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Sanibel's natural attractions

Ding Darling world reknown

May 28, 2009
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander
The "Ding" Darling Refuge, on Sanibel, is one of the crown jewels on the National Wildlife Refuge system, drawing nearly 1 million visitors each year from here and abroad. Open daily from 7:30 a.m. to sunset (except Fridays), visitors have a chance to see some of the 238 different bird species including wood storks, bald eagles, roseate spoonbills and ospreys that make their home on the islands. Alligators, manatees and even a rare American crocodile can also be found here. The refuge, at 1 Wildlife Drive, offers exhibits and a variety of educational programs through the Visitors Center. Other nature-oriented sites can be found along Sanibel-Captiva Road: the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) and the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). The SCCF has some 1,300 acres for the permanent protection of wildlife habitat and conducts ongoing educational programs. The SCCF offers various educational programs- everything from beach walks to trail walks, boat tours, wading trips and kayak tours. Its Nature Center offers four miles of trails, with an observation tower, exhibits, a touch tank, a butterfly house (open every day with tours on Tuesdays at 10 a.m.) and Nature Shop and Bookstore. Nature Center hours vary according to the "season." The center is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., October through May and8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., June through September; Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. , December through April and closed Saturdays from May through October Nature Center & Trails are $3 for adults, with children under 17 free. The Nature Center is located at 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road on Sanibel, near mile marker 1 (about one mile west of Tarpon Bay Road).  For info, 472-2329. CROW is a veterinary hospital for injured wildlife that enjoys a national reputation for the remarkable work of its staff. Each year the clinic helps more than 3,400 wild animals, mamy of them emergency cases. CROW also features a Visitor Education Center, 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road. Its hours are seasoal - call (239) 472-3644 for current hours of operation. Meanwhile, don't forget the islands offer fabulous beaches - and unmatched shelling opportunities. Gentle waves roll in to the sugar-sand beaches from the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, producing some of the finest shelling in the world. Due to the position in which it is situated, the Island "catches" unusual shells brought in by the Gulf Stream from as far away as South America. Thus, it's easy to develop the "Sanibel-Captiva Crawl" — so named for the position in which many shell-seekers can be spotted. The islands are standouts among the world's shelling destinations, and the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum (3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road • (239) 395-2233) reflects that distinction. It offers top scientific information on mollusks, both living and extinct, in fascinating, creative exhibits that will intrigue the entire family. It also offers a compelling exhibit on the importance of shells to the Calusa culture encountered by Spanish explorers in the 16th Century. Located on Sanibel-Captiva Road, the museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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