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A Week on an Unusual Coastal Island of Florida is Not to be Compared with Paris or Bali, But Still Has Its Merits

     Slightly more than a year ago, I published a blog in which I listed my own ten favorite vacation destinations.

     I named them in no particular order, and took pains to avoid saying that the first to be named was my single favorite vacation place.  That first-named happened, by sheer accident, to be Sanibel Island, Florida, while appearing later in the list were such minor, inconsequential locales as Paris, France, and Bali in the South Pacific.

     A sharp-eyed publicist in Florida spotted the write-up and immediately penned an astonishing press release stating that Sanibel Island was my favorite vacation destination in all the world--a place that I supposedly enjoyed more than that little-known capital of France, more than that tropical paradise in the South Seas, more than a few other massively popular touristic names.

     Well, let me start by saying that Sanibel Island is not my favorite destination in all the world.  But I greatly enjoy it, nonetheless.  And last month I spent an idyllic holiday week there, living in a rented condo--the preferred lodging of most visitors--overlooking the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast of Florida,  near the large Florida city of Ft. Myers.

     You will have difficulty finding a vacant accommodation there during the months of February and March.  Sanibel seems to be doing awfully well--there were more visitors at Christmas/New Years than I had ever witnessed before.  But even when the weather turns better further north, you might want to consider a vacation week in Sanibel, for a number of unique reasons.

     One is the remarkable "Ding Darling" Nature Preserve that takes up close to half the island.  Protected from commercial development by a former prominent executive of the Bureau of Wildlife and Fisheries, "Ding" Darling, it is the habitat and safe haven of tens of thousands of large wading birds (giant white pelicans and egrets, blue herons, roseate spoonbills and others) that can be viewed from lookouts all along a single road that snakes through the park.  The effect of coming upon these exotic species as they seek food and safety from predators is a hard-to-explain thrill, but a treasured memory nonetheless.  Wealthy people spend thousands to go "birding" in the Pantanal of Brazil and Argentina, but here Americans of normal income can easily enjoy the same experience.

     We took a three-hour canoe tour of a large lake in the center of the wildlife refuge, passing close by to the roosting birds.  We experienced nature in an up-close manner that was totally remarkable.

     The other Sanibel attributes are expansive, white sand beaches alongside the quiet, warm waves of the Gulf of Mexico, a place to relax and meditate; but an additional feature are the millions of sea shells that, for various scientific reasons too complex to discuss, are thrown up each morning upon those sands.  Vacationers collect the most exotic varieties, as does a remarkable Sea Shell Museum that is also found on Sanibel.

     Sanibel also has other considerable attractions:  a theater scene, a movie house, good shopping, art galleries, and more.  But do I like it more than Paris?  Not quite.