Last Saturday, mother nature could not have painted a better picture for the members of ‘My Autism Connection’. Naturalist, Donna Yetsko, lead the group through Tarpon Bay’s mangrove trail called Commodore Creek. A lower tide and calm winds made for a great time and even greater wildlife sightings.

My Autism Connection is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for individuals with Asperger’s and high-functioning Autism within the Autism Spectrum Disorder to develop skills towards independence in the community while building healthy relationships. “They (Tarpon Bay Explorers) always create an unforgettable experience,” expressed Program Coordinator, Erica Kanter. “We greatly appreciate them taking the time to support our organization and make our days a little brighter,” elated Kanter.

The trip started off with Donna painting the scene. Yetsko explained to the group where they were and where they were going to go. She explained that “Ding” Darling is a National Wildlife Refuge that emphasizes protecting the wildlife and that Commodore Creek is a water trail that carves through a mangrove forest. Donna also went over kayaking basics to ensure that everyone was comfortable operating their kayaks. After the intro, the group hopped in the kayaks and leisurely paddled into the bay. “It was an incredible day,” remarked Yetsko. “The entire group was really interested in sharing their knowledge of the wildlife and were fascinated in the methodology to identify each bird and their nuances,” said Yetsko. The sightings were tremendous. The group saw usual suspects such as tri-colored herons and yellow-crowned night herons but were also able to see other specie not as commonly seen like bald eagles, red shouldered hawks and the ever-popular roseate spoonbill. “We’ve worked with My Autism Connection before and we really enjoy having them out. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and you only see smiling faces,” commented General Manager & co-owner Wendy Schnapp.

Tarpon Bay Explorers is the concession to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The company provides educational and recreational opportunities within the refuge and 12% of what is taken in is given back to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the care and protection of refuges around the U.S. Feel free to call Tarpon Bay Explorers for tour reservations or more information at 239-472-8900. You can also visit their website at They are open every day from 8am-5pm.