Treasures on a Fort Myers beach

From Bunche Beach, you can see Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach in the distance.

From Bunche Beach, you can see Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach in the distance.

The broad white beach of Fort Myers Beach and the shell covered expanses of Captiva and Sanibel captivate me. So different from the golden sands and wild surf of Ocean City I’m accustomed to, I love the gentle waves, the piles of pastel shells and, best of all, the sun sinking into the water after a gorgeous day in the sun.

But now I’ve discovered the wild, historic beach at the end of John Morris Road, Bunche Beach.

20140126-173850.jpgBunche, named for the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ralph Bunche, is a rough place of contrasts. Mangroves edge parts of the beach with a few palm trees rising from the powdery white sand. Water laps against crusty brown rocks and the remains of old mangroves. Driftwood, a fringe of red, purple and green seaweed, and odd debris left behind by the tide add exotic texture to the seashore. The beach filled with treasure, all kinds of delights that make it a place I want to see again and again.BunchePlants.jpg

And I’m not alone. Though there’s hardly the crowd you’d see at Fort Myers Beach — or Ocean City! — there are plenty of people here to enjoy the sun, the very shallow waters, the endlessly interesting subjects to photograph.

20140126-173726.jpgBut birds definitely outnumbered the people: big brown pelicans floating on the waves, stylish seagulls with polka dotted tail feathers resting together on a sandbar and tiny sandpipers racing across the sand. They provide hours of entertainment with their restless motion, curious turns of the head, and their calls into the wind.

They are certainly one of the treasures of this delightful place.

20140126-173754.jpgSeashells remain as highly prized here as on Sanibel and Captiva. And why not so any colors, so many whorled shapes, so many reminders of the strange and wondrous world beneath the waves. I can’t resist digging up a whelk shell or admiring the pale pink of a periwinkle. Here they might be lodged up against one of the shell crusted boulders standing sentry at the water’s edge. Or nestled in those boa-like stretches of sea grasses. Or studding the rippled sands shaped by the tide.

20140125-211446.jpgI am always surprised to find flowers among the windswept sands but there they are nevertheless. A cluster of sun-colored petals or a long snaky vine bearing purple bugle-shaped blossoms add a delicate note to the beach.

Even the water itself of San Carlos Bay here keeps changing. The colors blur from blue to green. The tide heads out and leaves shallow pools and sandbars behind. Take a walk along the beach and you’ll find yourself yards from the beach, ankle deep in the waters of the gulf, a gull calling to you and a sandpiper scampering past. The water here is gentle, sheltered a little perhaps from the wind by nearby Fort Myers Beach. It beckons the swimmer, kayaker, fisherman.

An acre of the beach was set aside in 1949, in a time of segregation, for African Americans. The segregated beaches ended in the 1960s but this little beach remainder changed until 2001. t that time it was expanded by some 700 acres, protected as a nature preserve. Much of the exotic vegetation was removed and the sand replenished.

The result is a place filled with treasure, a wild place of beauty, history and serenity — except when the seagulls call.

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