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Birdwatchers quite literally "flock" to Sanibel Island for the amazing variety of feathered creatures. The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is home to over 245 different birds, some for migrating, others for living year-round. My favorite is the Roseate Spoonbill. These birds are often confused with flamingos because of their pink color -- which comes from the food they eat, such as shrimp. It is a large bird, about 2 1/2 feet long, and both males and females are the same coloring. Steve and I made three trips to the refuge specifically to spot some spoonbills. The first two times, we were unsuccessful. The third time, we were headed to the car to leave after stopping to look in a likely spot when a lady who had been looking with us starting hollering, "Pink! Pink!" We took off running! There it was in all of its PINK glory.

Mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish also enjoy the protected environment at Ding Darling. You can enjoy the Visitors Center and the Gift shop for free, but there is a $10 per car charge to drive through the Wildlife Trail.

Speaking of trails, the Sanibel Island planners have done an excellent job of luring residents and visitors to the outdoors with their almost 25 miles of paved biking/hiking trails. Bike shops make it easy to rent a bicycle while you're on the island, and many people constantly enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and exercise the trails facilitate.

So many of the properties are landscaped lavishly. The flowers, shrubs, and trees create a gorgeous, idyllic setting.

Captiva Cruises is a company that offers wildlife excursions to get closer looks at manatees and dolphins. It also provides trips to several smaller islands only accessible by boat. We used the company to visit Cayo Costa State Park and enjoyed the 30-minute ride to and from the island, as well as our time on the beach there.

Sunset is a special occasion on the islands, particularly on Captiva. When the clouds cooperate, the colors can be spectacular. Sunrise is wonderful, too. Come to think of it, watching storms pass over the Gulf from your condo balcony can also create quite a show.

God's handiwork is on constant, display on Sanibel Island. It's impossible to visit without being reminded of His power, His creativity, and His abundant provision.

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