A Day in the Life of a Shelling Tour Guide


Hello, shell enthusiasts! I’m your guide, a Florida Master Naturalist and Local Shelling Expert with Treasure Seekers Shell Tours. Today, I want to take you behind the scenes and share what a typical day looks like for me as a shelling tour guide. From early morning preparations to the thrill of discovering rare shells with our guests, every moment is a unique adventure. Join me as I reveal the ins and outs of guiding shelling tours in the stunning Ten Thousand Islands, a haven for shell collectors and nature lovers alike.

Early Morning Preparations

My day begins before dawn, as the best shelling often happens early in the morning when the tides are low and the beaches are freshly washed with new treasures from the sea. I arrive at our dock around 5:30 AM to prepare our Sea Pro 248 Bay Boats for the day’s tours. Safety is a top priority, so I start by conducting a thorough check of all safety equipment, including life jackets, first aid kits, and communication devices.

While the boats are being prepped, I review the day’s itinerary and check the tide charts. Understanding the tides is crucial for a successful shelling tour, as they determine where and when we’ll find the best shells. I also take note of the weather forecast, as conditions like wind and wave patterns can influence shelling spots.

Meeting the Guests

Around 7:00 AM, our guests start to arrive. It’s always exciting to meet new people and share in their anticipation for the day’s adventure. We begin with a brief orientation, where I introduce myself and provide an overview of what to expect. I emphasize the importance of ethical shelling practices, reminding everyone to only collect empty shells and to respect the wildlife and natural habitats we’ll encounter.

Our tours attract a diverse group of shelling enthusiasts, from seasoned collectors to families experiencing shelling for the first time. Regardless of their experience level, my goal is to ensure everyone has a memorable and educational experience.

Setting Off on the Adventure

By 7:30 AM, we’re ready to set off. The ride through the Ten Thousand Islands is always breathtaking. As we navigate through mangrove tunnels and past secluded beaches, I share information about the unique ecosystem of the Everglades. The Ten Thousand Islands are a dynamic environment where freshwater from the Everglades mixes with saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico, creating a rich habitat for a wide variety of marine life.

The Fascinating Mangrove Forests

Mangroves are an integral part of this ecosystem. These salt-tolerant trees provide critical habitat for many species of fish, birds, and invertebrates. Their complex root systems help stabilize the coastline, preventing erosion and providing a nursery for juvenile marine animals. As we glide past these forests, I point out the different types of mangroves—red, black, and white—and explain their roles in the ecosystem.

Shelling on Remote Beaches

Our first shelling stop is typically a remote beach that can only be accessed by boat. These secluded spots are often teeming with shells, untouched by the crowds found on more accessible beaches. I guide our guests on what to look for and how to identify various shells. Here are some of the treasures we often find:

Lightning Whelk (Sinistrofulgur sinistrum)

The Lightning Whelk is one of the most iconic shells in the Ten Thousand Islands. It’s unique for its left-handed spiral and striking dark stripes. These gastropods are predators, feeding on bivalves like clams and oysters. I explain to our guests how these fascinating creatures use their strong foot to pry open their prey’s shells.

True Tulip (Fasciolaria tulipa)

The True Tulip is another prized find. With its vibrant colors and intricate patterns, it’s a favorite among collectors. I share interesting facts about their behavior, such as how they prey on other gastropods and their unique reproduction process, where they lay clusters of egg capsules that look like tiny bouquets.

Junonia (Scaphella junonia)

Finding a Junonia is the dream of every sheller. This rare shell is known for its beautiful spotted pattern and elegant shape. Junonias live in deep waters, and their shells are only washed ashore during strong storms. When someone finds a Junonia, it’s cause for celebration!

Exploring the Marine Life

Shelling is just one part of our adventure. The Ten Thousand Islands are home to an incredible diversity of marine life, and I love introducing our guests to this underwater world. We often encounter dolphins, manatees, and a variety of seabirds. I explain how these animals are adapted to their environment and the important roles they play in the ecosystem.

Dolphins and Manatees

Dolphins are a common sight, and their playful behavior always delights our guests. I share insights into their social structures and hunting techniques. Manatees, or sea cows, are more elusive but equally fascinating. These gentle giants graze on seagrass and play a crucial role in maintaining healthy underwater meadows.


The islands are also a haven for birdwatchers. We see a variety of species, including pelicans, ospreys, and herons. I point out the distinctive features of each bird and discuss their feeding habits and migration patterns.

Midday Break and Lunch

Around noon, we take a break on one of the islands for lunch. This is a great time for our guests to relax, take in the stunning scenery, and share stories about their finds. I use this time to answer any questions they might have and to provide more detailed information about the shells they’ve collected.

Afternoon Adventures

After lunch, we continue our shelling expedition. The afternoon is often when we find the most treasures, as the tides change and reveal new shells. I guide our guests to different spots, including shallow sandbars and hidden coves, where the shelling is particularly fruitful.

Shell Identification and Education

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is helping guests identify their finds. I carry a reference guide and use it to teach them about the different species. For example, I show them how to distinguish between the True Tulip and the Banded Tulip by looking at the pattern and color of the shells. I also explain the ecological significance of each species and their role in the marine food web.

Returning to the Dock

As the day comes to an end, we head back to the dock. The ride back is a time for reflection and celebration. Our guests often share their favorite moments and proudly display their best finds. I love seeing the joy and excitement on their faces, knowing that I’ve helped create lasting memories.

Wrapping Up the Day

Back at the dock, we wrap up with a final debrief. I remind our guests to follow ethical shelling practices and to continue learning about and respecting the marine environment. I also encourage them to check out our YouTube channel for more tips and insights into shelling in the Ten Thousand Islands.


Being a shelling tour guide with Treasure Seekers Shell Tours is more than just a job—it’s a passion. Every day is an opportunity to share my love for the ocean and its treasures with others. If you’re a shelling enthusiast or simply looking for a unique adventure, the Ten Thousand Islands are a must-visit destination. Join us on a tour and discover the beauty and wonder of this incredible ecosystem.

For more information about shelling in the Ten Thousand Islands with Treasure Seekers Shell Tours, check out our YouTube channel: Top 5 Tips for Summer Shelling in Southwest Florida: Discover Hidden Treasures.

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