Sanibel’s Amazing Shells

Sanibel Island is one place that I have wanted to visit ever since I heard of it. This beautiful island off the shore of Fort Myers, Florida is regularly listed as the best place in the world for shelling. Where we stay in Florida is about 2 hours away and we just never seemed to get there. Finally, we had a day when Matt didn’t have to work, so we took the trip to see what we could find. We got up much earlier than I usually do, so I enjoyed seeing the sunrise and had to take a quick pic out the windshield. It was going to be a lovely day!Sunrise on the way to Sanibel Island www.joyfulwonder.com

Many things were in our favor this day and that was the reason we chose it. I had been researching, especially here, about the best times for shelling. It is said that after a storm is best and just before low tide. Then there are also the factors of the moon phase and wind. Plus it is wise to get there to find the shells before the crowds arrived. Everything was just perfect! We munched on hardboiled eggs and cold bacon as we drove the miles to this famous beach. Would we find anything? I’ve been to several beaches where I never found a whole shell. I was excited to see if this beach would live up to its reputation. We were early enough to find parking for our huge truck, Sherman, but we were definitely not the first ones there. I should have gotten up earlier. Maybe all the shells were already taken. Here was my first glimpse of Sanibel Island’s beach.Lighthouse beach at Sanibel Island photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

It sure looked like there was a lot of something on the beach. I ran down and started looking. There were a LOT of shells! I picked a pretty one up, but the animal was still living it. One rule of shelling is to let the ones with live animals alone. So, I put him back on the sand. I picked up another one. Yikes, another animal! The shells were beautiful, but partly because they were still occupied and useful to their owners. I was getting an education on what these fascinating creatures were like. This shell, called a tulip shell, was just gorgeous…and still occupied.Tulip shell photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

We always chat with the other people on the beach and we were privileged to meet Ken. He volunteers at the shell museum on Sanibel Island and was a wealth of information. He explained which shells were more rare than others. I joked with him that I planned to find a junonia shell. He looked at me like I was crazy since those shells aren’t found very often. I’ve heard they are found once a week, but Matt said once a season. Anyway, Ken said I probably should have gotten to the beach a bit earlier than 8 am to get a junonia. Here he is holding some tulip shells.photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

While chatting with him, I found a tulip with another shell hanging on to it. He told me to take a photo of it. I had found a tulip animal eating the animal from another shell and Ken said you didn’t see that very often.Tulip shell photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

We saw many other types of shells too. Scallops, penshells, olives, fighting conchs, clam. Matt found a horse conch shell which is the Florida state shell. It still had its bright orange gastropod occupant.Horse Conch shell with gastropod photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

There were so many shells most of which still had live critters in them. We did find a few without, but were starting to wish we could find a large empty shell. The tide was at it’s lowest and Ken had explained that a sandbar would become accessible. We tried to hurry over to it, but by the time we got there, many others had been there before us. There were indeed many shells, but every single one of them had already been turned and left because they were live. I wondered what treasures the early birds had found before us. Matt found a big horse conch that had a hermit crab in it and decided to move it for me to take a photo. It slipped from his hand to the sand and when he picked it back up, the crab fell out of the shell. It was not alive. The shell was ours! Horse Conch shell on Sanibel Island photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

After shelling for a couple hours, we decided to get a geocache. There was one close to the Sanibel Lighthouse.Sanibel Lighthouse photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

Matt found it quickly. His first geocache of 2016!Matt geocaching photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

I decided to look at the beach right at the lighthouse. It was even more cluttered with shells than the other part we had been on. Look at all the fighting conch shells.Shells at Sanibel Island photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

The beach was just covered with stuff and the birds were feasting.Beach on Sanibel Island photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

But it was time to go on. I still wanted to see the shell museum: Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

Here I was able to see the elusive junonia shell. Probably the only ones I’ll ever see.Junonia Shells photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

And we saw record breaking shells. Matt at the museum photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

Lion’s paw shells were another that I would have loved to find on the beach, but at least I saw them at the museum.Lion's paws and angel's wings photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

We took a break from the exhibits and went to two different talks they had there. I learned so much about shells and the animals that made them. Really fascinating. I’d highly recommend the museum. After the talks, we saw shell art. Cameos.Cameo photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com Cameo photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

And Sailors ValentinesSailors Valentine photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

But it was getting late and we had a two hour drive yet to do. It was time to go back to our camper and see what we had shoved into our bags while on the beach. Here is our haul.Sanibel Shells photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

Did I have a great time at Sanibel? Yes! Did it live up to its reputation? It was amazing! Do I want to go again sometime? You bet!!Janine with shells from Sanibel Island photo by Janine Broscious www.joyfulwonder.com

 

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19 thoughts on “Sanibel’s Amazing Shells

  1. Pingback: My Shell Rug | Joyful Wonder

  2. It looks like you had a great day at Sanibel and the shells are beautiful!! It’s funny how there always seems to be a geocache nearby, too. 🙂 Thanks you for sharing your pictures.

  3. Wow! You had a great day,,,,, I love gettjng up early and going out on the beach when we are in florida,,,,, great pics,,,, thanks,, elaine

  4. Wow, Janine, what a fantastic post! As a fellow shell-lover, I found it very interesting and would have loved to have joined you in fossicking for them. You got some lovely specimens. So nice to see what sort of shells exist in different parts of the world.

    • It would have been great fun if you had joined us, Wendy! I’d finally get to meet you! The shell museum had specimens from around the world. It was incredible. Now there are several places that I want to go shelling at! 🙂

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