Thousands of people visit Sanibel and Captiva Islands every year and have done so for centuries. With the pandemic and abilities of twenty-first century technology, more and more people are choosing to move to the islands full time. What were once essentially island hamlets of a few dozen are now home to close to 8,000 full time residents. SCCF welcomes our many new seasonal and permanent friends and neighbors.
Respecting, enjoying and preserving our local marine and terrestrial ecosystems and the wildlife within have been central to the concept of the “sanctuary islands” of Sanibel and Captiva even before Sanibel’s incorporation in 1974. From as long ago as the time of the Caloosahatchee culture and native Calusa peoples thousands of years ago, inhabitants of the area have valued local lands, waters and wildlife. Human behaviors and choices made exhibit the belief that our environment has worth in its natural state.
Some reference the “Sanibel way” when describing how people live on Sanibel and Captiva. This manner of living is being environmentally conscious while enjoying our local ecosystems. We are connected to nature and with that relationship comes the responsibility to behave in ways that value and honor the environment.
Sanibel and Captiva are referred to as the “Sanctuary Islands.” They are quiet and purposely less-developed than other areas of Florida. The Sanibel Plan is the land use plan adopted in the 1970s and amended several times since. This land use plan limits development and restricts certain types of development altogether. This is why one will not see a multi-story high rise condominium or a franchise burger restaurant on the island. The idea of living with nature is evident in the hundreds of acres reserved for wildlife and the miles of nature trials available to visitors and residents alike. Even certain waters are protected. These actions have been taken to allow for residents and visitors to coexist with the migratory and resident marine and wildlife.
Helpful things to know related to living with nature:
Wildlife abounds on the islands. Iguanas, alligators, coyotes, bobcats, racoons, dolphins, manatees, sharks and countless species of birds call our barrier islands home. All are frequently sighted and feeding or approaching wildlife is strongly discouraged.
It is dry in the winter months and the area can quickly enter drought conditions. Please be mindful of water consumption and adhere to local ordinances. Ideally, yards have drought-resistant plantings and little-to-no grass. Fertilizers are harmful to our water supply as well as wildlife. Please contact the SCCF Native Landscapes and Garden Center for ideas of how to have a beautiful yard without the need for large amounts of water or fertilizer.
Late spring and summer months bring hot temperatures and high humidity. This time of year tends to be rather wet. Average daytime temperatures between May and September hover in the 90s and rainfall averages between 6-10” a month during summer. Afternoon thunderstorms build inland and erupt on the coast regularly. The combination of standing water and humidity is a perfect environment for bugs, particularly mosquitoes and no-see-ums. Removing standing water around your home may attract fewer bugs.
The waters around Sanibel and Captiva are extremely shallow. Please be mindful of water depths as well as posted “Manatee Zones” and “No Motorized” zones. Our seagrass beds are home to various marine species and it takes years for the prop scars from boat engines to heal. If you find yourself in shallow water, please poll or push your vessel into deeper water before using your engine.
Please contact the SCCF Education Department at (239) 472-8585, ext. 2302 with any questions about island history, native plants, wildlife management, or environmental conservation. Welcome to Sanibel and Captiva. We are glad you are here!