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Sanibel, FL has lovely scenery and neat wildlife! Explore this incredible Wildlife Refuge with me and discover why Sanibel, FL needs to be on your Bucket List!

If you have read a couple of my previous posts, you know that I recently visited Sanibel, FL and loved it. If you haven’t those posts, go check them out: “A Smart Guide to Beautiful Sanibel, FL” and “Why You Need to Visit Sanibel, FL.”

As I mentioned in “A Smart Guide to Beautiful Sanibel, FL,” my family and I visited J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge. (That title such a mouth full, right?) Nevertheless, it is an amazing refuge that you must see when you visit Sanibel! There is plenty of wildlife and tons of beautiful landscapes to see.

About the Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is named after J.N. Darling to commend him for his efforts to protect the wildlife on Sanibel instead of allowing developers build on all of the land, which certainly would have been the easier option.

This wildlife refuge is an affordable activity that is fun for the entire family!

The path through the refuge is only about 4 miles long, but I’m pretty sure it took us close to two hours to ride our bikes through it! We kept stopping to take pictures and soak in the gorgeous views and interesting wildlife. And get this, we didn’t even go down all of the side paths that the refuge has to offer!



One of my favorite parts was seeing Ospreys! I went to college at the University of North Florida, and we are the Ospreys (swoop!), so it was awesome being so close and actually being able to observe the beautiful bird! I even learned what sound they make, which I didn’t know before…

They are magnificent.

Osprey in the Refuge. Picture by Jennifer Meyer

More Birds

We also saw, what I believe is, a White Ibis, which was beautiful. It was just wading in the water, trying to find insects to eat.

White Ibis. Picture by Jennifer Meyer.

We saw many other birds while in the refuge. Unfortunately, I struggled to get any decent pictures of them. I have a picture of some black birds, but I haven’t been able to identify them. If you know what they are called, please let me know in the comments below!

Birds grooming and sunbathing. Picture by Jennifer Meyer


We all know that crabs can be pretty cute. The smaller, the cuter. Am I right? Well when we parked our bikes and walked down the mangrove board walk, we saw some of the cutest crabs ever!

They are called Mangrove Tree Crabs and they are so cute! According to the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, these crabs grow to be about 2 cm wide. To learn more about these crabs check out the link above to the Smithsonian Marine website.

I have two decent pictures of these crabs to share with you. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good reference points in either of the pictures, so you can’t really tell how tiny they are. But they are still adorable!

Mangrove Tree Crab on the move! Picture by Jennifer Meyer

Mangrove Tree Crab just chillin’! Picture by Jennifer Meyer

These crabs were so small and blended in well enough with the mangroves that I had a really difficult time getting my camera to focus on them! These little guys were definitely a highlight of the refuge!


At the refuge, there were beautiful landscapes! South Florida has a lot of mangroves that grow right by the water, so most of the landscapes included those cute, stubby trees.

Picture by Jennifer Meyer

The water in the wildlife refuge was incredibly clear! You could see all of the fish swimming around close to the shore. The water looked a bit brown in the shallow portions because of the sand and dirt at the bottom. At times though, the water would start to reflect the green leaves of the mangroves. Beautiful.

Picture by Jennifer Meyer

What to Pack for the Trail

While the landscapes are beautiful, there was certainly a lack of tall trees, and with the sun directly over us, our visit to the refuge was incredibly hot! You should make sure to bring

  • A bike (no need to drive your car, unless you don’t do well in heat)
  • Lots of water!!!
  • A hat
  • A camera!
  • Sunscreen for your shoulders, neck, and arms
  • A good attitude!

You make think that the last item is silly and a total joke. It’s not. I have a tendency to get cranky when I’m uncomfortable. I am working on not reacting to negatively and taking in the positive aspects instead of focusing on my discomfort.

After all, it was hot at the refuge. Like, crazy hot. That didn’t make any of the things I saw and the experience as a whole any less awesome. Looking back on the trip, I don’t immediately think about how hot it was. Instead, I remember all of the neat wildlife and landscapes that I saw. If I had let my discomfort dictate my mood, I wouldn’t have been enjoying my time there. And that is sad.

We had a great time at J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge. I would highly recommend that you visit it while you’re in Sanibel.

If you want more information on the types of wildlife that lives in the refuge, please visit the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge website.

Please let me know in the comments below what wildlife refuges you’ve visited!

Until next time,



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