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.


 ~ Is the kayak trail open? ~


Yes! Commodore Creek is open and completely accessible. To our pleasant surprise, the kayak trail was almost completely accessible upon our first attempt kayaking through after the storm. It took a small team two trips into the trail to do some trimming of precarious branches to make the trail safe. Even the signs that have numbers and arrows all remained intact. The only exception was marker 13 that was dislodged and floated back into the mangrove roots (has since been put back into place).


 ~ Is the gift shop open? ~


Sure is! If we are renting kayaks, the gift shop will always be open. We are lucky that the building we operate out of is elevated. The storm blew out one door, but all the merchandise inside was unharmed. We think many can relate to a scene of a destroyed, washed out mess below their building, but the second level looks like nothing happened at all.


~ Can you launch your own equipment? ~


Yes. People can launch their own non-motorized and motorized (up to 22’) vessels from our location on the days we are open (MWFSAT, 8am-3pm). All equipment must be back no later than 4:30pm. The cost is $7 + tax per non motorized vessel and $20 + tax per motorized vessel (excluding jet skis). Paperwork is filled out in the giftshop beforehand and either a D.L. or C.C. information is held while you are on the water.


~ Are the manatees still around? ~


Yes! We see manatees almost on a daily basis right from our gift shop. They have been exhibiting normal behavior from what we can see. They are even happy enough to ‘ practice passing their genes down’ to the next generation (always an interesting spectacle to witness). There are also still seagrass beds for them to feed on in the bay.

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