As we drove down Sanibel Island we came across a hidden gem called J N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge located off Sanibel Captiva Rd. We had been driving for awhile so we were ready for a walk. We first went to the visitors center to get the lay of the land.
The visitors center had a lot of information about the area and the man that made this all happen, Jay Norwood Darling, a Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist and conservationist who loved Sanibel Island and all the wildlife. We talked to one of the volunteers about the wildlife drive but found out it was closed on Friday so we could walk the trail for free. Sounds good to me so off we went down the trail.
The trail starts with a boardwalk through a beautiful tree covered walk once you cross the drive the path widens and goes through a grove with water on one side.
We even encountered a caution sign on the trail.
After a short walk we came to another walkway going to an observation pavilion. The wildlife was abundant and very playful. We got to the pavilion and was met by a very knowledgeable volunteer who pointed out all the different species.
It was amazing to think there are still places left for our wildlife. We were trying to see the Osprey nest which was high atop, of all things, the parking lot light posts when the volunteer said “look over here there is the Roseate Spoonbill in the tree”.
This is one of the “Big 5”. When we were there at the beginning of December we saw 4 of the 5. We didn’t see the cuckoo. As we walked back to the rig we wondered why more people weren’t there but sorta glad they weren’t there because this made our visit to the refuge all the better. This truly is a hidden gem that must be seen.