Hurricane Ian changed our beloved Sanibel island forever. Those of us that have the privilege of working, living or visiting this island know how special the island is. The natural spaces, special places, unique locals and its laid back charm cultivate a paradise where all people, locals and visitors, create memories that last a lifetime. Unfortunately, many of those who usually visit are unable due to the storm’s destruction of  Sanibel’s accommodations. As a result, patrons want to know what is going on and have a myriad of questions about the institutions that they frequented. Tarpon Bay Explorers has experienced a lot of these questions about not only Tarpon Bay, but the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the island in general. Below are some frequently asked questions and our answers to help anyone and everyone to stay informed.


 ~ What happened to the aquariums? ~


Unfortunately, the aquariums were completely destroyed. Not only the two large open aquariums, but also the glass aquariums. Oddly enough, many of the posters attached to the lattice held on and are still hanging down there. In addition to the posters, the dolphin skeleton and sea turtle carapace (i.e. shell) did survive. We also are asked frequently if the animals in the tank survived. The wildlife that we are permitted to hold in the aquariums for a short period of time were all released before the storm. We have a hurricane protocol that we follow and that is part of the procedure.


~ Do we have live bait? ~


We do not have live bait. Our bait tanks and its complex plumbing and filtration systems were busted, displaced or destroyed. We do not plan on selling bait until we replenish our pontoon fleet. We have been telling visitors to go to Whitney’s Bait and Tackle to get live bait. Our gift shop does sell basic tackle items such as lures, hooks, weights, pliers, floats and leader. When we resume selling bait, we will be sure to make an announcement.


~ Are the mangroves going to recover? ~


It will take some time for the mangroves to recover. The thinking is that there will be a better estimate of tree mortality and the rate of their recovery after spring/summer, which is their optimal growing season. There is mortality and possibly more mortality to come due to delayed stressors such as accretion of sediments, accumulated sulfides, increased periods of inundation and increased salt levels. But, the overall message scientists want to convey is that mangroves are very resilient plants and have evolved to combat severe storm events, such as Ian. Mangroves have prepared for these events by dropping their ‘mangrove babies’ or propagules as they are officially called. Understories of sapling mangroves survived and are ready to grow and eventually replace adult mangrove trees that were destroyed throughout the majority of mangrove forests on the island. Recovery may also be delayed as surviving trees may put more energy into repairs of their own structural damage instead of investing energy into creating propagules. Time estimates for recovery range from 5-25 years depending on the area’s damage and post hurricane conditions that help or hinder their recovery along with possible future storm events.

-This answer was assisted by SCCF and USFWS scientists –


We hope these FAQs and answers help you stay in touch with us and stay connected to the island. If you have any questions for the Explorer family feel free to call at 239-472-8900, message us on social media or email us at [email protected]. Rentals and the gift shop are open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8am-5pm, rentals stop at 3pm. Guided Kayak Tours are offered only on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10am and reservations are recommended. Tram Tours are also offered on Thursdays at 10am and 1pm at the address 1 Wildlife Drive. Reservations are also recommended for the Tram Tour. Reservations and general information can be found online at