Friday, April 8, 2016

Ft. Myers 2015 in Pictures


    Last April we boarded a plane and headed south to Ft. Myers Beach, Florida.  The  super-fun, but busy vacation completely wiped me out and the thought of documenting our adventures on this blog made me want to vomit.  However, a year later, I find myself filled with desire and motivation to revisit and record our fun!  

Arrival:

Flying into Ft. Myers we had a perfect view of Bowditch Point Park!


We've arrived!  The weather is warm, the sky is blue, and the water is calling us closer!  It is mid-morning and traffic on the sometimes highly-congested bridge, is fairly light!


We took a break from unloading the van and stole a peek at the paradise which would become home for the next 11 days!



I was excited to see this view of the pier from our balcony.  I made mental plans to try to get in as many walks to the pier as I could while we were there!


As much as I enjoyed seeing the pier, I liked this view looking south from our balcony, even better!


After dropping off our suitcases, making a quick trip across the street for groceries, and fueling up on a fast lunch, we made a mad-dash for the beach!  The sun was hot and the water was warm!


By mid-afternoon, the kids were enjoying the pool, and I was enjoying a nice cold beverage!


After dinner we walked the beach.  The kids found great delight in chasing harassing the birds!


One of our first indications that this was going to be a trip filled with treasures...our son found a shark tooth almost immediately!



Trip to Venice:

We packed our lunches, loaded the van, and headed north to Middle Beach, near Venice.  The water was gorgeous!  


We were on the hunt for shark teeth, and Venice has been called "The Shark Tooth Capital of the World." Info and tips We were hoping to find just a few, but we quickly realized just how apt this title is!  Fossilized shark teeth were everywhere.  I was literally grabbing handfuls of sand as the waves came in, sifting through the handfuls, and finding teeth!  We were in heaven!  


So much fun!



Our hours of sifting fun resulted in more teeth than we could have ever imagined!  175, to be exact!


We returned home, hit the pool, and enjoyed the view in the evening.  While we stayed dry, it rained south of us, and we got to enjoy this rainbow!



Divine Mercy Sunday:

Our day began at the Church of the Ascension with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and a few prayers before the Image of Divine Mercy.


I fell in love with pelicans when we visited Ft. Myers in 2014.  To my great delight, daily, they flew very close to our balcony!  I spent some time enjoying the show before we wandered down to the beach!  Once there, the day was filled with...

 
Boogie Boards!
Bikes!
And Sand Castles!
At the end of the day, we took a family bike ride and spotted these ladies!
They were members of the Children of Mary, visiting from Ohio, and on their way to a vocations conference at Ave Maria University.
We were bold enough to ask them if we could join them in prayer.  They welcomed us, and we sat on the beach with these joy-filled sisters, singing and praying, while the sun went down.  Not a bad way to spend Divine Mercy Sunday!


Bowditch Point Park, the Pier, Ding Darling, and Captiva:

 We started our day by heading to the north end of the island to Bowditch Point Park to look for treasures in the form of shells and wildlife.  We were especially hoping to see the tortoises rumored to live there.


Our youngest couldn't go across this "bridge" enough times!


I have a passion for discovering what high tide has left behind, and I was not disappointed with what I found on the shores of Bowditch Point!


Horseshoe Crab

Crab

No clue what this is!

The kids loved seeing these guys all over the place!

While the rest of us had our heads to the ground, scanning the beach, my husband had his eyes on the boatload of people heading to Key West!


After searching all of Bowditch Point Park in vain for the famous tortoises, we finally gave up.  Before leaving the park, the boys needed to use the restroom.  While I was waiting for them to finish, I looked over towards the edge of the park and discovered...
...this guy!  We named him Munchers!

We were all super excited to see him!

After spending a good amount of time with him, we were able to watch him run (yes, run) off to his home!  Our main mission at Bowditch was accomplished and we headed to 

We saw this group of stingrays right off the pier!


And of course the beautiful pelicans!



Our next stop was Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.  We were hoping to see some gators.  Unfortunately, we arrived near high tide and we saw zero gators.  In fact, we saw very little in general.  This was a poorly planned visit on our part.

Here we are, melting in the heat, looking at nothing.

This guy was pretty cool, but he's no gator!

One of the few birds we saw.  It was beautiful!

The traffic on Captiva was heavier than expected and we had to wait awhile to get a parking spot.  We were all pretty tired by the time we actually hit the beach, but it was still beautiful!

My mom was burnt to a crisp by this time and began sporting her construction colored orange shirt to save her skin!

I love this picture of our boys!

Mini Golf:
Determined to see the ever elusive gators, we relented in our natural hunt and decided to take the kids mini-golfing where gator sightings were a guarantee!






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More Treasures on the Beach:


My husband and daughter found all of these conch shells (with live occupants) on a bike ride to the south end of the island.

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  The next morning we all went to explore the area in hopes of seeing them again!


We were in luck!


Other cool things we saw on walks:

Starfish

Coral?

A Stingray who'd seen better days!

And this cool guy...

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This was by far my favorite part of our trip!  We boarded a boat with Capt. Jessica early in the morning and headed out into the gulf! Our destination was Big Hickory Island , which is only accessible by boat.  This was where we would do our shelling.  After shelling, Capt. Jessica took us on a tour around the bay searching for dolphins and other marine life. It was amazing!

The pier from the water!

Out in the open.  Only a couple of us got woozy!


All of the bridges were a huge hit with our youngest!




The backwaters we took to get to Hickory Island

So many shells!

This little guy preferred searching for leaves, rather than shells.  I believe he was happy with his finds!


So beautiful!

Heading back to the boat for the dolphin tour!

How fun would it be to travel to Big Hickory via kayak?  I was already planning our retirement years!

We are a water-loving family who loves to boat.  We are on the water all summer long.  This tour felt like home to us, and we would have been perfectly satisfied with simply riding around on the boat and exploring nature.  However, when these friends showed up, our level of excitement rose to the skies!



The dolphins were amazing.  They were definitely used to the tour boats and jet skis and they followed us way longer than I would have ever imagined.  We've seen dolphins before on other tours, but nothing like this where they follow the boat for what seems like an unending amount of time, jumping the wake over and over and over again.  We have hundreds of pictures and quite a few videos and we never get tired of looking at them and remembering this experience!





The Wild Kratts' fans in the boat were all over this osprey nest!

We got to see a couple manatees too!




Nothing beat the dolphins though!



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Super Low Tide:

On our last two nights the tide was super low.  The treasure we hold higher than any other beach treasure is the sand dollar.  We were in for a big treat!

Do you see that brownish circle?  Do you?  In the shallow water between sandbars we found hundreds of live sand dollars!  They were everywhere and were so amazing to see!

Here's one my mom picked up.  Don't worry, we put them safely back in place and even moved a few back into the water that were up too far on the beach!


Here's what the underside of a sand dollar looks like!  It's covered in moving cilia!  

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Here's one we found pretty far up on the beach!

Our youngest loved this little guy!


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It was amazing watching this one slowly trying to make its' way to deeper water in order to survive!

The end of our trip was drawing near and we watched the famous Ft. Myers' sunset one last time, before heading in to finish packing for our journey back home.


Goodnight, Ft. Myers!


We had a great trip!  A beach vacation is not just a beach vacation for me.  It is a chance to explore nature and each time I step out into nature I am blown away by God's creation and attention to every little detail.  I am amazed at how everything in this world was created to serve a purpose and each creature, no matter how small, or seemingly insignificant, fits into a giant puzzle, where all the pieces work together to form the beauty that is this world.  It fills me with awe and gratitude and a realization of just how small I really am.  I try to remind myself, even at home, to look out the window and appreciate the beauty everyday!



























































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