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The Sanibel Arms Vacation Guide

Ding Answers the Call of the Wild

One of the most amazing amenities of vacation, besides those covered by Sanibel Arms Condominiums of course, is the ability to immerse yourself in your surroundings. When beautiful beaches, fascinating wetlands, enchanting nature trails, and captivating wildlife surround your vacation rental, you’re in for a real treat! The island of Sanibel and sister island, Captiva, have so much to offer outdoors. Sanibel Arms Condominiums proudly supports the efforts of the nature conservationists, who maintain and protect all of the beauty these islands hold. And we encourage you to see and experience it for yourself!

Thriving Island Life

Beautiful Sanibel Island has evolved immensely from what was once only a sandbar, into the lush and awe-inspiring vacation destination it is today. Native to the island, prior to even the earliest settlers more than 2,000 years ago, is the intricate food web. The island is home to hundreds of species of intriguing animals and plant life. The Sanibel wildlife and vegetation are actually to thank for the magnificent views and delightful nature activities. If it hadn’t been for their purposeful preservation, the island would be a much different, much less soul-gratifying place.

Roughly seventy-five percent of Sanibel Island is under protection of development, allowing a large majority of the island, to stay purely natural. An astonishing half of the entire island, is the well-renowned J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It is known nationwide and is a must to experience for a fun-filled vacation. The more than 6,000 acre wildlife preserve, has a splendid history and a well-developed Education Center with employees and volunteers eager to share their knowledge. There is even a special tribute full of historical facts dedicated to The Refuge’s beloved J.N. Darling. While you enjoy your stay at your vacation rental, be sure to visit for an intimate endeavor into the wild.

J.N. “Ding” Darling

In 1906, a later two-time Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist, Jay Norwood Darling, coined himself the nickname “Ding”. He used this signature on his many illustrations to raise environmental awareness. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed “Ding” as the Director of the U.S. Biological Survey. With much concern for the sustainability of wildlife habitats, he founded the Federal Duck Stamp Program. As of the same year, with the addition of the passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act, Darling helped changed the future of endangered and threatened species. Hunters aged sixteen years and older, must purchase a Federal Duck Stamp. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar from the sales of Duck Stamps goes to the purchase of wetlands. These wetlands are used for preserving nesting locations for endangered birds.

With much encouragement from “Ding”, in 1945, President Harry S. Truman endorsed an Executive Order, thereby establishing the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge. The Preserve is located on Wildlife Drive in Sanibel, Florida. In honor of his many years of pro-environmental service, the refuge was renamed the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in 1967.

National WIldlife Refuge

Of the more than 550 National Wildlife Refuges in the United States, J.N. “Ding” Darling has the largest population of mangroves. These trees have intriguing tangled roots that twist above ground, making them appear almost magical. Something else beautifully interesting about them, is the microorganisms that feed from their leaves, as well as seagrasses, are just one beginning thread of a sophisticated food web. The presence, or lack of, even one type of organism, can affect the existence and condition of many other species.

When poisonous DDT was used as a cheap crop pesticide, it would seep into the water and retain in the fat of the fish. The birds that fed on those fish produced fragile eggs and resulted in diminishing populations. One particular type of bird affected was the Osprey, also known as a Sea Hawk. In 1974, two years after DDT was banned, Sanibel and Captiva Island joined forces to build the first-ever nesting platforms for the dwindling Osprey. Those have, to date, been able to increase their population by an incredible four-hundred percent. The refuge is currently one of the top birding spots in the country. Dedication proves results and the  J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge displays this by visibly changing lives.

Getting In Touch With Nature

What’s better than a vacation that’s affordable and fun? When staying at Sanibel Arms Condominiums and vacation rentals, you can be confident you’ll have an amazing time, even on a budget. At the nearby J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, there are three wonderful nature trails off of The Wildlife Drive. It is a four mile road that leads you through the heart of a magnificent mangrove forest. Every year the Drive welcomes more than 800,000 visitors. Guests are invited to enjoy themselves via vehicle, a guided tram, on bicycle, and by foot. The trails are accessible Saturday through Thursday. There is a five dollar and one dollar entrance fee per vehicle or person (over fifteen years of age) respectively. Visitors carrying a current Federal Duck Stamp, Senior Pass, Access Pass, Annual Pass or Refuge Annual Pass are not required to pay the entrance fee. A self-guided tape/CD about the Wildlife Drive and a souvenir booklet are available for purchase in the Education Center. Binoculars are available for rental at the information desk.

Wildlife Education

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “272 bird species have been identified utilizing refuge habitats, as well as 60 species of reptiles and amphibians, 33 species of mammals, and 102 species of fish. There are more than 250 volunteers helping to educate visitors and to join in partnership with the residents of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Lee County, and the State of Florida, to safeguard and enhance more than 7,300 acres of pristine subtropical habitat for the benefit of wildlife. The refuge fee program is one of the most successful fee programs in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge concessionaire staffs the collection booth and provides helpful information. The refuge collects over $300,000 annually, of which $240,000 stays at the refuge. Monies from the entrance fee program are used to support the refuge’s environmental education, interpretive, and public outreach programs.

Visitors can orient themselves with the refuge and receive valuable information at the Ding Darling Education Center. This state-of-the-art Center was constructed with $3 million in private donations from the refuge friends’ group, the Ding Darling Wildlife Society. The Center, opened in 1999, features interactive exhibits on refuge ecosystems, the work of “Ding” Darling, migratory flyways, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and a hands-on area for children. The Center is open January 1 – April 30 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and May 1 – December 31 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, and is free of charge. The Center is staffed by the hundreds of volunteers.”

What You Will See

At the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the best time for wildlife observation is near low-tide in the morning or evening. Birds will be feeding in the exposed mud flats. The flats are a key part of the life cycle for the birds on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, as it’s the shallow waters that allow for the birds to feed easily on the visible fish.

The three trails of The Wildlife Drive each have their own viewings to offer.

  • The Indigo Trail departs from the Ding Darling Education Center parking lot with visitors regularly spotting wildlife such as night-heron and alligators.
     
  • The Wulfert Keys Trail is a short trail following a  power line, accessing Pine Island Sound, which boasts the best fishing and mangrove tunnels. The osprey platforms were also built on top of the electrical poles to avoid shock to the birds. With a phenomenal landscape view and great Osprey and Pelican watching, it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
     
  • The Shell Mound Trail is a quarter-mile long “interpretive “boardwalk” that starts near the end of Wildlife Drive. The Trail leads through a hardwood hammock growing atop of an ancient Calusa Indian Shell Mound. Migratory songbirds, like Warblers, can be heard amid the spring and fall migrations. The best months for bird watching at the refuge are November through April.

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located next to the Florida Power and Light Company's Orange River Power Plant. A dominant wintering area for the endangered West Indian manatee, is the Orange River's outflow. Warm water created by the power plant makes for excellent breeding conditions.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports other threatened and endangered species positively affected by the refuge are “Eastern Indigo snakes, American alligators, American crocodiles, wood storks, Florida manatees, Atlantic Loggerhead sea turtles, Atlantic Green sea turtles, Hawksbill sea turtles, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, Leatherback sea turtles, Piping Plovers, and smalltooth sawfish.”

See, Learn, Do!

With so many outdoor activities and the luxury of so much pristine land to enjoy, visitors are handed the recipe for fun on Sanibel Island. The conservation of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is magnificent. It’s on-point concession offerings are the vacation-goer and local resident’s ideal ingredients for a truly enjoyable and educational retreat. Throughout your stay at your vacation rental at Sanibel Arms Condominiums, we encourage you to head over and take in the scenery and let out the stress from your daily life. Take time now to breathe in nature and help support a wonderful cause. Just like Sanibel Arms Condominiums, if you haven’t been there yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.
 

Posted in Sanibel Island