Shelling on Sanibel with “Shellebrity” Pam Rambo, Iloveshelling.com

PamRamboStarfishWEBIt’s not every day that you get to walk the beach with a “shellebrity.”

Pam Rambo, shelling expert extraordinaire, based on Sanibel Island, Florida, graciously agreed to meet up with me, along with my husband, Stephen, when we were on vacation in Sanibel in early January.

I was already familiar with Pam’s very popular website, www.Iloveshelling.com, and immediately recognized her as she walked toward me dressed in her trademark turquoise – shades of the sea. “I have an hour,” she said, “so let’s go shelling!”

Our morning beach walk was along the shore fronting the Sanibel Inn, our base of operations during our stay on the small island known for its abundance of shells, located just across the Causeway from Ft. Myers. I was immediately impressed with Pam’s trained “eagle eye” as she honed in on a tiny wentletrap, a miniscule white beauty about the size of my little fingernail, half-buried in the sand.MePamRamboWEB

I had read a recent blog post on her website about finding wentletraps near the Sanibel lighthouse, but never dreamed that I would find one of my own (thanks to Pam), and, before the hour was up, a second “mini” would be sighted and retrieved from the shore.

Pam called Virginia Beach, Virginia, home during her growing up years and it was there that she developed a lifelong love of shelling, along with the rest of her family. It was also where she later met her husband, Clark, who shares her enthusiasm for shelling. They were married in 1996.

After vacationing on Sanibel and Captiva Islands multiple times and falling more and more in love with the area, they made the move to Sanibel, one of the world’s best destinations for shelling, in 2001. “I was in shell heaven!” Pam said.

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In late 2009, she debuted her website to give her an outlet to blog about her passion for shelling, providing tips for other shellers, seashell identification, and ways she has used her artistic talent to create beautiful works of shell art.

While Pam and Clark rarely miss a day spending time combing the beach for whatever treasures may have found their way to shore, they also have traveled the world to other locations and brought home shells from the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Islands, Belize, Cuba, Nova Scotia, Japan and Thailand. A trip to the Seychelles Islands is next on their list.

SeaUrchinInHandWEBLiveShellWEBIn the short time I spent with Pam on our walk at the water’s edge, she spotted a beautiful starfish, which we admired, photographed and returned to the sea, as well as a sea urchin, covered with red spines. One hard and fast rule about shelling on Sanibel is that all shells with living inhabitants, live starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, or whatever, must be returned to the sea (or left on the beach for the tides to return them to their saltwater home).

I shared with her my desire to find the big shells, like I had seen others find on Sanibel beaches. Where were the best places to go, and when? Lighthouse Beach, where I’d seen her find the tiny wentletraps, in a blog post on her site? Bowman’s Beach or Blind Pass, two others that seemed to always be mentioned as “best beaches for shelling?”

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While she agreed that all of these were great places for shelling, she impressed on me the value of just accepting whatever was brought to my attention, whatever nature washed to shore or could be found in the shallows at that particular time on the beach. Seeing how Pam finds joy in the discovery of a perfect “mini,” (as shellers call them), or the color in the dozens of scallop shells that had accumulated in one area of the beach, helped me to change my perspective and to better appreciate the beauty all around us and the joy of discovery. Calico scallops seemed to be the shell of the day as we found them in abundance in many shades and sizes.

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ScallopShellsTurtleDishWEBThe larger shells often come in after a storm, she said, and a few weeks after our return, sure enough, several storms passed through that deposited piles of shells, urchins, starfish and other sea creatures on beaches throughout the island.

Of course, it helps to go at low tide, when whatever the waves have carried in will still be visible on the shore, but like anything worth waiting for, patience and perseverance are qualities worth developing if you are serious about shelling.

For those planning a visit, try to time it when you can join in on one of Pam’s iLoveShelling Beach Combing Adventure Tours, either to Cayo Costa Island via Captiva Cruises or Big Hickory Island via Sight Sea-R Cruises. (Click here to be taken to the Events page on her website to find dates and how to book a tour.

My time on Sanibel didn’t coincide with one of her shelling trip dates, but I am already planning a return trip with lots more time devoted to shelling.

For more info on shelling, visit iLoveshelling.com

Thinking of planning a visit to the Ft. Myers/Sanibel area? Visit FortMyers-Sanibel.com

Why is Sanibel Island such a world class shelling destination? The 12-mile barrier island has an unusual coastline that runs west to east instead of north to south. Following a storm, waves and Gulf currents bring in multiple species of shells and sea life.

Did you enjoy this post? You may wish to check out this one: Why I love islands: beachcombing, sand and shell collecting

17 Comments on “Shelling on Sanibel with “Shellebrity” Pam Rambo, Iloveshelling.com

  1. HI Debbie. How fortunate you are to have gone shelling with expert Pam! I am such a shelling fiend. I love nothing better than beachcombing, and Sanibel is a beachcomber’s dream come true.

    • Hi Doreen! I agree. Meeting Pam was a highlight of our time on Sanibel! I didn’t know you were a shell lover, too! We should plan a shelling trip!

  2. Hey Debbra! Well, what a small world! I went shelling with the lovely Pam during my trip to Florida last summer 🙂 I absolutely loved it, and we were all completely inspired by her wonderful, positive uplifting nature xx

    • Hello Becky! Small world, indeed! How wonderful that you were able to go shelling with Pam and bring news of her “shellebrity” status “across the pond” to England!

  3. I’d been wanting to visit for a long time, too, Irene, and can’t wait until I can return! Start planning your trip!

  4. This is so exciting! I love shelling too, and have a collection of seashells from my own trips that I adore. I’ve always wanted to visit Sanibel Island. It’s on the old bucket list. Even if I never get there, I did enjoy this virtual trip with you.

  5. What a treat to be able to walk the beaches of Sanibel with a shelling pro! I have jars of shells from my travels and always have my head down when walking a beach. We spend a lot of time in Nantucket where they are famous for the Sailors Valentines-beautlful collages of shells the seamen made for their true loves when away for long periods of time. I have one I treasure!

    • Alison, yes, it was a real treat! I saw the Sailor’s Valentines for the first time at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, which I will be blogging about soon. I didn’t know anything about them but found their history fascinating!

  6. This looks like my kind of beach. I love collecting shells too and I was lucky enough to travel to the Loyalty Islands at a time when you could still take away some great shells. Today that’s impossible. The local authorities decided that it’s illegal to take with you any shells from their beaches.

    • If you love shell collecting, you should plan a trip to Sanibel! I’d say it’s one of the best places in the U.S. to find shells. I had to look up where the Loyalty Islands are located and now would love to go there and to nearby Australia. You were, indeed, fortunate to go there. I’d love to know more. The only place I’ve been where taking anything from the beaches or landscape was strictly forbidden was the Galapagos.

  7. Hi Debbie!
    Nice story on your shelling adventure with Pam. I have walked the beach there and know it to be beautiful. The pictures were crisp and captured the colorful larger shells. I noted you had them displayed in a green turtle dish I gave you for Christmas last year. The colors were.. Beautiful.
    Thanks for shelling and thanks for sharing your time at the beach!!
    Your friend, Judy

    • Hi Judy! I’m glad you saw my post on shelling in Sanibel, and thanks for leaving a comment! Yes, the turtle dish you gave me was perfect for displaying some of the shells I found while we were there. Maybe we can go shelling together on Sanibel Island sometime in the future!

  8. Pingback: A look back at 2016 travels: January – Sanibel Island, Florida – Tropical Travel Girl

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