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Sailing out to North Captiva is a slice of paradise

By Staff | Apr 8, 2015

“The Adventure” was guided to North Captiva by the Captiva Cruises’ crew of Captain Jorge Salazar and crew mate Elliot Sudal. The Adventure sailed into the bay off of North Captiva with six guests. BRIAN WIERIMA

It was a windy morning, as the sun glistened off the Pine Island Sound rippling water, as the Captiva Cruises’ “The Adventure” billowed through 75-degree temperatures en route to what can be only considered as paradise.

With the sails catching the cross winds to provide a calm ride to North Captiva island, Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum’s marine biologist Stefanie Wolf tells a group of six of what they will encounter during their trip.

Busy eyes are scanning the turquoise water, hoping for a glimpse of a dolphin breaking the surface of the Pine Island Sound water.

All the while, guests are treated to the marine biology teachings of Wolf.

This is what paradise-seekers can expect while taking a Captiva Cruise out to North Captiva, which brings one out to the uninhabited portion of the island.

Stefanie Wolf talks about the marine wildlife and birds, along with some history, during the trip to North Captiva, headed by the Captiva Cruises’ Jorge Salazar and Elliot Sudal. BRIAN WIERIMA

“The Adventure” found its anchoring spot about 200-250 yards off the shore of North Captiva, which is fine, since the water is about knee-high and nice walk in the mild temperatures of the water is had.

“In the mudflats, you will see a lot of live lighting whelks, horse shoe crabs, maybe even some barracuda,” Wolf said. “The barracuda will come in at high tide and hunt fish in the mangrove trees.

“There are lots of birds in the low tides, looking for marine worms, too.”

The lightning whelk egg casings are all over, looking like sprouting snakes slinking out of the mudflats, while birds roost in the mangroves, capturing the morning sunshine.

Looking down through the shallow water, plenty of sea shells are residing, but these have life inside them, with mollusks feeding on the floor of the Sound. For the most part, the living mollusks far outnumber empty sea shells.

Jorge Salazar steers The Adventure through Pine Island Sound, as Stefanie Wolf of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum talks about what the guests will encounter on North Captiva. BRIAN WIERIMA

“There are far less people who can access this area, because it’s so shallow and only a few boats can make it here,” Wolf said. “It’s an undisturbed ecosystem and you can only come here by boat or by plane.

“There are a ton of live mollusks in the estuary, where they are thriving, while the majority of shells on Sanibel, come from the Gulf of Mexico. The best time to go shelling there is two three days after a storm.”

Fishing is a popular activity, as well, with many species swimming in the undercurrents of the estuary, including snook, redfish and tarpon, when they are in season.

When an adventurer reaches the shoreline of the island, in some spots, the land seems alive and moving in unison. Upon closer inspection, it’s a swarm of tiny fiddler crabs as they move en masse as one.

But anything which casts a shadow will not be able to get too close to the lively fiddler crabs, as once anything approaches their vicinity, they all disappear at once as they slink into tiny burrows located on the beaches.

This shorebird burrows its head in a hole on the North Captiva beach looking for a late-morning snack. BRIAN WIERIMA

The Sound side of the island also has many horseshoe crab remnants scattered down the coastline. The shell armor is usually the only aspect left of a once alive organism and there are plenty of “end of the path” journeys littered on North Captiva.

Another unique aspect North Captiva holds is the fact there are two entirely different ecosystems which are separated by about 50-75 yards of land.

After an easy walk across the island, which is very narrow, one goes from an estuary, bay ecosystem to the tropical paradise of sugar sand beaches, surf and the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s just a great location to visit,” Wolf said. “It’s quiet, and you don’t have to fight the crowds. You can find a spot and be alone.”

There are two primary boating tours which go to North Captiva, including Captiva Cruises located on Captiva Island (239-472-5300) and Adventures in Paradise in Fort Myers (239-472-8442) and in the Tahitian Gardens Shopping Center on Periwinkle Way on Sanibel (239-472-8236).

Guests pile out into the warm Pine Island Sound water and ready themselves for a short hike through knee-deep water to North Captiva island. BRIAN WIERIMA