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Rotary Happenings: Captain Holloway shares information about Cayo Costa

By Staff | Aug 2, 2017

As we all know, living on Sanibel and Captiva, our islands are part of a chain of barrier islands positioned between Pine Island Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. Sanibel-Captiva Rotary’s guest speaker this past week was Charter Boat Captain Brian Holloway, Florida Certified Master Naturalist, avocational photographer, seashell enthusiast, and zealous student of the unspoiled barrier islands especially his favorite Cayo Costa. Holloway spends around 240 days a year out on the waters around Cayo Costa, Cabbage Key, Useppa, Pine Island, North Captiva and beyond.

His charter trips include a number of adventures for those aboard. Whether you want to visit the quiet beaches of the remote islands for swimming and shelling, experience the islands for beautiful scenic photo opportunities, check out the dolphins and manatees, explore eco-systems on the islands or just island hop; boating is the way to do it.

Holloway used his time at Rotary focusing on Cayo Costa. He started with a brief history lesson of the island. La Costa was one of the many names overtime used to identify the island now known as Cayo Costa. Remains of an established Calusa fishing village on Cayo Costa is evident by the presence of two Calusa Shell Mounds. Calusa and Cuban fisherman found the waters off the island shores to be plentiful with enough to share. When the Europeans invaded the Calusa settlements in Southwest Florida they slaughtered and enslaved the Calusa Indians exposing them to diseases, which eventually killed off most Calusa people including those on La Costa. A mere handful managed to survive and fled to Cuba.

The 1800s, a government report noted 90 people were living on La Costa and the mid-1940s children of the remote islands were picked up by school boat each day to attend school with other children from the barrier islands to the Captiva school.

Only around 1 percent of the island is privately owned and available to residents and their guests today. Most of the island belongs to the State of Florida. Cayo Costa is the largest of the barrier islands and where the State of Florida in 1976 established a protected State Park starting with 19 acres and now consisting of approximately 2,445 acres of land and 9 miles of pristine unspoiled beaches. Ninety-five percent of the island is state park with a natural environment that preserves and protects the sandy beaches, dunes, tidal swamps, maritime hammocks, coastal scrub and coastal grasslands of the island.

The only way to get to Cayo Costa is by boat. As soon as you step off your boat, or ferries run by Captiva Cruises from various locations in the area, it becomes evident that this island is a magical place. When you arrive on island, a beach trolley will take you on dirt paths through the pine forested area, pass the campgrounds, and down pretty close to the beach with a continued walking path to your spot on the beach. Or you could decide to hike or bike the nature trails that will take you through 11 different eco- systems: large oak orchards, pinewood forests, prairie grasses, maritime hammock, fresh water areas, and of course, down to the dunes and beaches. You can also visit the two Calusa Indian Shell mounds on the island. Bring your own gear, bikes, kayak, fishing equipment, tents, food and drinks . . . you get it . . . everything . . . remember too, you only can get to Cayo Costa by boat and everything you bring in, you must take home. This is a natural island and primitive in nature.

Wildlife viewing on the island could consist of bobcats, feral pigs, bald eagles, and a plethora of shorebirds like piping plovers and terns; just off-shore a thriving population of dolphins and manatees; and if you stay the night at the campgrounds star-watching is a favorite activity. Cayo Costa is a prime nesting habitat for loggerhead sea turtles. Fishing from your boat or just throwing a line out into the surf is a popular reason to visit Cayo Costa.

Go visit Cayo Costa for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets Friday mornings, 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club. Guests are welcomed.