By Ann Shields
August 12, 2011

Scavenger hunts built around a destination’s unique characteristics are quickly becoming my favorite trend in family travel. Engaging a kid in something beyond the hotel swimming pool is a sneaky way to keep them learning while on vacation and to cultivate passionate travelers and fun travel companions.

Sarah Khan reported this month about Colonial Williamsburg’s current patriot/spy game that has young visitors in blue neckerchiefs burning up the cobblestones. Now there’s a new way to play at a family destination.

South Seas Island Resort, a childhood fave of mine on tiny Captiva Island in Florida, inaugurated their own iSpy scavenger hunt for guests this summer. The 330-acre resort provides a perfect hunting ground for budding naturalists, who follow a map for clues around the beaches, lawns, marina, golf course, pools, and bayou.

The map leads players to ‘spy’ some of the rich Florida wildlife: manatees, seashells, pelicans, ibis, crabs, dolphins, and tortoises. They even get to collect one of those glorious Gulf Coast sunsets. With each accomplishment checked off their iSpy map, participants collect a different colored Discover Band to wear around their wrist and are soon sporting an impressive rainbow-colored gauntlet. Those who complete the challenge get their names added to an iSpy Wall of Fame at resort.

Besides a sense of accomplishment and cool bracelets, kids will come away with a better understanding of an island that provides a nesting place for migratory birds, is a mecca for shell hunters, and which harbors rich diversity in its mangrove forests, beaches, and seagrass beds. Not bad for a few days’ off school.

For more information about the iSpy Scavenger Hunt, please visit South Seas Island Resort, or call (888) 222-7848.

Ann Shields is a senior online editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo and map courtesy of South Seas Island Resort.