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a boat captain drives his boat through open waters

Brian Holaway – Guided By the Outdoors

Somewhere in a small western Nebraska town, young Brian Holaway became fascinated by the work of Jacques Cousteau. “I grew up on a lake, got certified in scuba diving when I was 12 and just wanted to live on an island.”

He landed up as a first mate at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island. For more than 30 years he’s been running Captain Brian on the Water, a private eco-tour company out of McCarthy’s Marina on Captiva. As a Florida Master Naturalist, he leads small groups to the outer islands — such as Cabbage Key and North Captiva — for specialized activities like bird-watching, collecting seashells, photography, or simply exploring. “Very close to Fort Myers are these beautiful, pristine barrier islands. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were in the Caribbean. It’s a very special place with a lot of wildlife, seashells and isolated areas.

The beauty of his work, Captain Brian says, is that there’s always something new and different to see and experience: “Oftentimes we’ll see manatees and dolphins along the way; we’ll see ospreys, bald eagles and all different kinds of wading birds.”

Searching for seashells is a centuries-old tradition here, and he tends to walk side-by-side with guests to help collect: “The early Native Americans that lived here, the Calusa, were the original seashell collectors,” he explains. “We have almost 400 different species of seashells, and people come from all over to collect them. Recently I was with a longtime client who found a rare, perfect Scotch bonnet seashell. My favorite is a bivalve, also known as a lion’s paw.”

When he’s not on the water, Captain Brian still finds himself exploring and observing. From strolling the boardwalk in Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve to exploring the Randell Research Center at Pineland, he rarely strays far from nature.

“My Fort Myers is a very unique place, a very special place, with a lot of wildlife, seashells, and just very, very nice isolated areas.”