so far:
The oil is spilling at a current rate of more than 200,000 gallons of oil per day.

Recovery and restoration of the wetlands that harbor hundreds of species and provide a natural hurricane barrier will take years or even decades.

Even before the spill, Louisiana had lost more wetlands since the 1930s -- 2,300 square miles -- than the size of the state of Delaware, leaving the region particularly vulnerable to this oil spill catastrophe.

We're going to need a lot of help over the coming days, months and years to ramp up our coastal conservation and fisheries work to restore the Gulf Coast to full environmental health.

Here are three things you can do right now to provide assistance to our efforts:

Volunteer: Register to provide on-the-ground volunteer assistance with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana or with National Audubon.

Engage Online: Check out our Oil Crisis Response page and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest news.

Donate Now: Support our coordinated oil spill emergency response efforts with a generous donation.
Our Emergency Response
We have deployed a number of EDF experts to the Gulf Coast to work with federal and local agencies, colleague environmental groups and local partners, including fishermen, local business, and members of the energy industry.

As you read this message, our team of EDF wetlands and marine scientists and experts are:
Coordinating response and recovery efforts among the many local communities and partners with whom we have developed long-standing relationships.

Working with our local partners and with federal officials to ensure that all possible steps are taken to ensure the safety of the 35,000 miles of oil pipelines and 4000 oil rigs currently in the Gulf.
Providing scientific expertise to federal and local agencies to determine how best to deploy restoration resources once the spill is under control.

Advocating at the federal and local levels for the funding necessary to properly clean up the ecological disaster and to promote restoration efforts.

EDF has been at work in the Gulf Coast regions for many years -- protecting and restoring critical wetlands, pioneering new sustainably fishing strategies, and developing productive partnerships with conservationists, business, and government.

We are committed to the full restoration of the fragile Gulf Coast and the affected wetlands and marine ecosystems.

It's true that the financial responsibility of the clean up rests legally and morally with the oil industry. However, there is still a very real and important role that EDF experts will play in the weeks and months to come.

Our thoughts and hopes are with the hard-working and beleaguered folks who make the Gulf Coast their home.
Thank you for your advocacy and support,Courtney TaylorCoastal Louisiana Project
P.S. If you cannot volunteer or afford a donation, here are
10 more things you can do to help.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tripping to Sanibel: Some "Insider" Tips On the Most Visited Advisor

Like many vacation rental owners on Sanibel Island (and world wide), we market our properties on our own. We are professionally managed which certainly helps the long distance oversight, but we do put in a lot of effort to bring visibility to both our condo and house on the Island.

We do this in part because we know we will invest more time marketing per property than any agency can possibly do, and we do it in part because we like to. We like keeping some level of communication open with rental guests, feeling that it gives the guest as well as ourselves a greater level of confidence.

We use traditional vacation rental portals to market our places as well as social media. We like to think of the difference as the short tail versus the long tail of an internet search. Yes, we do get many bookings from people who find us on large (and small) vacation rental websites. But we also get good conversation going with people who bump into us on various social media. We don't care which direction an inquiry comes from. All are welcome.

A recent boost in inquiries has been through FlipKey/TripAdvisor. And I just wanted to point out some things a rental guest might want to keep in mind when searching these venues, though most inquiries come from TripAdvisor rather than the newer lesser known affiliate Flipkey.

TripAdvisor, which has featured both our properties in mass emails recently, offers a feature that I think may be a bit obscure but certainly important to rental guests. Not only can you search TA by number of rooms, availability and price, but you can drill down even further. Options to search by number of reviews and ratings by travelers are also available.

Of course it is self serving (we have 24 reviews for our condo and 15 for our house) to suggest that this function be utilized.

But let's face it. Once you know what condo or house is available for your dates, don't you want to know how many people have given your choice a good rating?

I know that information would be important to me!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Noah's Ark and Sanibel a Likely Pair!

As I keep saying, though we have been coming to Sanibel Island for over a dozen years, we have barely skimmed the surface. While there, our vacation rental properties take up most of our time, and the exploring "normal" people do is often out of reach.

So it was no surprise to me when having dinner with friends last night, I learned that there exists a really wonderful place to bargain and treasure hunt that I was not aware of.

Noah's Ark,
owned and operated by Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, offers residents and visitors a wide array of reasonably priced, gently used and sometimes brand new, clothes and furnishings.

Proceeds from the shop support a wide variety of ministries of the church and several ministries for women and children. Grants are administered by the board and membership of the Episcopal Churchwomen (ECW).

So purchasing at the shop not only provides an opportunity to buy some great things at a great price, it also provides a benefit to those in need of assistance.

And like the animals aboard the true Noah's Ark, the pairing of Sanibel and such a good place is just about perfect!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wildlife is King on the Island of Sanibel

In an older post,
I wrote about the environment being the school room on Sanibel.

In retrospect, I missed the mark.

The recent and tragic death of a trainer at Sea World made me re-think and re-visit that blog post.

As I wrote in that post, it is true that it is more interesting and more exciting to "study" wild life in the wild. This is easily done on Sanibel through such organizations as the
Sanibel Sea School, the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (C.R.O.W.) and the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. All of these organizations support Sanibel's wild life without trapping and imprisoning any of it. Their goals are to preserve and protect, and in doing so they hold the wild life close and then let it go. Education is important, but not at the expense of taking wild life out of the wild.

Similarly, in another post I created a little more recently, I spoke about how the residents on Sanibel are so hesitant to report on predator animals like alligators as they don't want to see alligators destroyed. Their feeling was, and to a large extent, is that the alligators were there first and the humans should find a way to live in peace with them.

Contrast these philosophies with the theme parks, circuses, and other so-called entertainment venues where animals are kept in un-natural conditions, some times abused and always denied their instincts to be in the wild. Many of these industries claim that this is the way to learn about wild animal behavior, but is it really? Do we need to entrap dolphins and whales to learn how intelligent they are? Or is all of this "education" just a thinly disguised quest for money using these wild animals as currency for get-rich schemes?

The recent tragedy at Sea World certainly points to the inhumane conditions of the confined whale who just did what he does naturally and ended up taking a human life, tragically, needlessly.

I hope that Sanibel's "live and let live" philosophy might be a good model for a world view on wild life. Let it live free. Let it live in the wild where it belongs. There is no good reason not to do so.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Golfing on Sanibel Island: The Links to Heaven on Earth

Best known for its shelling, beaches, birding and wild life, Sanibel is no slouch when it comes to a good game of golf.

The courses are lovely and offer a range of challenges.

The 18-hole "Dunes" course at the The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club, pictured here, features 5,578 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 70 . The course rating is 68.0 and it has a slope rating of 123 on Bermuda grass. Designed by Mark McCumber, ASGCA, the Dunes Golf Course opened in 1973. The Dunes course is rated four stars by charges, based on season, a range of $70 to $110 for the 18 courses. The Dunes has a restaurant open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those looking to add some "meat" to their greens!

The 18-hole "Beachview" course at the Beachview Golf Club facility features 6,400 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 71 . The course rating is 70.8 and it has a slope rating of 127 on Bermuda grass. Designed by Ray Fenton, the Beachview golf course opened in 1976. rates Beachview 3.5 stars. Beachview Steakhouse & Seafood Restaurant's in-season hours are now in effect. Open for lunch and dinner 7 days per week from 9:00am til midnight. Relax with your favorite beverage from a fully stocked bar while you enjoy the natural Beachview surroundings.

The 18-hole "Sanctuary" course at the The Sanctuary Golf Club facility in Sanibel, Florida features 6,806 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 72 . The course rating is 73.0 and it has a slope rating of 138 on Bahia grass. Designed by Arthur Hills, ASGCA, the Sanctuary
Golf Course opened in 2005. The Sanctuary Course has earned 5 stars by The Sanctuary Golf Club is a private golf course and does not offer online tee times to the general public but if you know a member, you will find playing the Sanctuary is as good as it gets!

Both the Dunes and Beachview courses are public and are sanctioned by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses protecting the environment and preserving the natural heritage of golf. Both courses are set among a beautiful natural, island backdrop.

You just might catch a glimpse of an Eagle or Roseate Spoonbill while shooting your best game.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

If I could Make a Commercial on Sanibel.....

Every time I see a tv spot for Key West, Islamorada or the Florida Keys (there are 3 that play consistently in this area), I am both delighted and depressed.

I love the images and the quality of the cinematography. Even if I have never been to any of those places, I would certainly want to go watching the commercials. They are short, sweet and stunning!

But I also feel let down as all the scenes captured could just as easily be on Sanibel Island, and I can't help but feel that the Island is missing a great opportunity in telling the world just how beautiful a little place she is.

Though I may have no ability to persuade the powers that be to spend the necessary monies to create a commercial on Sanibel, quite an expensive undertaking if done correctly, I also run the scenes through my head to envision what the story board would look like.

I would open with a Roseate Spoonbill awakening from a slumber in the first light of dawn. It would take it's head out from under its wing, spread its wings and fly off, a spot of pink in a golden sky. The next scene would show a colorful sail boat also pushing off with sails unfurled and blowing in a gentle breeze. The next segue would be to a family riding their bikes on their way to one of the picturesque eateries where they will have breakfast. Leaping into the following cut will be a school of dolphin, showing off their acrobatic prowess. A late afternoon capture of some gentle waves on the beach washing over a few beautiful shells would be the next order of the day. And the concluding image, though admittedly not very original, will be the iconic Sanibel sunset, skies a collage of purple and orange, a couple clinking glasses of wine to toast the beauty of dusk and the love in their life.

If I could make a commercial on Sanibel.....

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Putting Winter in Perspective: Sanibel Angle on Meaning of Weather

Three times today, alone, I was struck with the whole idea of what "winter" means. Of course, the comparison sprang from considering what has been a long, cold, snowy winter here in New Jersey. And it's not over yet!

First, watching the morning news on TV about the memorial for the Sea World trainer who was killed by a performing whale, I was absorbed on several levels. I feel deeply for the deceased trainer and for her family. Losing a loved one at that age and in that manner is no doubt difficult to accept. I also feel a sense of frustration and anger that these wild, beautiful whales are taken from their natural environments to live out their lives in nothing much larger than a bathtub (relative to the size of the Orcas) purely to entertain people and enrich the industry that has caught and captured them.

Less intense in feeling, but still palpable, I watched as reporters in Orlando covered the story. They were dressed in light jackets, and they were surrounded by green....palms, grass, all lush. And the sun was shining. The view out my window was far less appealing. The snow out there in the woods is white and deep, but the trees are bereft of leaves and the panorama, to me, is austere and uninviting.

Later today, watching the evening news, I caught a commercial about Keywest on the tube. I have seen it before, and was then and now smitten with the images: a sail boat in the sunset, the aqua waters, the colorful buildings and verdant landscapes. I only wish those marketing mavens who are in charge of promoting Sanibel would see the value of such a beautiful promotion for my own island.

And just checking my website now, I see that the weather on Sanibel reached 60 degrees and was sunny all day. Of course, that is a disappointment I am certain for those who are on the Island seeking a beach scene or a dip in the Gulf. But look at the comparison. It did not get over 30 degrees here today, and though the sun peeked out for about an hour, the day was largely gray and dull.
So I am left as night approaches, not necessarily cursing the dark, but wishing it would not get quite so dark quite so quick. And that the winters in the tri state area would not start quite so soon or last so long. It would also be helpful to have warmer weather longer and green all year around.

But most of all, when I read/hear complaints about the chill in Florida, I can only smile. Those registering disappointment, are like the palm tree shown here, missing an important part of the picture. The complete picture is one that considers all the alternatives!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Taking A Count: Census Offers Opportunity for Perfect Job on Sanibel!

People are accustomed to counting things on Sanibel Island.

We count seashells, even when our names are not Sally.

We count birds by number and variety.

We count the number of miles we walk, the number of miles we bike, the number of miles we run.

Counting is a way of life on the Island.
But we don't usually get paid for what we least that was the case until recently when the US Census announced that it needs Census takers on Sanibel Island.

I couldn't think of a nicer way to spend some time working!

OK, I admit the pay is not fabulous. At $12 to $15 an hour, no one is going to get rich doing this. But look at the perks. You get to walk around one of the prettiest Islands in America, get to see the insides of charming and often quite awesome homes, meet nice people, engage in a few interesting conversations and do the government a favor.

Being a census taker on Sanibel is a cushy gig comparing it to the task of census taking most other places in America. There's no snow, no ice, no bad dogs roaming the streets. There are no apartment buildings at all for long term living and few people who live year round in the condo complexes that cater to vacationers. So you don't climb many stairs to get to the apartments where you do the census and there is no danger of getting stuck in an elevator with a hostile or dangerous passenger.

The sun shines most days of the year, even on cooler days you don't have to wear a heavy coat, hats, mittens or boots and there is nothing like an urban traffic jam if you do end up having to drive from point to point.

Other than being on vacation on Sanibel, or living there year round, being a census taker is one of the best deals around!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How Will The Super Bowl Homeaway Ad Effect Sanibel's Vacation Rental Market?

Super Bowl 2010 has come and gone, but not without a few surprises.
Though the Saints were a sentimental favorite among many East Coast Super Bowl fans, no one thought they would win so profoundly, if indeed they held high hopes for a win at all.

And there were probably many people in the stands and glued to their tv's who were surprised that a vacation rental website would invest the money to advertise on one of the most expensive venues available. But while New Orleans and Saints fans everywhere are taking to the streets and celebrating, the question remains how, if at all, the Homeaway ad will impact the vacation rental market place.

Though I can't help but feel that the ad will give a needed and good exposure to vacation rentals, I can't say that the ad will drive people to either Homeaway or other traditional vacation rental sites to book their lodging. For me, and the people I have spoken with, the ad just did not bring home effectively the advantages of a vacation rental over a hotel. Those being, specifically, more space, better pricing for a family, more privacy for a couple and, in most instances, more comfort and convenience for everyone.

In fact, I would risk an opinion that the ROI for Homeaway will be negligible, and I am certainly not anticipating a flood of inquiries for my own two vacation rentals on Sanibel as a result of the ad...or to any particular rentals on the Island.

As someone with decades of marketing experience, I truly feel that for all the money spent, the message was muddled. I think the Homeaway people might have better utilized the funds to simply drive traffic to a more focused video on youtube.

This little video produced by Second Porch and featured on youtube, probably has a more pointed message about the mission of this Facebook application than does the much more complex and significantly more costly Homeaway ad explain the VR advantage:

As they say, "out of the mouths of babes".......

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sun Sets On Sanibel Crocodile

In an earlier post I spoke about the horror here where we live year round. Essex County, New Jersey can be a beautiful place, but the ugliness of some of the people and the politics, especially as they relate to the humane treatment of animals, is often down right repugnant. In that post I lauded Sanibel for its incredibly sensitive policies regarding the animals of all kind that live there, and wrote about how the debate on whether to kill large and threatening alligators on the Island was--- and still is----an appropriately active one. But I was reminded again in the last couple of days of just how very special the Island is for its unique view of the environment and the absolute reverence that most islanders hold for the beasts that share their geography.

Though Sanibel has lots of alligators, there was only one crocodile living there.The huge crocodile was called Wilma and she had been a fixture on the Island for over 25 years. Earlier this week, Wilma was found dead on the bank of the Sanibel river, apparently overcome by old age and the unusual and atypical cold of this January.

According to Dee Serage-Century, Landscaping for Wildlife Educator at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) who made the discovery, "Wilma helped define our community as one dedicated to living with wildlife, even the big, beautiful, scary ones. She was unique in her 11-foot length - large for a female - and the northernmost of her species in Florida."

As news of Wilma's passing spread across the island, some of the more shaken mourners were the volunteers who would come across the famous crocodile, either at SCCF, the refuge or in their own backyards. The talk and the sadness would certainly mark Sanibel as distinctly different than my community north and many communities like mine where deer hunting and baited deer killing are done regularly, with relatively little opposition. But, the mourning over the loss of Wilma will not stop with the discussions according to the news reports.

There will also be an informal memorial and remembrance ceremony to be held on the front porch at SCCF, located at 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road, on Thursday, February 4, beginning at 3 p.m.

"We're going to toast her with Gatorade and share stories about her," said Serage-Century, who noted that a plaque will mark her final resting place along the trail. "She so defined us as a community and a lot of folks will be able to share their personal stories about her. Everyone loved her."

The deer in Essex County should be so loved, so lucky and so remembered.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Diving Dolphins: Sanibel's Most Intelligent "Non-Human" Residents

We all love to see them. They leap, smile, enjoy the applause. And around Sanibel Island, these Flipper friends are every where.

Though we've long known that they were not "dumb fish", we haven't always recognized that they were super- smart, warm blooded mammals.

Now, according to the London Times, there is a newer, more complete way that dolphins are being regarded: "Dolphins have been declared the world's second-most intelligent creatures, with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as "nonhuman persons."

The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food. Some 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die this way each year.

'Many dolphin brains are larger than our own and second in mass only to the human brain when corrected for body size," said Lori Marino, a zoologist at Emory University in Atlanta who has used magnetic resonance imaging scans to map the brains of dolphin species and compare them with those of primates.

'The neuroanatomy suggests psychological continuity between humans and dolphins and has profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions,' she said."

Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez, nature photographers extraordinaire, have captured some stunning dolphin antics, including the one used here and are collaborating on a most interesting research project about dolphins.

On February 4, Dick and Sara will be the keynote speakers at the Sanibel- Captiva Audubon Society meeting on Sanibel. Their topic is Photographing the Birds of South Florida: How, Where and the Ethical Implications to be considered and is sure to be of great interest with the current discussion about treatment of dolphins getting world wide attention.

The meeting will be held at the Sanibel Community House at 2173 Periwinkle Way. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the lecture will begin at 7:30. There is a suggested donation of $5.00 per person.