Our Post-Ian restoration is taking longer than expected. We are working tirelessy to reopen our Flagship Campus, but we will have to wait until Summer 2025. We can't wait to welcome you back soon.
For Summer 2024, we will operate out of the Homestead Campus again. Sanibel Sea School is beyond grateful to have the Bailey Homestead as our special second location for summer camps. On this preserve, the historic Bailey home sits on a lush swath of SCCF land that features freshwater wetlands and interior ridges, creating a 19-acre wildlife corridor.
During these camps, in true Sanibel Sea School fashion, we hop in our vans and head to the ocean for hands-on marine science fun.
Drop off and pick up occur at 1300 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel. We spend most of our time at the beach, but we use the Homestead to have lunch and cool off under a covered pavilion. It's the perfect camp setting with picturesque gardens to explore, a wide-open grassy lawn for playing games, and within walking distance of hiking trails through wild Sanibel.
Summer Camp 2024
Priority registration opens at 10:00 AM on February 24. General registration opens at 11:00 AM on February 24.
Sea Squirts For Little Explorers (Ages 4-6)
9:00 am - 2:00 pm
*Please note that our camp days are shorter during weeks designed for 4 to 6-year-olds. Our CIT programs will run from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM during these weeks.
Nestled along the sun-kissed shores, tucked into rocks and mangrove roots, you will find tiny snails called periwinkles! No bigger than a penny, these miniature mollusks are the perfect study subject for our youngest explorers. There are three species to discover on Sanibel with pointed shells, whorls with flat sides, and shades of wavy brown patterns. They thrive in the intertidal zone, where most others would perish under the harsh conditions. There will be beachcombing, scavenger hunts, snail races, and interactive art projects that bring periwinkle snails to life. Join us for an unforgettable summer where adventure meets the tides!
There’s nothing quite like a mother’s love, and when it comes to ocean animals, marine mammal moms are some of the most loving moms in the underwater world. The relationship between mother and child is one of the most vital survival factors for marine mammals. By far, the strongest social bond created by manatees is the relationship between mother and baby. This week, we’re celebrating this special bond and learning about all the ways moms help calves learn, grow, and succeed in the big blue. Let’s hear it for all the amazing moms out there - this week is sure to be loads of fun and a little learning for our tiniest campers.
If you sit patiently and watch the waves come and go, you might just be lucky enough to spot a sneaky member of the swash zone community: the mole crab. These little barrel-shaped crabs spend their life in reverse, burrowing and swimming backward. Unlike most crabs, they are clawless and cannot bite or pinch, making them harmless to hold. This week will be all about sifting and digging, surfing and splashing, laughing and smiling. It doesn’t get better than this – see you soon, little ones!
Island Skills Ages 6-13
9:00 am - 4:00 pm
How many tickles does it take to make a squid laugh? Ten-tickles! Squids have eight arms and two tentacles, totaling 10 “legs.” What is the difference between arms and tentacles you ask? Well, it’s all in the suction cups. This week, we’ll discover the answers to this question and more through dissections, ambush predation games, suction cup experiments, and microscope observations. Squids are some of the coolest creatures in the ocean, and we can’t wait to share their magic with you. And since most squid are nocturnal, what better way to try to spot one than with a Sanibel Sea School favorite – snorkeling at night! We’re not squid-ding you; there’s no better way to kick off summer camp 2024 than this.
Calling all young scientists - have we got a week for you! We’ve got loads of questions about seagrass that can only be answered by repeated observation – how are seagrass beds doing near Sanibel, what environmental factors affect seagrass, who lives in seagrass beds, who lives on seagrass blades, is the habitat changing? Our heads are spinning, and we’re calling on our trusty Sanibel Sea School campers for help. From counting seagrass blades in a quadrat to conducting experiments on light availability and water quality, campers will actively contribute to ongoing research while gaining a deeper understanding of the delicate balance within seagrass ecosystems. Through direct observation and data collection, we hope to foster a connection between theory and real-world application. Ultimately inspiring future generations of marine scientists and conservationists. Grab a mask, snorkel, some microscopes, and your best thinking cap; we’re diving into seagrass research!
Ahh, the prized Junonia – every sheller’s dream. It’s not every day that you stumble upon one washed ashore; these large gastropods are famous for being the island’s rarest shell. They live miles offshore, in water between 30 and 130 meters deep! So, it’s very rare for the waves to roll them all the way to the beach without being damaged. We’re undoubtedly drawn to nature’s marvels, and shells are no exception. In fact, the hobby of collecting seashells may be as old as human history. This week, we’ll learn how shells are made, why Sanibel is famous for its shells, the secret behind rare shells, and the dos and don’ts of sustainable shelling. We can’t promise you’ll find a Junonia this week, but we’ll give it our best. We’ll search every nook and cranny of Sanibel’s beaches while playing, surfing, and swimming!
Blue crabs are the most beautiful iridescent blue you’ve ever seen. It’s no wonder their scientific name—Callinectes sapidus—translated from Latin means 'beautiful savory swimmer.' Mix that with fiery red tips on their claws and a shiny white belly; they’re the perfect creature to celebrate over the 4th of July week! It will be an explosion of fun and adventure as we learn what sets swimming crabs apart. We’ll conduct a crab dissection, play games to understand swimmerets and test our luck with crab traps. Their molts make for a beautiful blank canvas to paint on! If you haven’t made crab carapace art, you’re in for a treat. And if we’re lucky, you might just see a giant blue crab swimming down Periwinkle Way in the 4th of July Parade…
Unlike many tribes in North America, the Calusa were unique in that they built tools out of shells, houses atop giant mounds, and foraged on the seas for food. Instead of living off the land, they lived off the ocean. And you know what? That’s what our mighty Sea Schoolers do, too! We’re going to live off the sea this week, just like every week of summer camp, but we’ll do it Calusa-style and go primitive. We will eat off of plates that we weave ourselves, build shelters on the beach, and fish with only our hands and nets. You’ll not want to miss this classic Sanibel Sea School camp. Step back in time with us; we’ll go back thousands of years to when the Calusa ruled the coast.
Green sea turtles are unique because they are herbivores, mainly eating seagrasses and algae. This diet gives their fat a greenish color, not their shells, which is where their name comes from. Curiously, lots of animals get their hues from the food they eat. Pink flamingoes, vibrant squishy sea slugs, and blue-footed boobies are just a few. Even we can change color if we consume large quantities of carrots or pumpkins – can you believe it?! This week, we’ll investigate this colorful correlation. There will be snorkeling, fun games, and, of course, plenty of time for some surfing in the Gulf. Green Sea Turtles also happen to be one of the primary visitors to Sanibel’s beaches in the summer as moms emerge from the sea to lay their eggs. We’ll treat campers to a special surprise this week – fingers crossed we’ll meet green turtle hatchlings. And no colorful week is complete without a Sanibel Sea School favorite – tie dye!
With a commanding presence defined by its robust build, dynamic flight, and sharp, resonant calls, the Belted Kingfisher exudes an unmistakable aura of regality as it gracefully patrols riverbanks and shorelines. They nest within earthen burrows and almost exclusively indulge in aquatic prey, skillfully plunging into the depths to secure a bounty of fish and crayfish using their sturdy, straight beak. Cloaked in a powdery blue-gray plumage, these birds exhibit a distinctive appearance. We’ll learn how to identify a Belted Kingfisher, distinguish between males and females, and discover their feathers' secrets. Grab your binoculars, spotting scopes, and best bird ID book; we’re going on an avian quest like nothing you’ve ever done before!
Would ya look at that! That fish is flat… Flatfish is a catch-all name for more than 700 species of strongly compressed fish with both eyes on the same side of their head. Think flounders, halibut, sole, plaice, and more! Flatfish have so many amusing adaptions, like migrating eyes, changing colors, and unique pectoral fins. They cover themselves with sand and await their prey, which they ambush suddenly. We’re diving into the muddy world of these piscine pancakes, which are perfectly designed for life on the bottom. Seine nets, dip nets, and snorkels will be our handy-dandy tools while we search the seas for local species. We’ll play lots of games where the flattest one wins and create art inspired by the beautiful peacock flounder. We promise this week will not fall flat of anything less than spectacular – see you soon!
Barnacles are nature's unsung artists adorning rocks, ships, and even other animals. These humble crustaceans, resembling tiny volcanoes in their conical shells, cling to their maritime homes with an artful tenacity. Despite their relatively simple appearance, barnacles possess a wealth of intriguing characteristics and behaviors that make them a subject of great interest. Through an alchemy of resilience and patience, barnacles sculpt miniature fortresses that withstand the ceaseless tides, forming bustling communities that pulse with life. We’re going to take notes from barnacles this week as we “glue” ourselves to surfboards and “stick” ourselves to rocks to try to catch our “food.” We’ll explore the good, the bad, and the ugly of being stuck at sea. We’ll experiment with barnacle growth, glue strength, and more. Expect lots of stuck-in-the-mud games and art with barnacle shells. Stick around – we’re beaming for barnacles this week, and we want you there!
Teen Camps Ages 13+
Offered weekly from June 3 – Aug 23 with Sea Squirts and Island Skills weeks. CITs arrive one hour before the start of camp and leave one hour after the camp day ends. CITs arrive at 7:30 AM on Mondays.
This program is designed to teach our older campers the skills needed for leadership and future employment. CITs are a vital link between our younger campers and the counselors in our programs. We teach our CITs how to be leaders and positive role models to those around them through theory and practice. We assign duties and create and maintain performance expectations for these young leaders. We treat them with gentleness, love, and respect but show them how to carry out the responsibilities they are now capable of and how to use their abilities to become excellent role models. All CITs will complete an online leadership training course before camp. On any given day, it is hard to tell who is having more fun, the campers or the CITs.
Some participants with prior CIT experience at Sanibel Sea School may be eligible to be a Senior CIT.
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
$450 per week
People of all ages engage with nature through fishing. Some fish for fun, some fish to eat. Some consider fishing an art, others a science. Regardless, fishing is much more than catching and conquering – it is about how we study, locate, handle, and safely engage with the fish we encounter. This week, we learn about fish, fishing gear, and techniques. We will walk and fish the beaches, get out on and in the water, and learn to read the water to find fish. We’ll don masks to glimpse into a fish’s world. The week concludes with a series of challenges where campers compete for the title of Champion Fisherperson. A special prize is included. We may catch fish; we may not, but we will have fun, and all be better equipped to enjoy a lifetime of this rewarding sport responsibly.
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM Monday to Wednesday; overnight included Thursday to Friday.
$470/ week (Includes CPR Certification)
Wahine Toa is a Polynesian phrase that roughly translates to fierce ocean woman warrior. Ten teens will become ocean women warriors in our all female-led, girls-only camp this week. In this program, we’ll learn paddleboarding and life skills and gain confidence – girl power! The girls must prove themselves worthy of the Wahine Toa title by completing paddling challenges, practicing practical urban skills, and camping overnight on an uninhabited island. The young ladies will not only walk away from this camp CPR/First Aid certified but with unforgettable memories and a lasting bond between them that only Wahine Toa survivors will understand.
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM Monday to Wednesday; overnight included Thursday to Friday.
Would you have what it takes to survive if we sent you on your way with just a kayak and a compass? By the end of this week-long adventure to the lesser-known places on Sanibel, we promise you will. We’ll leave no shell unturned and inspect every nook and cranny of the mangroves, and we’re doing it by kayak! We’ll master basic paddle strokes, tow those in need, and learn what to do if you flip your boat. The plan includes learning to use compasses, fire-starting contests, and shelter-building competitions. We will also learn wilderness first aid and figure out how to find food and water in the great outdoors. At the end of the week, we’ll camp out on a remote island to put what we’ve learned to the test, followed by an epic surprise quest planned for the last day. The conditions will be primitive, and the bugs will be many, but the memories made will be unforgettable.
Charter bus transportation from Sanibel Island is arranged. Campsite locations are listed below.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 sanctuaries in the nation, and we are lucky campers to be able to zip down and see sharks, eagle rays, goliath groupers, midnight parrotfish, pillar corals, mountainous corals, and the list goes on! Today, the sanctuary protects more than 2,900 square nautical miles of Florida Keys’ coastal and ocean waters. For both weeks, we will camp in gender and age-segregated 8-person tents and head out on a snorkel boat each morning to study the reef. The afternoons will be spent conducting experiments and exploring snorkel spots from shore. It’ll be a hot, glorious week of learning, snorkeling with good and soon-to-be good friends, campfires, and tent competitions.
Campsite: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, July 8 - 12 (Ages 13 - 14)
Renowned for being the country’s first undersea park, John Pennekamp encompasses an impressive 70 nautical square miles. This is our initial week of travel investigations to coral reef environments. We will focus on introducing camping and outdoor skills, successful living away from home, techniques for exploring new surroundings, basic coral reef species identification, basic snorkeling skills, and simple laboratory investigations. Next to our primitive campsite are nature trails through the tropical hammock, swimming at the beach, and the perfect bonfire pit. We will take a snorkel boat from John Pennekamp’s marina, just a short walk from our campsite.
Campsite: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, July 15 - 19 (Ages 15 - 17)
*Day trip included to Bahia Honda State Park.
This is a more advanced week. We will use and hone camping skills, learn and practice more intense snorkeling skills, dive deeper into identifying a more considerable diversity of coral reef critters, and conduct more extensive laboratory exercises. In general, we will ramp up the scientific components of learning about and describing coral reefs. We will camp at Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, but we have a memorable trip planned to Bahia Honda State Park on Thursday to snorkel at Looe Key. Along with its iconic Florida Keys scenery, sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and magnificent sunsets, Bahia Honda is known for its balmy sea breezes that caress the shores year-round.
Free, application required. Learn more.
So, you want to be a biologist, huh? You know it’s not all it's dreamt up to be – getting dirty, doing hot and sweaty fieldwork, and finding ways to catch creatures… wait, that IS fun! Join Sanibel Sea School this week to learn what it takes to be a biologist. From digging in the mud in a mangrove forest to surveying shorebirds on the coast to combing the early morning beaches in search of sea turtle nests or water sampling and oyster measuring – we’ll do it all, and so much more! We will work alongside SCCF’s scientists to analyze and gather data, get hands-on experience in field techniques and research methods, and learn how to communicate results to various audiences. Get ready to get your feet wet, hands dirty, and minds blown as we discover what a day in the life of an SCCF biologist is really like.