The Week at Marco Island, Florida…

November 6, 2009

P1210302Marco Island, you say? “Gateway to the awesome land of Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island is about 4 miles wide, 6 miles long, and a mere 90 miles west of Miami and 157 miles south of Tampa,” says the website. It’s just south of Naples, connected to the mainland primarily by the Judge Jolley Bridge. It has ancient history dating back to 4,000 B.C., when the early Calusa Indians settled in and developed quite a civilization for themselves before they were wiped out by diseases borne by Spanish Conquistadors. The modern development of the island began in 1962; today Marco Island is a busy tourist and sportsfishing destination, with a permanent residency of 15,000, soaring in peak season (wintertime) to 35,000. We spent a most enjoyable, relaxing week here in a timeshare condo, engaged ourselves in some fun activities along the way. That photo of us could be deceptive; it was taken on a dolphin research cruise on a mostly uninhabited island, with miles and miles of beautiful, pure sand (more about which later). Marco itself has a pretty big beach (Tigertail), but it’s FAR from being uninhabited!

Not to be over-programmed in our “relax” week, we did manage to tootle over to the Corkscrew Sanctuary Boardwalk, sponsored by the Audobon Society. A nice 2.25 mile stroll over a boardwalk through a variety of the microclimates which typify the Everglades ecological environment.

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A View from the Corkscrew Sanctuary Boardwalk

You’ll see more shots of the Corkscrew and many other goodies in this post’s extra-large gallery; check it out! Not only was the boardwalk there interesting to view, it was also a relaxing way to spend some time. Doesn’t sound like much of a walk, 2.25 miles, but they recommend you allow 3 hours for it, as there are lots of things that snag your interest along the way. We also spent some basic time at Marco just kicking back and looking for great sunsets from the beach; by golly, we found a few!

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A Sunset from Tigertail Beach, Marco Island

Another adventure in which we partook was a boat-assisted Kayak tour out of Chokoloskee Island, just south of Everglades City. On a kayak, we visited some of the 10,000 islands of the Mangrove forest of Everglades National Park, and got rained on in the process!

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John in the front Kayak seat, amongst the Everglades mangroves

P1210076It turns out, according to Jason, our guide, that the Everglades Mangrove forest constitute the largest mangrove forest in the Western Hemisphere. Past attempts to develop mangrove “land” (really oyster bed) by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, among other hopeful changers, resulted in harmful changes in the eco-system. Mangroves are now recognized for the very important role they play in controlling greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide. As we paddled through the rainy inter-island passages, we chanced upon a large flock of Roseate Spoonbill birds; ordinarily this would’ve been a great photo op, on a sunny day, but in the rainy conditions, the best I could do was to create a rendering of one of my in-flight photos of these beautiful birds, resembling white Egrets, but with Flamingo coloring. Beautiful! There’s one other photo of a perching Spoonbill that’s a little sharper (?) in the gallery, of all places? 😉

Just a culinary mention for you: Miller’s “World Famous Oyster House” in Everglades City is a fine place to eat. We stopped there for a lunch bite (I had a gator burger) on the way down to Chokoloskee Island. While we were out kayaking with our guide Jason, he mentioned Stone Crabs, had we tasted them? No. Well, the Oyster House serves them up, and they’re a “must try” local food. So, duty-bound by now, we stopped in at Miller’s again after our excursion, and yes, Stone Crabs are great! It turns out that Stone Crabs have the ability to regenerate their claws, so crabbers will catch the crabs, remove their claws, then throw them back to make some new ones! So, you can’t eat a Stone Crab body, just the claws. But they’re big, meaty claws, and as Jason described them, have the highest “food for effort” ratio of any crab around. We ordered an appetizer-size serving and split it, along with a delicious key lime pie dessert. Mmmmmm good!

Weather is very whimsical here; yesterday was supposed to be sunny, and it rained instead. Today was supposed to be rainy, but instead it was just beautiful. That was neat, since we had signed up for a Dolphin Eco-Tour aboard the Dolphin Explorer. These guys actually keep track of something like 100 local dolphins, their family descendants, from year to year. By taking photos of dorsal fins and keeping a database, they can ID individual dolphins, and have names for most of them, with new ones emerging as babies are born and mature into the pods. It was quite exciting, sort of like a sea-borne game drive, to view the dolphins. Waters near Marco are too ahallow for whales and other types of air-breathing fish, but bottle-nose dolphins, in particular, thrive here, many times right off the piers next to where people live:

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Two Dolphins in the Marco River off Marco Island

That would be a 200 lb. “baby” dolphin leaping from the water in front of his mother, who can’t be IDed from this photo because her dorsal isn’t showing. Soon the whole dolphin dorsal database will be available on-line, so I’ll be able to get names of some of the other dolphins I shot while on the boat. The Dolphin Explorer also took us to a mainly uninhabited island with those huge empty beaches. These islands are composed of soil that came from the decomposition over thousands of years of oyster life cycles. The sand is all perfectly white, and there are beaucoup shells on the beautiful beaches. Our boat was late getting back underway because the naturalist James had to fetch Jane, who could spend all her time on a beach hunting for shells, and be perfectly content!

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Guide fetching Jane, reluctant to stop her shell collecting

On a humorous note, I got a kick out of the customer lineup for this fishing guide:

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Five Pelicans and a Great Egret Line up for handouts

Well, like I’ve said, check out our mega-gallery for the week, and we’ll check in with you again from Key West.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “The Week at Marco Island, Florida…”

  1. Don McDonald said

    Hi Guys: Your gallery hits a new high. Outstanding bird shots, plus the sunsets, beach scenes, swamp scenes, and human interest takes. They all make us want to go back go the Everglades and spend a LOT more time there. Don

  2. Jan Fenwick said

    Corkscrew Swamp brings back such great memories! We also loved Sanibel Island. Thanks for this great free trip you are giving us!! Jan

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