The Nature Center is an educational experience that introduces you to the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) – a not-for-profit organization that does important work that protects the natural functioning of the island lands and waters. SCCF considers environmental education as the core of its mission and has been providing it in various forms for visitors since it’s founding in the 1960’s. The Center is a large, roomy building with space to move around and experience the displays and exhibits that are both fascinating and fun. It’s very family friendly. There are lecture areas, play areas for the kids, interactive visual displays and exhibits. Both volunteers and professional staff are available in the Center to help you understand the material shown and answer your questions.
Learn from well-informed experts on subjects that deal with the presence of wildlife on a sanctuary island. The lectures include interesting talks about reptilian creatures such as turtles, frogs, alligators or crocodiles and the wary four-legged neighbors like coyotes, bears, and bobcats. One of the more popular lectures is Living with Wildlife which explains how to live in harmony with the various wildlife on the island by understanding and respecting them. The lectures tend to be scheduled during season – January thru April – so it’s best to call them to confirm that lectures are scheduled (239 472 23290. There is a donation of $5 per person.
Inside the Nature Center is a marine touch tank with safely touchable rays, crabs, sea urchins and other marine life, a life-sized manatee and a mangrove diorama. There is also a turtle and terrapin aquarium and a live video of a barn owl and its nesting activity. Outside the exhibits include a butterfly house, a native plant nursery, an observation tower and several nature preserves. The butterfly house lets you admire a number of beautiful live butterflies and explains their progression from egg to caterpillar to pupa to butterfly.
The native plant nursery displays local plants and the plant expert can explain which plants attract certain wildlife and help you understand which plants are high or low maintenance and their water needs. You can buy a plant at the nursery. The nature preserves are natural areas with walking trails for your enjoyment. There are six areas that are open to the public, one of which is right behind the Nature Center. The Nature Center Preserve is 240 acres and has four miles of trails that give you a good birding experience and take you through several habitats that lead to the Sanibel River. Overlooking the river is an observation tower that provides an expansive view of the preserve and its wildlife – including some nesting Osprey at the end of the trail. When you finish the trail and go back to the Center you can visit the Book Store and Nature/Gift Shop for some interesting nature books and gifts for the folks back home.
The Nature Center is located at 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road – about one mile west of Tarpon Bay Road. It is open all year. The hours are 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM except during the summer months – June thru September. It closes at 3:00 PM during the summer. There’s parking for the handicapped and all parking is free. A $5 donation is needed for entrance to the Nature Center with those under 17 years free. This is a worthwhile and interesting experience. The Conservation Foundation manages over 1,000 acres of island land. It is one of the reasons that Sanibel is such a special place. This will give you a small peek at some of their important work.