My wife loves shelling. That statement does not even come close to actually describing how Carrie feels about shelling. I blame myself. In 2008 we took our first trip to Florida. We visited Cocoa Beach and Clearwater Beach. The surf, sea, white sand, sunsets and seeing her first dolphin stirred a desire in Carrie that would not be tamed.
We did not get back to Florida until 2012. On that trip we visited Sanibel Island. And it began….
Carrie’s obsession with shelling led her to start following various Facebook groups and Instagram accounts. She came across posts from people who have toured with Reel Kind Fishing and Tours. In 2018 we booked our first trip. The trip took us to Kice Island in the 10,000 Islands. The 10,000 Islands are a chain of islands and mangrove islets off the coast of southwest Florida.
This trip took us to another island. Today we visited Shell Island (Second Chance Reef). Shell Island is literally an island made of shells. As you stand in the middle of the island, you find yourself surrounded by piles of sun bleached shells and beautiful blue water. Shell Island is a designated/protected nesting site. Shell Island is closed from March 1st to Labor Day weekend.
Today, Captain Ryan, pictured here, was our tour guide. I always told my basketball players it is the little details that make the big differences. Captain Ryan definitely understands how the little details can make a big difference.
Once we got to the island and the boat was secure, Captain Ryan instructed us on where the best shelling would be. Off we went. My wife with her shell bag, I with a shell bag and my camera. We both knew she was serious about the shells and I was serious about getting some interesting photos.
One would would think it would be difficult finding a lot of interesting things to photograph on an island made of shells in the middle of the the Gulf of Mexico. Once you take a closer look you find the place full of beauty and interesting photo opportunities.
Earlier I mentioned the little details make the big difference. After our morning on Shell Island we headed back to port. On our way back Captain Ryan noticed a group of jet skis slowly maneuvering near the shore. He took the time to swing over by the jet skis because his experience told him the people on the jet skis were viewing dolphins. As we pulled close we saw at least four dolphins swimming near the shore and feeding. Captain Ryan worked hard to get me in position for a photo of the dolphins. Trying to get a photo of a dolphin breaching is like playing “whack-a-mole.” By the time I got the camera in position and focused, they were gone. Captain Ryan was more than patient as we tried to get a good photo, which I never was really able to do.
After what I thought was a full morning of shelling and dolphin sightseeing, Captain Ryan had one more surprise for us. He slowly cruised along the shore just up from the dolphin sighting where he noticed some shore birds. We watched the beautiful Roseate Spoonbills feeding in the water. Captain Ryan graciously maneuvered the boat, again working to get some photos of those beautiful birds.
Captain Ryan found this beautiful Lightning Whelk deep in the sand. He gave it to me. As we walked over by my wife, Carrie, he said, “Look what your husband found.”
Of course I did not take credit for the find, but this is another example of just how dedicated Captain Ryan is to making your shelling experience the best it possibly can be.
This selflessness is not just the trait of Captain Ryan. When we went with Captain Jesse on our first tour, he also shared some of his fantastic finds with us and the other people who joined us on the tour.
Twice we have gone with Reel Kind to shell in the 10,000 Islands and twice we have had a fantastic time with some great finds. We still haven’t found the elusive Junonia shell, but it isn’t without trying. Maybe the third time will be the charm.
Various wildlife and nature photos from our Florida adventures can be purchased at Wisconsinfloridaadventurers.com.