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Collecting seashells on the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva and the world

An Adventure In Paradise with Captiva Cruises

Posted by on Sep 20, 2015 in Baby's Ear, Captiva, Captiva Cruises, Cayo Costa, Purple Sea Urchin, Seashells, Urchin, West Indian Sea Egg | 9 comments

seashells on purple

We had quite an adventure on our iLoveShelling trip to Cayo Costa on Friday. The morning started out with rain but our die hard group of shellers waited it out until our Captiva Cruises captains Jorge and Carlos made sure we could make it safely to the island.

boarding captiva cruises boat

We ended up going to the north side of Cayo Costa to dock at the ranger station (which is not the usual place we go for the iLoveShelling trips). The we hopped aboard the “shell shuttle” (they really don’t call it that- I kinda just made that up. But hmmm.. but they should, right?) to take us to the beach and back.

riding shell tram on cayo costa
It turned out to be a beautiful day and the beach was loaded with dried washed up SEA URCHINS.

sea urchin on the beach

They were everywhere.

seaweed seashells and sea urchins of sw florida

The colors were abshellutely gorgeous with green, pink, purple, beige and lavender.

sea urchin colors

It was so much fun seeing Martha again from our July trip (CLICK HERE) and she told me she was still looking for a BABYS EAR. There were quite a few people on the last trip that found them but she wasnt one of the lucky ones. So on the boat ride over to the island this time, I told her the north side of the island wasn’t normally the place to look for them so she probably wouldn’t find one. Well she proved me wrong! haha As soon as we got to the beach, there was a BABYS EAR sitting right in the middle wrack line. Omigosh! And then Martha found another one. It goes to show you… don’t ever think that you can outwit Mother Nature. Congrats Martha!

martha found a baby ear

Ron and Rene from PA had some shelltastic luck with finding not just URCHINS, but so many OLIVES too.

collecting shells and beach treasures

But I think Rene’s fave was that sweet double SUNRAY VENUS.

seashells and sea urchins

Jay and Jane from Georgia found all sorts of cool shell loot. Look at Jane… she can’t take her eyes off such fun finds. heehee

finding treasures in florida

Tim and Fran (Ohio) found a few faves but check out the size of Fran’s huge SHARKS EYE. Y’all are so much fun! Oh and sorry again Fran for throwing you under the bus- haha.

finding shells on a shelling trip cruise

John and Dee from Illinois along with Bart and Laurie from Pennsylvania found a few keepers but I think their faves were the SAND DOLLARS- look at those smiles. Dee, it was such a pleasure to talk with you and meet you. You are soooo dear!

happy collecting shells on cayo costa

Cuties Julie and Ron from California found a few treasures too. It’s always so much fun to hang out on the boat and to see who found what- shell ‘n tell!

shelling trip to cayo costa florida

I think Terry and Michelle from Arkansas were as obsessed at seeing so many SEA URCHINS as I was. Michelle and I kept saying  “… and theres another one! … and look at that color!”.

shelling cayo costa

As you can see, some of them still had some of their spines but the insides were completely empty. It was fun to see them in so many different variations.

sea urchins of sw florida

Meet Jochen, Katja and their son Benedikt. They have fantastic sheller eyes especially for visiting from Germany since they are the ones that found the shells on the purple tray in the top photo. Way to go!

family on cayo costa island

You have to meet Jessica and Trudy from Ontario Canada. Jessica scored the one thing she wanted find on our trip- a SAND DOLLAR. What I found out is that she is an artist and she makes SAND DOLLARS… out of dough. She is a master confectioner and she brought me some of her cookies!


sweet shellers on shell cruise

OMG they are yummy and sooooo beautiful. Here’s a photo she took of the amazing sealife cookies on Instagram since they didn’t last long enough for me to take a photo of them … Clark and I devoured them. Thank you Jessica!

seashell and sealife cookies edible art


It was an amazing, adventurous day with such fun shellers!

number 5 beach bouy

And… as with all iLoveShelling cruisesCongress Jewelers (Sealife By Congress) gave everybody a $25 gift certificate to use in their store- they are so generous to the shelling community!

Sealife By Congress Jewelers

An adventure in paradise- It was surely a day to remember!

beach path to paradise cayo costa florida

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Wild Sanibel Continues

Posted by on Jul 30, 2015 in Coquina, Lined Sea Star, Millipede Starfish, Purple Sea Urchin, Starfish, Urchin | 19 comments

Sanibel live colorful coquinas

Wild Sanibel continues to be thriving with live creatures showing up in high definition color this week like oodles of these live COQUINAS near Lighthouse Beach.

Live coquina shells in the water

After a few days of west winds, bunches of Beach Bling washed ashore near the Sanibel fishing pier earlier this week.

Sanibel lighthouse shells and beach bling

We’ve been seeing hundreds of live LINED STARFISH and beautiful purple SEA WHIPS in the water.

Florida Gulf lined starfish with purple sea whip

There are so many 9 armed MILLIPEDE STARFISH as well…

9 arms Millipede Starfish Sea Star

This was one of the biggest live TRUE TULIPS I’ve seen in a while at low tide. Gorgeous and healthy.

Sanibel live true tulip

Now this guy was a little bit creepy. Lots of folks gathered around to see the bright orange snake slithering around the exposed concrete slabs in the water at the entrance of the Lighthouse. Since I had never seen this snake before on Sanibel, I texted my naturalist and shelling guide buddy Captain Brian Holaway to see if he knew.

Sanibel Mangrove Salt Marsh snake Florida Gulf

Of course he did! He told me it is a non-venomous MANGROVE SALT MARSH SNAKE (Nerodia clarkia compressicauda).  Whew- they aren’t poisonous so I took a minute to snap a few more photos and enjoy looking at how handsome he was.

Orange Sanibel florida Mangrove Salt Marsh snake non venomous in water

Just last night, Monica from Ocala found a few striking shells along with the brilliant test of a Purple SEA URCHIN.

Sanibel Sea urchin and sea shells

Another evening this week Clark saw Maria from Monrovia who found a huge empty HORSE CONCH walking in the water at Bowman’s Beach. Congrats Maria!

Maria Monrovia found a horse conch

I have been so consumed with the living wild creatures, I didn’t see many empty shells… but I’m very happy with one perfect PAPER FIG, a purple SEA URCHIN, 2 juvie FIGHTING CONCHS and a PEAR WHELK.

Sanibel Paper fig, sea urchin and conchs


Join me on a Shelling Adventure! For more information and dates CLICK HERE.

pam rambo shelling trips

PS- I took a video of some of the live creatures to show you but for some reason in the last few months, it takes forever to download them. Now you know why I haven’t done many videos lately! ugh. When it is done, I’ll post it to Youtube- you can find me here….

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How To Pack Fragile Sea Urchins and Shells In your Luggage

Posted by on Feb 17, 2015 in Anegada Island, British Virgin Islands, BVI Shelling, BVIs, Hamburger Bean, Packing Fragile Seashells, Ram's Horn - Squid Shell, Sea Bean, Sea Biscuit, Traveling with sea shells, Urchin | 27 comments

sea biscuit urchins rams horn shells scotch bonnet

Finding perfectly dried beautiful SEA BISCUITS, URCHINS and fragile shells like RAMS HORNS on the beach is always an exciting experience during our vacations.

collecting shells and urchins in BVI Anegada

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.

Anegada harbor with aqua turquoise water

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!)

rams horn squid shells with hamburger bean

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.

The Bitter End plastic cup with lid for breakable shells

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.

safely carry fragile seashells in luggage

Not one broke!

packing breakable shells in travel luggage

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.

Packing urchins for travel

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….
plastic container paper tissue for fragile shells to transport

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.

pack fragile sea shells urchins in tee shirts

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…

Sea urchin collection in plastic tub for transporting breakables

They all made it without breaking!

beachcombing collection from Anegada BVI urchins rams horns

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…

sailboat at sunset in BVIs

PS- For more tips on packing fragile beach combing treasures for transporting home from your trip…


pam rambo shelling trips

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How To Clean Sea Urchins Video Tutorial

Posted by on Feb 8, 2015 in Aristotle's Lantern, Cleaning Seashells, How To Clean Sea Urchin Video tutorial, Purple Sea Urchin, Urchin | 15 comments

Dried Sanibel Sea Urchins

“How do you clean SEA URCHINS?”

I was asked this question countless time last week after posting photos of Masses Of Sea Urchins On Sanibel Island last week (to see the article CLICK HERE). So now Im going to do better than tell you… Im going to show you!

 I only collect SEA URCHINS that are in the high and dry wrack line on the beach – they are never damp so I know for sure they aren’t alive. I love the ones that have already lost their spines and have a big empty hole in the center since most of the cleaning has already done by Mother Nature. But if Mother Nature hasn’t had time to do our cleaning for us, we have a couple of options.

First option- leave your SEA URCHINS outside in the sun for several weeks and let the spines fall off and shake the “crumbs” from the inside. Easy peazy but it takes a while.

Second option:

If the spines of your dry URCHINS don’t come off by gently rubbing your fingers against the test (body), place your SEA URCHINS in a bucket of water for a couple of hours. Take one out at a time and pinch and rub the spines off. Use a brush if you want or wear rubber gloves if you have tender skin.

cleaning dried sea urchin with aristotle lantern inside

While handling your URCHINS, sometimes you will hear the ARISTOTLE’S LANTERN (the mouth) inside the URCHIN so if you remove all of the “skin” or fleshy parts around the center mouth with a dental pick, you can usually pull or shake the dried pieces of mouth (or jaw) out of the URCHIN. If you are lucky, the whole piece will come out in tact. If the ARISTOTLE’S LANTERN comes out in one piece, I save it – don’t ask me why, I just think they are cool (? heehee).

aristotle's lantern mouth of sea urchins in jar

Once the SEA URCHINS are spineless and hollow, place them in a bleach water solution. I used about 1/8 bleach to water. In this plastic shoebox size container, I used 3 capfuls of beach.

Gulf Coast Sea Urchins in bleach and water

After an hour or so, rinse them in fresh water then leave them out in the sun to dry. The URCHINS get even more brittle if you leave them in the bleach solution for too long but I do leave some in a little longer so that they will be a lighter shade that the others. I like the different colors!

drying sea urchins

Once they are clean and dry, you will probably want to harden and preserve your SEA URCHINS. Mix a solution of Elmer’s glue with water. I guesstimate about 50/50 but I don’t worry too much if I have more glue than water- it always seems to work out. You can either be neat and paint the glue solution on your URCHINS or you can dunk. I prefer pouring the glue solution inside the URCHIN then dunking the whole thing in the glue cup then spreading it with my hands (I’m messy like that!). I place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on my tray then let the glue covered SEA URCHIN dry.

Hardening sea urchins with elmer's glue and water

Still have questions? Check out the video tutorial I made to show you each step of the process. CLICK HERE to see it on my YouTube Channel or click on the next image.

This is what the finished SEA URCHINS look like. There are several different types of SEA URCHINS from Sanibel so each one tends to be a little different. Beautiful!

sea urchins from sanibel

PS- Never take live SEA URCHINS. If you dont know how to tell if they are still alive CLICK HERE.

Join me on an iLoveShelling Shelling Adventure trip! CLICK HERE for dates and reservations.

pam rambo shelling trips

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Masses Of Sea Urchins On Sanibel Island

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in Aristotle's Lantern, Long-Spined Urchin, Purple Sea Urchin, Urchin | 26 comments

Sea urchin echinoderms wash up on Sanibel beach

All along Sanibel’s shore this week, SEA URCHINS have washed up on the beach (along with all sorts of other cool things!) after strong winds last week.

Mass of Sanibel sea urchins

Have you ever seen the inside of a SEA URCHIN? This one had been crushed (and decayed) but the only thing that happen to be still in tact was its mouth laying on the beach. When we see just this part of a SEA URCHIN we call it the ARISTOTLE’S LANTERN.

aristotles lantern in sea urchin

We don’t see the ARISTOTLE’S LANTERN laying alone on the beach completely in tact very often since each part of the mouth like the five teeth that it using for chewing will get very brittle and fall apart after it dries out. In the next photo, on the left you can see the crushed TEST (the shell-like part) exposes the ARISTOTLE’S LANTERN and the one on the right has only a small part of the center mouth showing because its TEST is completely in tact.

Sanibel sea urchin and Aristotle's lantern

You can see the teeth showing in this SEA URCHIN (this is the opposite end of ARISTOTLE’S LANTERN thats showing in the previous photo)..

Dead sea urchin with teeth showing

This next photo is what it looks like completely out of the SEA URCHIN. The bottom part  is where the teeth come out (like in the above photo) and the top end is what’s showing in the example of the one laying on the beach (on the left) two photos up. See? It sure does look like a little lantern to me… and it even has a little candle on the top- heehee.

aristotle's lantern mouth of sea urchin

Cool, huh? There are so many awesome things that wash up on our beaches!!!

sea urchins from sanibel

To see what the ARISTOTLE’S LANTERN looks like immediately after it comes out of a dead SEA URCHIN and to be able to tell if a SEA URCHIN is alive or not…. watch my video… CLICK HERE or click on the next image…

Our iLoveShelling Shelling Adventure is SOLD OUT this week Feb 4, 2015 so don’t miss the boat for future excursions….  reserve your spot now-  CLICK HERE for more info. 

pam rambo shelling trips

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Mind Blowing Beach Bling in Guantanamo Bay

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Caribbean Shells, Club Spined Sea Urchin, Cuba Seashells, Green Sea Urchin, Guantanamo Bay Cuba, Long-Spined Urchin, Sea Bean, Sea Fan, sea glass, Urchin, Variegated Sea Urchin, West Indian Sea Egg, World shelling | 20 comments

collecting sea glass in Guantanamo Bay Cuba

Do you get excited when you find SEA GLASS? Me too! It’s another beautiful gem most beachcombers love to collect while looking for shells and other BEACH BLING on any walk on any beach. Oddly enough, lots of our friends don’t really get why we travel the world in search of beach treasure… until I tell them we found a honey hole for SEA GLASS. Then their ears perk up! LOL Well, since it’s impossible to bring back enough SEAGLASS in our suitcase for everybody who wants some from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba… here is a CYBERSHELLING (CYBER-SEAGLASSING) photo from last week’s adventure on Glass Beach in Gtmo (CLICK HERE for the history of this SEAGLASS). Just click on the next photo to enlarge it so you can find your own SEA GLASS. Fun! Then I’ll show you some of the other cool BLING we found.

Glass Beach guantanamo Gtmo seaglass

In my last post (CLICK HERE), I showed you some of the beautiful shells and areas we combed but couldn’t really explain how much fun Clark, me, Lee and Susan had picking through the high tide dry wrack lines in search of Bling. See that incredible SEA FAN Susan found? Un-beee-liev-able!

Rambo and Merrill shelling beach in Guantanamo Bay Cuba GTMO

I just loooove me some Bling! I’m trying to identify all of the different SEA URCHINS we found but it is not so easy. I’ll try to get close up photos of each one but oh lawd, I need more time. So … I’m almost positive we have…. WEST INDIAN SEA EGGS, VARIEGATED URCHINS, LONG-SPINED URCHINS, CLUB-SPINED URCHINS, ROCK-BORING URCHINS and SEA BISCUITS. We could  have picked up hundreds of the CLUB-SPINED SEA URCHINS that had probably gotten tossed up by a storm weeks before. They were in the highest wrack line and completely dried and preserved. Cool!

We also brought home SEA HEARTS, HAMBURGER BEANS (SEA BEANS), a few pieces of CORAL, 2 small SEA FANS, a few VERTEBRAE, PURPLE CRAB shells (haven’t looked them up yet), OPERCULUMS, old turquoise CUBAN TILES and… you see that piece of striped POTTERY on the bottom right? Lee told me that piece probably dates back to the Spanish- American war era circa 1898. Amazing, right?

Gtmo Beach Bling urchins, sea beans, pottery chards, crabs, operculums

Lee found these pieces of POTTERY from the same era. Wow- Its almost a complete plate! He said he will donate some of the pieces to the base for history and environmental research.  (Errrr…. my piece came home with me- it’s way too cool! heehee)

Spanish pottery fragments in Guantanamo Bay Cuba

Talk about cool… I found two complete old Cuban Hatuey beer GLASS BOTTLES made in the 1950s. These were so popular, Bacardi is now making this beer again.

Hatuey Beer bottles Cuba circa 1948 found in Gtmo

More awesome BLING on the beach! Lee found this WWII US Navy uniform button while he was picking through the rock and pebbles looking for SEAGLASS like in the CYBERSHELLING pic. Whoot Whoot!

Vintage US Navy button found on beach

Let me show you just a few more shell photos before I sign out for the day…. Clark found these spectasheller THORNY OYSTERS that haven’t even been really cleaned up yet. They are gorgeous. We find these in SW Florida but most times they are only fragments.

Thorny Oysters Spondylus americanus found Guantanamo Gtmo Cuba

Here’s the interior of one…

Thorny Oysters Spondylus americanus interior Guantanamo Gtmo Cuba

Lee found the mac daddy of the THORNY OYSTERS- it’s huge and with some good spines…. Both sides!

Lee with double thorny oyster

It was completely packed with hard mud and limestone so it will take a little work to get this baby cleaned up but it will be well worth it. It’s a beauty!

double thorny oyster gtmo cuba

I always think these are so funny…. the BLEEDING TOOTH. Shall I say more?

Bleeding Tooth shells Nerita peloronta Gtmo Cuba

These are some of my favorite minis we found this trip… BEADED MITERS.

Beaded Miter shell Mitra nodulosa Guantanamo Cuba Gtmo

Clark was excited (and me too) to find this HEXAGONAL MUREX since we’ve never found one before.

Muricopsis oxytata Hexagonal Murex Guantanamo Cuba Gtmo

It’s always a thrill to find a new shell!

Muricopsis oxytata Hexagonal Murex Guantanamo Cuba Gtmo

Again, we have to thank Lee and Susan for sponsoring us, being our shelling guides and letting us share this extraordinary place with everybody to learn what types of shells we can all find in the other Caribbean Islands. We are forever grateful.

Lee and Susan Merrill Guantanamo Bay sunset

I will get more shells cleaned up and photographed soon but the FLAME HELMETS are so shellsational, I had to add show you these before I go out and hit my home beach. It was fabulous finding shells in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba but it’s always so wonderful to be back home on Sanibel Island… especially with a cool evening low tide. Have a nice weekend!

Flame helmet Cassis Flammea  Guantanamo Cuba Gtmo

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