Nature Festival at Rookery Bay

rookeryWhether you like plants, shells, birds, or other animals, the Southwest Florida Nature Festival is a great way to connect with wildlife and wild places in and around Collier county. With dozens of field trips to wildlife hotspots across southwest Florida, the 11th annual event is hosted by Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Registration is open for three days of field trips using a variety of transportation modes including walking, driving, biking, paddling, and boating. Most trips are offered in cooperation with regional partners such as Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Field trip prices range from $10 to $100. Registration is required at

In addition to field trips, the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center will host a day of on-site activities and lectures on Saturday, January 17, including marine life touch tank, guided trail walks, educational booths, and more. Admission on Saturday is $10 ($5 for members).

Upcoming Events

juried painting9th Annual Juried Painting Exhibition

The United Arts Council of Collier County and Friends of Rookery Bay present this exhibit of painted works by artists from Lee and Collier counties. Juried by Richard Mueller, Professor of Art at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, the exhibit can be viewed in the gallery at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center through Jan. 22.

Boat and Kayak tours

Explore Rookery Bay Reserve via small boat tours while learning about our surroundings from an experienced guide and naturalist. Themed tours are offered daily, with Sunset to Starlight on the full moon. A new tour this year is Essence of the Estuary. Kayak tours are also offered daily and include all equipment and paddling instruction. Prices range from $55 – 90, include admission to the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center on the day of the tour. Must be 12 years of age or older. Registration required.

Nature photographyDec. 18 – 19 Nature Photography Workshop

This two-day workshop is designed as a skill building session for relative newcomers to digital SLR photography. Educator and photographer Dave Graff will teach nature photography techniques, ethics, and tips on how to get that “perfect shot,” concluding with a field-based exercise. Students must have own digital SLR camera with detachable lenses. Cost is $150, registration required.

holiday craftsDec. 22, 23, 26, 27 Holiday Crafts for Kids

Make wildlife crafts such as marine mammal puppets, fish prints and cabbage palm reindeers. Activities are geared to children ages 6 to 12. Free with Environmental Learning Center admission ($5 adults, $3 kids 6-12, FREE kids under 6). Registration not required.

Art ClassJan. 5 – 9 Art Class: Realistic Portraits in Graphite

Learn how to draw realistic portraits in graphite during this five-day class with Lee Hammond. Class is geared toward students at all ability levels; no experience required. Hammond has been a professional artist and instructor for more than 30 years, having published 35 art instruction books and DVDs. Cost is $375, supplies not included. Registration required.

Lunch N LearnJan. 6 Lunch & Learn Lecture

The Everglades Queen and Other Tales of Old Florida From John Ashley’s gun moll to Carl Tanzler’s not-so-magnificent obsession, the men and women of old Florida are some of the most colorful characters ever to grace the pages of history books. Join master storyteller Caren Neile as she makes history come alive in these dramatic interpretations of Florida folly and fortune. Caren S. Neile, Ph.D., professor at Florida Atlantic University, has performed and lectured as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Austria and Israel. Cost is $10 (free for members) and includes lunch from Carrabba’s. Registration required.

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