Finding perfectly dried beautiful SEA BISCUITS, URCHINS and fragile shells like RAMS HORNS on the beach is always an exciting experience during our vacations.
We found all of these gems last week on Anegada Island in the British Virgin Islands while combing the white sandy beaches surrounded by light turquoise waters.
Its amazing to me that such lovely and fragile pieces of natural art can be found laying in the sand completely intact and unbroken by the sea. RAM’S HORNS (Spirula spirula– the internal shell of a SQUID- ) are so brittle I’m always afraid they will break in my suitcase when traveling home so I have to plan my packing. (And yes! That’s a HAMBURGER BEAN I found- so excited!)
That’s why choosing a few specimens to bring home gets difficult knowing we have to pack them to survive airport luggage handling and my own klutzy mishaps with carry-ons. I’ve learned through the years, we must get creative in our packaging… use everything we already have. I bought a few Tervis tumbler souvenirs with sippy lids (I told you I was a klutz) so I packed some of our SEA URCHINS in the cup then added RAMS HORNS wrapped in bath tissue to fill the top. The key is to pack a container so that nothing rattles or moves inside the container and nothing can crush it.
Just to make it even more snug, I pushed the cup into Clark’s dive bootie as another layer of cushion. I pushed it all the way down into the foot part of the bootie- it doesn’t take much more room in your luggage that way.
Not one broke!
We always take at least one plastic lidded container with us to our beach destination filled with snacks or something so we will have space in the luggage for treasures on our return trip. This was perfect container to safely travel with SEA BISCUITS and a shellmungus SEA URCHIN Clark found. If you don’t take a container with you, then while on vacation buy chicken or fruit salad for lunch one day and save the plastic container and lid for packing your shells. Choose tubs/cups/containers that won’t crush when you have the lid on them.
Since this wasn’t a small, tight space like the Tervis cups, I wrapped each URCHIN, SEA BISCUIT and bright pink PEN SHELL (Clark filled the inside of the PEN SHELL with tissue as well to keep it from crushing) and other fragiles in the container….
But instead of being excessive with the tissue, I wrapped the larger URCHINS with my sun shirts to give them more padding and to fill the empty spaces so nothing would move inside when I put the lid on it. Make sure you don’t pack it too tightly so it bulges when the top is secure. Wrap a tee shirt around the closed container and made sure that it was in the middle of my luggage with padding around the corners.
I ended up putting a SPECKLED TELLIN pair and a SUNRISE TELLIN pair (Clark’s finds) in with these fragile pieces too… Oh and my SCOTCH BONNET…
They all made it without breaking!
Since I got them home in one piece and they are still a little sandy… now to rinse and clean them. Most of these URCHINS and SEA BISCUITS were already pure white after being bleached out by the sun and sand so all we did is rinse them off while on vacation but didn’t do a great job. It’s a good thing I just wrote instructions for cleaning URCHINS from Sanibel before we left for vacation – for SEA URCHIN cleaning tutorial CLICK HERE.
I still have a few more containers with the tough solid shells and BEACH GLASS we found on our sailing trip in the BVIs so I’ll show my packing job on those for my next post. Until then…
PS- For more tips on packing fragile beach combing treasures for transporting home from your trip…
Traveling to places around the world in search of shelling destinations for great treasure hunting are the best vacations ever. Nothing beats bringing home the most beautiful of all souvenirs to remember a fabulous trip to the beach… seashells. But then, how do you get breakable seashells, sea urchins and sand dollars home in your suitcase without them breaking?
Clark and I are now pros at packing our suitcases to and from our destination for our shelling trips. We pack our shells for safe traveling in all sorts of recycled containers like plastic nut jars, Pringles cans, plastic lunch meat containers, butter tubs, plastic Gatorade and water bottles. The real key to this? We take lots of containers with us so we know there will be room in our suitcases on the way back. Some times our containers are empty when we depart for our trip but if we travel to remote islands, we carry snacks, breakfast food and other goodies in those big containers so by the time we are ready to pack up to head home, they are empty and ready to be filled back up with shells. We use layers of paper towels (or plastic bags or other recycled material) to fill air space so they don’t move around at all.
We are addicted to Gatorade for long beach combing days so we always have it on hand. It keeps us hydrated but it also has a nice wide mouth opening so when it’s empty, we fill them with durable mini shells to stay safe and compact while out on the beach. Then after the shells and bottle is washed and rinsed, we fill it back up with clean treasures. It hardly takes up any room in our suitcase or back pack. When we get home, I empty out a few pieces from the top then cut the bottle with a knife to get everything else out safely. Do you see that long white bottle? On one of our shelling days at Guantanamo Bay, Susan found that very sturdy bottle washed up on the beach and asked me if I wanted it. Yes! That will be perfect for layering SEA URCHINS and other really fragile BEACH BLING. It worked! Not one URCHIN broke.
Clark was worried about our vintage Cuban Hatuey bottles we found in Gtmo so he packed each one in his shelling boots and packed other shells (like FLAMINGO TONGUES, WEST INDIAN TOPS and a CARIBBEAN VASE) in his snorkeling gloves. Perfect!
At home, we love to make Jungle Juice (aka an Arnold Palmer -Iced tea mixed with lemonade) made with Crystal Light. I NEVER throw away the containers the packets come in and always travel with at least two of them in my suitcase for fragile shells. It was a perfect fit for these RAZOR CLAMS, CHITON, EGG COCKLE, FLAME SCALLOP, FLAT SCALLOP, ANTILLIAN SCALLOP and whatever that TUBE WORM is we found in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I don’t know but it’s the fattest WORMIE I’ve ever found!
See how well it contains an ANGEL WING?
SAND DOLLARS are tricky but I love chicken salad/deli salad containers for these. If you pack these with paper towels (again, you can use anything for padding for layering- I’ve even heard people using slices of bread) so they don’t move around too much, they will probably make it home without breaking. Once the container is packed, I then wrap a tee shirt around it and find a nice space in the middle of the suitcase and build around it with other clothes so that nothing can crush it.
Believe it or not, it’s very rare that I ever travel with more than a roller bag and a backpack (we both have an OverBoard Waterproof Backpack – they go any where!). At times I’ll put the backpack inside a tote bag to have just a little more room for a jacket and things I need to get to easily but it is still considered only 2 carry-ons. We rarely check our bags and we travel to places that only require bathing suits, short and tee shirts so why pack so much? We wash our suits and shirts every night so they’ll dry the next day… so who cares if we wear the same thing 2 different days on vacation? We surely don’t! We’d rather have extra room for shells.
There are several more very important parts of the process of packing shells to get them home….
1 -We always make sure we never have a living being in the shells. We always look for them on the beach but some times those little hermit crabs get so deep in the shell, we don’t see them until the evening wash down. Then we have time to return them.
2- If we don’t have bleach or detergent to wash the shells, we make sure they are rinsed with fresh water and dried.
3- We never take what we won’t use. We always sort through our shells each day to only take the best ones. It happens every time… our first day is so exciting, we collect fragments of shells we have never found before. That’s why on each day while we are admiring our finds for the day and washing them down, we start a pile of the things that won’t be traveling with us. We either give away these shells to someone else (in my humble opinion, we even have fabulous discards- LOL). These were the shells we collected in Cat Island that we left at our room.
These are the shells that didnt make our cut on the last day of our trip to Thailand. The manager of our resort in Krabi, Thailand was pleased to have our rejects too!
I’m sure there are other really good ways to pack shells but this method works for us and it gets our shells back home safe and sound. The most important thing is to enjoy what you find and don’t fuss too much about taking everything you see. You will forever have beautiful memories being surrounded by your treasures from around the world.
PS-To see how we display a few of our shells, CLICK HERE.
Shelling is a treasure hunt and an exshellent adventure every time you comb a beach or snorkel open waters in search of seashells or Beach Bling. As with any treasure hunt, you have to search high and low to find the bounty… and that’s what we did.
Our vacation to heaven…. errr… I mean North Caicos and Middle Caicos was packed full of seashell collecting (as I’ve shown you in my past few posts) and we had an adventure every day to hunt for them. As promised, I’ll tell you all about where we stayed, a few places we ate and and some other cool stuff we saw on our island expeditions. This post is a little long but I’ve got some great info packed in here! So get a cup of coffee and relax or jot down a few notes just in case you ever travel to TCI (Turks & Caicos Islands) in search for seashells.
Our vacation really started when we handed our passports and airline tickets to the American Airlines agent in Miami to catch the next flight to Provenciales (Provo) which is one island in the chain of forty islands that make up Turks & Caicos. After landing in Provo, we passed by countless luxury resorts, spas and shopping malls on our taxi ride to the ferry landing to climb aboard My Girl ferry which took us on a half hour boat ride to North Caicos Island.
As I said, we chose to pass up spas, shopping malls and luxuries to be greeted on the North Caicos ferry landing by our car we rented for a week from Al’s Auto Rental to get us around the islands. Really? You can’t even see the scrapes and dents from this photo but it had four wheels and it ran… that’s all that counted. But we did have to laugh!
On a dirt road leading to a nicer paved “highway” then on to pot holes and rubble, we found the way to our cottage by the sea called the Whitby White House…our beachfront rental for the week in the little town of Whitby.
Paradise found. This next photo was the view from our back porch… and there it was… a rainbow. Pinch me!
How can we be staying in a house that has seashells lining the steps and around the sea oats in the yard with a rainbow over the aqua water? This kind of stuff only happens in dreams, doesn’t it?
We were starved by the time we got settled in the house so we took a ten minute walk down west down the beach to a local place called Silver Palms Restaurant.
Surprise! The owner Karen had a little private birthday party set up for me! Okay, it was “private” because she normally doesn’t stay open after 5pm on Sundays but she made an exception since Jane ordered lobster dinners in advanced and told her she wanted to surprise me. How sweet!!! And how yummy! It was a fantastic meal! Thank you Jane, John and Clark for the best birthday EVER! And remember, I even found the MILK CONCH and my first juvie QUEEN CONCH of the week on the walk back on the beach that same night. I’ll never forget that day.
The next morning, we all sat at the breakfast table to map out our route for the day… which turned into our routine for the entire week. Remember the word “Adventure”. It was… but let me assure you, we felt safe every second every where we went. Every person we met was so very nice and helpful, safety was not an issue or we would not have explored the places we explored. The only problem was is that we found most of the roads to the beaches were like this…
They drive on the other side of the road so John took the wheel and drove us around like a champ over every rock and around every hole. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard exploring a new place. This was a good street sign…
As we found out very quickly, there were some unfortunate circumstances North Caicos and Middle Caicos experienced in the past 6 years. In 2008, we all know that the market crashed and the economy went down the ceramic bowl. But not only that, the same year they got hit by Category 5 Hurricane Hanna which did MAJOR damage and took out the causeway from North Caicos to Middle Caicos and most of the other roads. Two weeks later, Category 4 Hurricane Ike slammed into them again. Don’t you think that would be enough for these little islands? No. It gets worse. What we heard was that Lehman Brothers was one of the major investors in most of the new hotel projects and condos. I’m sure you remember that name. Lehman brothers was the largest bankruptcy in the U.S. and caused the beginning of our economy failure… also in 2008. There are shells (no pun intended) of buildings around the islands that they just walked away from. The islands of North and Middle Caicos still haven’t recovered and the “politics” have stopped the process. It’s so sad! But folks, these people dont get depressed. The locals are making due and are still happy on their little island living off the land and the tourists. So we, being tourists, enjoyed every inch of these sweet little islands and the people living there. Rough roads and all! Okay, so let’s not dwell on the bad roads and unfinished buildings… we’ve got site seeing to do! We had the beaches to ourselves and all the shells our little hearts could desire! I think this was the prettiest beach I’ve ever seen. Mudjin Harbour on Middle Caicos.
Then we hit the jackpot. We met Cardinal Arthur. Shelling guide extraordinaire.
We stopped at Daniel’s Cafe on Middle Caicos to grab a bite to eat… only to find that it was closed on Mondays. Arg. It was Monday.
It didn’t matter because Cardinal happened to pull up on the street when we were deciding where to go next so we started talking to him. What a gem! Not many people in TCI understood why we were looking for seashells. They thought we were crazy looney bins. Not Cardinal. He got excited to tell us he knew where we could find SUNRISE TELLINS, SAND DOLLARS, TRITONS and where to see PINK FLAMINGOS. Really! He knew the names of the shells! Ha! Fate, man. I tell you… fate. We struck a deal and met him at a dock the next day for a boating adventure.
We were like little kids all geared up…
In less than an hour, I found my first PARTRIDGE TUN…
I’ve already shown you photos of the shells we found in my last posts but I also made a couple of maps (that I’ve attached to the bottom of this post) so you can see all of the shells we found here. It was a day out of a fairy tail.
Cardinal took us to see the PINK FLAMINGOS…
John wanted to fish as well as shell…
Cardinal took Jane and John out by the reef where they caught several types of SNAPPER, GROUPER and BARRACUDA (Cardinal took the barracuda home to eat since we didn’t want to eat it). They even saw a WHALE and her baby! When they came back to join us, John threw out his line again and caught this MUTTON SNAPPER right near our shelling hole.
We ate fresh fish (YUM!) for two nights back at our house. We also bought lobster from Cardinal that Clark grilled outside on the barbecue for fabulous dinners two of the other nights. We had a seafood feast! Jane and I made fresh salads with sliced fruit each night while the boys were the grill masters. I normally don’t like to cook but this was so much fun to spend time back at our beach cottage all together making freshly caught meals and sharing the wondrous stories of the day. And laughing… and laughing until our stomaches hurt.
We packed our lunches most days since we didn’t really know where we would end up … which worked well for us since we like to wing it. But we got back to the house around lunch time one day after visiting a few beaches like Horsestable Beach and a few others that didn’t produce a lot of collectable shells for us (but who knows, it could have been a gold mine the day before… it’s all about Mother Nature) so we knew we had a great beach in front of our place to explore on the way to the coolest beach bar on the islands…. Barracuda Beach Bar.
I could have moved in to this awesome tiki hut filled with shells, shells and more shells.
It even had lots of Beach Bling like this WHALE JAW BONE hanging in the rafters. So Cool!
They have the best burgers and fries in town and it’s only a ten minute walk east from our house. It’s like our house was sandwiched (pun intended this time) in between the 2 best restaurants on the island so we could look for shells on the way back…
Then relax for a little while…
And enjoy our own veranda view…
We probably could have just stayed within a couple of miles of our cottage and found plenty of great shells but we are all explorers so we had to check out all of the beaches. We couldn’t have explored as much without the help of the map provided by WhereWhenHow.com… which I have embellished (with their permission) to show you where we found our best shells. This map will show you where we stayed and our best shelling locations on North Caicos (population of 1300 according to a few locals)…
This next map is of Middle Caicos (population 309 according to the same locals) and our best shelling places…
We cleaned and sorted our shells every day so they could dry in time to pack them up to put in our luggage. We saved all of the containers from our food, drinks and souvenirs so they wouldn’t get crushed or broken.
U.S. Customs allows 2 or 3 QUEEN CONCHS per person (it seemed like it depended on the agent) to be brought into the country and they didn’t seem to care about any of the other shells. Turks & Caicos Customs didn’t have a problem with any shells going out of the county so we had no trouble at all… and not one shell broke. Like I said before though, we didn’t bring home every empty shell we found. I know these are gorgeous but I thought bringing home just one was enough so I left these at the house…
As you can see, we had quite a vacation to remember. I’m still in awe when I look at all of our shells we brought home to remember this amazing week. The only thing I might have done differently is stay a bit longer. But then, there’s always another time… hopefully. I would love to get back there one day.
Just in case you go, here are some links (if you don’t know that every bolded and light lighted word in the post has a link attached) or phone numbers if they dont have websites… Oh, and tell them Pam at iLoveShelling.com sent you! They’ll get a kick out of it since they all thought is was weird I had a website devoted to finding seashells. LOL
Whitby White House… http://turksandcaicosvacation.com
Cardinal Arthur- 1-649-241-0730– He doesn’t have a website, doesn’t do internet and only takes cash. Everybody on both islands knows him. He also drives a taxi and does other tours around the island.
Al’s Auto Rental 1-649-331-1947 / 946-7248 There are other rentals and I cant remember if it was cheaper than the others or what but they were very helpful and the car got us where we wanted to go.
MV My Girl Ferry- +1-649-241-0599 There’s another ferry too but this one had better times for us.
KJ’s Grocery- 1-649-946-7705 – It’s only a 10 minute drive from the house and they take credit cards for purchases over $25. The owner, Maggie was great and we got most of our groceries from her. She even gave us boxes just in case we were going to ship shells home (sweet!)… but we decided against shipping.
Silver Palms Restaurant- http://oceanbeach.tc/restaurant-bar/silver-palm-restaurant/
Barracuda Beach Bar- http://barracudabeachbar.blogspot.com/2012/03/barracuda-beach-bar.html
I hope you enjoyed this little cyber shelling vacation with us! It was fun to share this awesome getaway with you. Just in case you missed the photos of all of the seashells we found, CLICK HERE! Bon Voyage!
How many times have you found a perfect SAND DOLLAR, a cute little crab shell or a SUNRAY VENUS still with both side attached… only to find them broken to pieces by the time you get home to show off your gems? Geez, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the times I’ve done it. Fortunatley, in the last few years I miraculously grew more brain cells (thank goodness) so now I throw tubs and tubes in my tote to protect those fragile shells.
You remember all of the SAND DOLLARS I found snorkeling over the weekend? As soon as I got back to our boat, I put them in plastic tubs I’ve saved (the packaging for our butter, cottage cheese and lunch meat) to keep them from getting crushed in my bag. Recycling at its best! My favorite container is the tube from the Crystal Light packaging. I save this one for long fragile shells… like WORMIES but unfortunately I didn’t find any WORM SHELLS on our boat trip this time so I used this container keep my biggest ANGEL WING safe and sound…
Okay, so I have to show you my newest shell bag that is helping me keep my fragile shells safe until I can even get the to my containers for travel. This called a “shower tote” I found at Bed Bath and Beyond that is a rubberized mesh with tons of outside pockets. I’m loving this thing! All the non-fragiles go in the center like a regular shell bucket or bag then the fragiles get stashed in the outside pockets. The SAND DOLLARS are a perfect fit for the wider pockets and the other pockets keep small or thin shells from getting broken by the OLIVE and WHELKS being thrown on top of them. Watch out MacGyver!
In one of the smaller pockets, I threw a couple of bivalves that I found on Cayo Costa that I don’t often find on Sanibel…
This PURPLISH SEMELE is not a rare shell, but this one seemed particularly deep purple on the interior. Okay, I should have put some mineral oil on it to keep the color bright… but I didn’t. ;( I hope you can still see the deep color!
Here’s the exterior…
I also found her sister shell… the WHITE ATLANTIC SEMELE…
I’m sure both of these would be great craft shells…
I also found several CHALKY BUTTERCUP LUCINES on Cayo Costa. I never find these on Sanibel! These are the big sisters of the BUTTERCUP LUCINES (on top row of the next photo) which we do find on Sanibel frequently … and one of Clark’s faves.
After shelling all day, we stored all of our treasures safely in our containers then Captain Clark got behind the wheel as I was going to pull up the anchor… and looky who was giving us a great send off! A MANATEE!
Darn! I wished I still had my snorkel gear on with my camera to film this underwater but any way we get to see them is a really treat.
We always get excited when we see a MANATEE so not only did we see this one, we saw a whole group of them on the way home. It was thrilling! This time I got a very shaky video. Yes, shaky because I was so excited and because I had to react really quickly when I saw them surface. Clark always does a great job of watching out for them and idling the engine when they get close but we’ve never had them follow the boat like this before. It was crazy! And I cant help but squeal or ohhh and ahhh when they surface so … I’m apologizing now. I had to edit some of it out because my voice gets so weird and high and sqeaky… it’s embarrassing. LOL Enjoy!
PS- If you’d like to take a boat ride out to Cayo Costa for some shelling and sight seeing.. CLICK HERE
For more tips on traveling with seashells, click on the links below…