The past one and a half years have been quite the rollercoaster due to the COVID-19 induced pandemic. Tarpon Bay Explorers was closed completely for nearly 2 months in spring of 2020. Upon reopening in May 2020, only rentals were available. Guided tours eventually reopened with restrictions including reduced capacities, safety protocols and social distancing measures integrated into tour routines. The island’s visitation, along with tour demand, also ebbed. To cope with the pandemic’s consequences, Tarpon Bay Explorers’ Breakfast Cruises were put on hold. The company’s Touch Tanks were reformed into hands-off aquarium presentations where visitors could no longer handle wildlife living amongst the tanks and social distancing needed to be observed.

As the country begins to reopen, the Tarpon Bay Explorers family is happy to announce that Breakfast Cruises and the Touch Tanks are back to normal! Breakfast Cruises are scheduled for Wednesdays at 8:30am. Just like in years past, the first hour of the tour is the boat ride which cruises around the bay in pursuit of wildlife like birds, manatee, dolphin and more. A continental style breakfast is provided while visitors search for wildlife. Freshly made doughnuts from Bailey’s General Store are provided along with coffee, tea or OJ to drink. The last half hour is spent at the Touch Tanks where guests will get a hands-on experience to learn about wildlife that lives on the bottom of the bay. “We are excited to get all of our tours up and running again,” elated General Manager and part-owner, Wendy Schnapp. “I think we all need a little bit of normalcy back in our daily routine and it seems like we are getting there one step at a time,” commented Schnapp.

The Touch Tanks run in conjunction with all of the Explorers’ cruise programs. A designated Touch Tank Program is schedule at 3:30pm (please call the gift shop for up-to-date schedule, 239-472-8900). Visitors will enjoy learning about wildlife that lives at the bottom of the estuary such as crustaceans, sea stars, live shells and more.

Tarpon Bay Explorers is the concession for the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The Explorers team offers educational guided tours along with recreational activities such as kayaks, SUP, bikes, pontoon boats and more. Guided tours, like the Breakfast Cruise, require reservations whereas rentals (except Pontoon Boats) are on a first come, first serve basis. Tarpon Bay Explorers also has a nature-themed gift shop on site where people can make reservations and gather further information. Visitors can also call the shop at 239-472-8900 or visit the website for more information. As a partner with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Tarpon Bay Explorers give 12% back to National Wildlife Refuges across the country.