Peace and quiet are two commodities in short supply in most holiday destinations and not something you would expect to find in Florida. However, south of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the island of Sanibel provides peace and quiet in abundance.
The residents of the island were farsighted enough to establish a plan in 1963 when the causeway was built to connect the island to the mainland as a replacement for the ferry service. By limiting development, the residents were able to ensure the future peace and environmental integrity of the area, thereby ensuring that the island would maintain its ecological status with minimum developmental impact.
An Abundance of Wildlife
More than half of Sanibel’s total area is given over to nature reserves, with the largest and most popular being the 6400 acres of the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Nature Reserve. Named after the cartoonist Jay Norwood ‘Ding’ Darling, a Pulitzer Prize winner who campaigned to protect the island’s bird populations and migratory visitors, the reserve makes the island a haven for birdwatchers in Florida. With over 220 species of resident birds, the nature reserve plays an important part in preserving the ecology of the island and educating people about the many species of birds to be found in the region.
The island is also the home of the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, also known as CROW. With a dedicated and well-equipped hospital, the clinic treats over 4000 animal patients each year and has an active program of talks, events and training programmes to raise the profile of animal welfare. There is a popular and well-subscribed volunteer program and CROW keeps up to date with the latest developments in animal husbandry, treatment and welfare issues. Although visitors cannot come into contact with animals undergoing treatment, there is an on-site education centre which is a popular tourist attraction. It offers an insight into a range of animal treatments, including the benefits of acupuncture for tortoises!
Sea Shells on the Sea Shore
The island is a popular destination for collectors and admirers of sea shells. The island’s position and unusual east-west orientation make it a natural place for sea shells to be washed ashore in abundance. The picturesque sandy beaches are literally festooned with a huge variety of shells, attracting great numbers of visitors who comb the beaches in search of these natural treasures. The preponderance of collectors searching the shoreline has led to the nickname of ‘Sanibel Stoop’ to describe their posture.
The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is situated to the north of the island and offers visitors the opportunity to explore the wonder of the world of shells up close, with a variety of exhibits and displays along with regular events and talks.
Life is deliberately quiet and peaceful on Sanibel, offering an escape from the stresses of modern life. However, for those seeking something a little livelier, a causeway connects the island to the neighbouring island of Captiva. Here it is possible to indulge in a range of more exciting pursuits, such as water sports and nightclubbing.