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 is there to do on the Island? ~
Though this may seem like an odd question to ask a company who provides fun things to do, we get this question often. There are two huge attractions for people to come to Sanibel: 1) Beaches and 2) “Ding” Darling. We often tell people that currently, all of Sanibel’s beaches are open, safe and beautiful as ever. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has been open since April 4th, which includes Wildlife Drive and the Visitor’s & Education Center (both closed on Fridays). Tarpon Bay Explorers has been open since February 1st providing kayaking tours and rentals, paddleboard rentals, Tram Tours and our nature-themed gift shop. But, beyond these two attractions, there are other things to do as well. There are bike rentals available throughout the island including Billy’s Bike Rentals or Finnimores. There are many restaurants open as well, ranging from casual eateries like Great White Grille, Doc Fords, Mudbugs, Tutti Pazzi & Sanibel Grille to upscale dining like Bleu Rendezvous, Traders & Il Cielo. We often refer inquirers to the Chamber of Commerce’s website that provides an interactive map of all businesses that are currently open. The interactive map is a great tool that allows visitors to narrow down open businesses and places pending on their interests and needs.
~ How much flooding did Tarpon Bay get? ~
Tarpon Bay staff saw water lines that ranged from 5.5 feet to 6 feet underneath their nature-themed gift shop. The gift shop itself stands about 12.5 feet above sea level. We have drawn a chalk line on one of our cement pilings to show visitors Ian’s surge when they come and frequently ask that question. “Ding” Darling Refuge staff recently provided Tarpon Bay Explorers with a sign that compares the storm surges of Hurricane Ian and another strong Hurricane that occurred on October 15th, 1873. Hurricane Ian’s highest recorded flood crested at 13.09 feet above sea level, whereas the hurricane in 1873 had a flood that crested at 14 feet above sea level.
~ When will the island get back to normal? ~
The honest answer is, we don’t quite know. There are many things we hear through the grapevine, but there is no way of knowing exactly. One giant piece that is missing that will help aid the speed of returning to normalcy are accommodations. The faster hotels, resorts and condos can reopen, the more normal the island will become apparent to visitors, locals and business alike. Businesses and locals are working their hardest in the recovery process which will take a bit more time even though we are 10 months post Hurricane Ian.
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 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 www.tarponbayexplorers.com. Please know that the Explorers will be closed for the month of September (more information to come soon).