Sanibel and Captiva Islands

On a recommendation from Judi, with whom I hiked The Wave, I headed out to Sanibel and Captiva Islands for the day. Known for their spectacular beaches and abundance of shells, I started the day exploring the coastline.

Sanibel Lighthouse, Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Lighthouse, Sanibel Island, Florida

Seagulls on beach by the lighthouse, Sanibel Island, Florida

Seagulls on beach by the lighthouse, Sanibel Island, Florida

Driving however I saw a sign for the Bailey Tract of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and, eager to stretch my legs, I decided to take a gander. The Bailey Tract was a short marshy trail loop with unexpectedly pretty scenery and lots of wildlife, most of which I cannot identify. In addition to all the unknown birds I saw turtles sunning on a log in the lagoon and a small alligator that swam right towards me.

Pond at Bailey Tract, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

Pond at Bailey Tract, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

Turtles on a log, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

Turtles on a log, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

Alligator, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

Alligator, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

Honestly, why do people do these things?  J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

Honestly, why do people do these things? J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

Discovering there was more to the wildlife refuge, I altered my course, ending up spending quite a few hours along the Wildlife Drive, a 9-mile loop that provides access into the heart of mangrove thickets, lagoons, and ponds where fish leap from the water and multiple species of migratory birds alternately rest on sandbars and drift on the air currents.

American White Pelicans (with 9-foot wingspans!), J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

American White Pelicans (with 9-foot wingspans!), J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

A Brown Pelican (I think) or an egret..., J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

A Brown Pelican (I think) or an egret…, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

More Pelicans and other birds, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

More Pelicans and other birds, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida

I then made my way over to Captiva Island, where I briefly scouted out the beach.

Captiva Island, Florida

Captiva Island, Florida