Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Tel: (941) 472-1100
It is easy to see why Sanibel Island is one of Florida’s most renowned natural resort areas. Beautiful beaches, with great shelling, combined with a small town atmosphere make it one of the most attractive vacation sites in Florida.
The tiny island also contains two outstanding wildlife viewing sites, the best known of which is the world famous ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge occupies over 2025 hectares (5000 acres) of the island and attracts bird watchers and photographers from all over the world. A new visitor center with excellent information packets and numerous trails for walking, biking or driving make getting around easy.
It is difficult not to see birds on the 8-km (5-mile) long wildlife drive. Over 50 species of wading and shore birds frequent the refuge, and Wood storks, White Ibis, Yellow-crowned Night Herons and Great and Snowy Egrets are common. At time as much as a third of the US population of Roseate Spoonbills can be in the Refuge. At low tide – the best time to visit – the mudflats are often covered with shorebirds, including American Oystercatchers and Black-necked Stilts. For the past few years a rare American Crocodile has made the refuge its home, often basking within a few feet of the road.
This is a not-to-be-missed site you can visit for several days in a row and still see new birds and wildlife. There are Canoe and Kayak rentals available outside the Refuge. Winter is the best time to go, but be prepared for crowds. And remember, the refuge is closed on Fridays.
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
Tel: (941) 472-2329
Also on Sanibel Island, this 1,800 acre nature center is less heavily visited than the nearby ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge. An excellent nature center has seven short trails that take you through the area and a boardwalk that lets you get a close look at marsh grass habitat and its birds. The foundation also operates a Sea Turtle Conservation program that monitors the nesting activity of sea turtles on Sanibel and Captiva beaches.
More information on their web site
'Ding' Darling web site
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