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Published: November 13th 2010
During our week on Sanibel, we visited the JN "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge at least 6 times. The Visitors' Center has well-informed volunteers. We learned enough from Barry, our driver and narrator on the Tram ride through the preserve that we took the same route with the jeep the next day and spent more time "bird watching." We took a sunset cruise from the Tarpon Bay Facility where Brie, a marine biologist, did a fascinating pre-cruise talk around a salt water "table" and allowed us to hold many shell specimens. The cruise took us to several rookeries where hundreds of birds were returning to spend the night. Tarpon Bay is where we rented the kayaks for the Mangrove trail mentioned in a previous travel blog.
The preserve was started when Ding Darling, a syndicated political and environmental cartoonist, and a few others got wind that developers were going to buy up all the land and turn Sanibel into a Miami Beach clone. At the present time 70% of the land on Sanibel Island is protected. The flora and fauna is amazing. The trails and boardwalks out into the estuary allow us to have experiences we could never know. The
kayak trail through the Mangroves was well marked and safe, it took us where we wouldn't be able to go without these enormous preservation efforts.
We had been to Ding Darling about five or six years ago. We were in a hurry to get to the beach and whizzed through it without a docent or even a bird book. So happy that we could take the time to really appreciate it this trip. We did see an old female crocodile here in 2004, she was quite the site. One of our guides said that she died and that her skeleton will be on exhibit in the Visitors Center. He also said that they had a memorial service for her and toasted her with .......Gatorade!
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