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Animal/Nature Adventures

Tucson, AZ
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22 posts
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Animal/Nature Adventures

Visiting Sanibel in September and would like suggestions for the most interesting wildlife viewing. Are manatees social this time of year? Has anyone toured the Everglades? How about airboating? If you have a tour company you like, please share!

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1. Re: Animal/Nature Adventures

Firstly Sanibel has plenty of wildlife of it's own,much to be found in the renowned Ding Darling nature reserve-(www.fws.gov/dingdarling/)where There is a fabulous visitor centre and you can take tram tours along wildlife drive with informed guides.Early morn or late afternoon are best times to go.

Tarpon bay explorers- www.tarponbayexplorers.com have various tours and a touch tank.

If you want to see the everglades you will have to travel off island,south past Naples towards Everglades city where there are numerous air boat operators(an experience but they scare wildlife away)and conventional boat tours run by Everglades national Park Tours which are more relaxing.

If you do head down this way about 10 miles after Naples ,on route 41 you will pass Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk which is approx 2000 yards long winding through swampland so beware mosquitos. A few miles further along there is a hotel complex (Port of the islands) and from there you can get boat tours to take you out among the 1000 islands where you may see Manatees,Dolphins,Alligators etc. You will have to contact them www.poiresort.com/ for details.

Lots of other info on tours from Everglades chamber of commerce - see chamber members.

Approx travel time from Sanibel to EC is approx 2 hours so it would be a full day out.

Also a final point to be aware of is that not everything is in operation in September,it's the slowest month but you will still find lots to see and do.

Have a great trip

Fort Myers
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713 posts
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2. Re: Animal/Nature Adventures

Ding Darling is one of the premiere nature attractions in the nation. With 5,000+ acres of undeveloped mangrove forests and lagoons, it attracts zillons of birds. I think September may be a start of the migration season, so birdwatching should be glorious.

And resident birds, from anhingas to spoonbills abound year around.

Lots of gators in Ding Darling too. Tarpon Bay Explorers does rent kayaks and canoes that will allow you to glide quietly into the mangrove tunnels to see wildlife up close, without disturbing the critters.

I'm told that Tarpon Bay Explorers has suspended their group tours to the Everglades. Something about being unable to find tourist operators at Everglades City et al that refuse to feed the alligators.

(The problem, for the uninitiated, is that feeding gators removes their fear of humans. Next thing you know they are confusing the source of food as the food itself.)

For manatees, consider the dock at Jensen's I have seen them there frequently. If the water has chilled at all, you may also find them in Lee County's Manatee Park on the Caloosahatchee River. The warm water from the power plant there attracts them.

Dolphins are pure joy and you will see them in the Gulf near shore, in the IntraCoastal Waterway and from the decks of various tour boats that travel the ICW, e.g. Captiva Cruises.

Airboating is a mixed bag. Some people think it is a hoot. Others object to the noise and are concerned about its disruptive influence on the wild.

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3. Re: Animal/Nature Adventures

We never left Sanibel until it was time to head home but saw lots of birds, manatees, dolphins, raccoons, stung rays, fish, aeoles and otters. It was wonderful. If you like being "in" nature either go on the group kayak tour or go out on your own from Tarpon Bay Explorers as others have suggested. Even if you have never gone before you will love it and it is not a hard paddle. You will not see alligators while on it since it is salt water but it was a great experience and we saw all kinds of birds and learned a great deal from our guide. We also did a private fishing charter with Rob McKay and he showed us most the animals I listed above. He found 3 sting rays swimming for us to watch, a mother and baby manatee, had dolphins playing in the wake and had us catching fish in minutes! He even had an egret that landed on his motor and rode in with us. And we did not harm or feed a single animal the whole time. I had originally thought of going to the Everglades but would not have given up a whole day of Sanibel to do so…now I have been there. We did not see alligators but since all these animals are wild it is hit or miss:-) We also did the refuge using the tram ride once and going alone once…each time saw different animals and birds.

Sanibel Island...
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4. Re: Animal/Nature Adventures

If you are staying on Sanibel for only one week or less you will find more than enough viewing on Sanibel itself. As noted, the Everglades are a full day away from the island and for us that is too high a cost!

Kayaking through the mangroves at Tarpon Bay is our favorite way to get up close and personal with the birds and other critters. So beautiful and relaxing..

One other option if you want to experience the Everglades feel but which is a bit closer is the Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary which has a fabulous elevated walkway deep into a swamp that has Cypress trees that are more than 1400 years old.

You can swing back though Naples if you want to do a little shopping or dining and then back to Sanibel for sunset.

5. Re: Animal/Nature Adventures

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