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