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The Art Of Shelling: Shellcationing In Sanibel And Captiva

Shelling shouldn’t be only a casual endeavor that folks do on the aspect, time allowing. Not less than not on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva in the Southern part of Florida’s shimmering gulf coast. And particularly to not the parents that stay or frequent there. On these quiet, idyllic barrier islands that collectively type a natural scoop for the shelled mollusks that roll in from the West and the South, shelling is, greater than anything else, a approach of life.

Olive shells discovered at South Seas Island Resort | Photograph: Michelle Rae Uy

Shells found at South Seas Island Resort | Photograph: Michelle Rae Uy

It doesn’t take long for anyone to appreciate this. Drive alongside the islands’ major highway, past small, healthy mangrove forests and brightly-painted beach houses, and you may see the indicators: a shell factory, a big and fairly spectacular shell museum (extra on this later…), and positive, sandy beaches flourished with long stretches of shell piles. Here, you will see people–kids and adults–bent on the waist and barely hunched over (aka the “Sanibel Stoop”), faces in serene concentration, as they kind by means of those clusters hoping to discover a uncommon Junonia and even, fingers crossed, a small Lightning Whelk so as to add to their shellection.

Perhaps many shellers here can hint their passion for the craft all the best way again to their childhood. It’s an easy assumption; who hasn’t, not less than once once they had been younger, found unadulterated joy in stone island button shirt jacket combing the seashore for such little treasures as shells, shark teeth, sand dollars and sand glass Even resident shell professional, Pam Rambo, whose enchanting persona and positivity has presumably drawn as many guests to the world as her standard shelling blog, admitted as much. It explains how irresistible and addicting shelling is, really: it is as pure and carefree as those simple childhood summers when all that mattered is discovering the right treasures to admire and take dwelling.

Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille | Photo: Michelle Rae Uy
Stone crabs served with chimichurri at Doc Ford’s | Photograph: Michelle Rae Uy

Paella at Doc Ford’s | Photograph: Michelle Rae Uy
Sitting down with Pam at Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille over a large plate of paella and a number of the islands’ delicious and sustainably-farmed stone crabs, I discovered that there’s much more to shelling than merely heading out to a popular seashore with a bucket. The direction of the wind, the scale of the swells, and whether or not there was a storm earlier in the week are some of the elements that decide which beaches would have the very best finds and how many cool ones you’ll really come throughout. Bowman’s Seashore and Blind Move Seashore alongside the scoop handle may be among the native favorites; however relying on the wind, you might have a better haul at the Gulfside City Park or on neighboring Cayo Costa Island, whose quiet white sand beaches stretched delightfully empty for miles.

Bridge to Bowman’s Seashore | Picture: Michelle Rae Uy
Seaside on Cayo Costa Island | Photo: Michelle Rae Uy

There are tricks to trying as well: start your search at the break of dawn and when the tide is low if you want dibs on the most effective ones; combating conchs and murexes are extra seemingly to indicate up in beach drifts where the waves hit the sand while lighter ceriths, slippers, scallops and cockles can easily be found sunning on the seashore; and do keep an eye fixed out for live sea urchins when shelling on sand bar, you would not want to step on them. And there are specific rules to be adopted–leave the stay ones be as it is unlawful to take them.

There are differing types too. You will discover about a number of hundred sorts–cantharus, augers, kitten’s paws, conchs, cones, jewel packing containers, murexes, whelks, to call a number of–washed up on the beaches on Sanibel, Captiva and the neighboring islands. Some roll in massive numbers whereas others, just like the rare Junonia, come few and far between, which makes this mildly bodily exercise extra stimulating.

Paul Gulbrandsen at Bailey-Matthews Nationwide Shell Museum | Photograph: Michelle Rae Uy
Marine Naturalist Stefanie Wolf doing a live tank demonstration at Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum | Photo: Michelle Rae Uy

Free shells at Bailey-Matthews Nationwide Shell Museum | Photograph: Michelle Rae Uy
It could take you a while and lengthy hours of shelling to seek out an unusual one. At the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel-Captiva Road, you won’t must. You’ll be able to admire every sort of shell here, the only certainly one of its variety within the country, not just from the area however from different parts of the world as properly. This shell museum is residence to a couple of file-holding shells, together with the largest horse conch shell ever discovered. But the very best half could also be its reside tank demonstrations, held a minimum of a few times each day by the museum’s sensible Marine Naturalist Stefanie Wolf or one in all her marine biology colleagues to educate visitors in regards to the ways and lives–and apparently, cannibalism–of those captivatingly complicated creatures.

Beach at South Seas Island Resort | Photo: Michelle Rae Uy
Manatees on the marina at South Seas Island Resort | Picture: Michelle Rae Uy

Grilled shrimp at the Pointe at South Seas Island Resort | Photo: Michelle Rae Uy
Shelling isn’t the islands’ only draw. With over 100 particular person islands and round 50 miles of high quality, ivory-coloured beaches in the world collectively known as the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel, there’s an abundance of things to see and do, and even better, lots of seafood to feast on. At the South Seas Island Resort alone, the charming resort that served as my base throughout my quick time on the islands, I’ve witnessed the comings and goings of dolphins, manatees and people bizarre-looking sea hares from a few ft away in addition to sampled the freshest seafood dishes and the very best triple chocolate cake I’ve ever had. There are others too: the private Useppa Island and the lovely Collier Inn, which you can go to by boat through Captiva Cruises; Cabbage Key, whose famous restaurant is covered with one greenback payments left by its patrons and guests in the spirit of an previous fishermen’s tradition; and The Bubble Room, whose obvious and barely chaotic obsession with Christmas and Old Hollywood is as intense as its large slices of cakes.

Useppa Island | Picture: Michelle Rae Uy
Restaurant at Cabbage Key | Photograph: Michelle Rae Uy

Shelling, nonetheless, stays to be the highest draw. Having consumed a large amount of wonderful seafood dishes through the trip, I opted to go for a run on the beach on my last day to burn off the additional calories. Halfway back, I observed a delicate, soft pink prime shell peeking out from beneath the sand, a tiny little factor. It was my first top shell find so naturally, I congratulated myself for having seen it, self-promoted myself from a shell newbie to a bit of an skilled and decided to proceed the remainder of the way in which in “Sanibel Stoop” to look for extra. That’s the thing about shelling, really: at first, it almost appears like the sort of mundane activity you suppose you’d wish to keep away from, but it only takes discovering that first perfectly preserved, more durable-to-find shell to get you hooked.

Shelling on Sanibel and Captiva | Picture: Michelle Rae Uy
Shelling is, in many ways, its own reward after all. There’s one thing extremely gratifying about discovering a fantastic tulip or a shiny olive shell, when you’ve got spent half an hour or so combing by tons of of pieces of the extra common clams and cockles. There is a certain sort of victory there, I suppose, albeit small.

Michelle Rae Uy is a journey author, editor and beginner photographer based in Los Angeles. Check out her adventures on One other Spur on the Street.

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