It’s the most wonderful time of the year! If it were not for the decorations, it would be hard to tell when the holiday season is here on Sanibel. Twinkling lights line business doors and roofs. The city puts up the tunnel of lights on the bike path next to the Community House park and playground. This upcoming holiday season will be different than years before. Recovery continues to be a work in progress on our barrier islands and progress is being made one day at a time. The Explorer family is excited to welcome visitors returning to the islands to spend time in the warmth with friends and family during the holiday season. 

Before Hurricane Ian, Tarpon Bay Explorers would be open for business everyday except Christmas. Severely reduced demand and resulting staff altered the concession’s availability this year. But, an optimistic forecast in demand around the holidays encouraged the Explorers team to alter their offerings to accommodate the December holiday crowd. Tarpon Bay Explorers will change their schedule starting the day after christmas. The concession will be open everyday from Tuesday December 26th to Saturday December 30th. There will be Kayak Trail Tours everyday within that stretch at 10am (reservations recommended). Tram Tours are scheduled on Tuesday the 26th and Thursday the 28th at 10am and 1pm (reservations also recommended).

“The holidays have always been a special time on the islands,” mentioned Adam Sauerland, General Manager of Tarpon Bay Explorers and island resident for the past 11 years. “Businesses are staying resilient. One by one, things are starting to reopen. A hotel here, a restaurant there. Even a make-shift luminary was held for a couple weekends.Though this year will be a little different, we can already sense that people want and will return for the holiday season. We hope that trend continues and we see bumps in demand so we can add more tours or even be open more days throughout the week when we get into season,” explained Sauerland.

Tarpon Bay Explorers is the concession to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The company offers recreation activities including guided tours and paddlecraft rentals for the Refuge. Kayak and Paddleboard rentals are available on a first come, first serve basis between the hours of 8am-3pm, returning by 4:45pm on MWFSat, except for the week after Christmas when they are open from Tuesday the 26th to Saturday the 30th. For Guided Kayak and Tram Tours, reservations are recommended. Reservations and more information can be made on their website at Reservations for Hobie Fishing Kayaks can be made by calling the gift shop at 239-472-8900. Tarpon Bay Explorers is located at 900 Tarpon Bay Rd (as far north down Tarpon Bay road as you can go) and hosts a wonderful nature-themed gift shop where you can start crossing off holiday gifts from your to-do list.