Since Hurricane Ian, Tarpon Bay Explorers has been operating under a limited capacity. Visitation to the island is low as recovery continues. Much of the Explorers’ equipment was totalled. The company also had to lay off over 30 employees. Fast forward seventeen months after the storm, the concession to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is very excited to announce that they have acquired enough resources to provide their ever popular Sunset Rookery Paddle on four dates in March into early April: March 13th, 20th & 27th and April 3rd.

“We regularly get comments from visitors about how much they loved that tour and enjoyed the birds flying back to the rookery island,” said Adam Sauerland, General Manager of Tarpon Bay Explorers. “It’s without a doubt one of the more beautiful settings on the island during sunset so we are excited to be able to bring it back temporarily,” commented Sauerland.

The Sunset Rookery Paddle is truly a birders’ delight. As the sun goes down, dozens of birds swoop onto Tarpon Bay’s Rookery Islands to roost for the night. This paddle is a truly unique experience. The Rookery Islands provide an evening hangout for over a dozen different species of birds including: brown pelicans, egrets, herons, ibis, and cormorants. An experienced naturalist leads the way and discusses local flora and fauna of Tarpon Bay. The excursion is bird-oriented, but the paddle travels through the open waters of Tarpon Bay giving paddlers a good chance to also see dolphins or manatees too. The return of the birds along with Sanibel’s famous sunset makes the tour a highlight of anyone’s visit to the area. This excursion is an open-water paddle and as a result, all paddlers must be experienced. The tour duration is approximately 2-2.5 hours. RESERVATIONS RECOMMENDED. The cost is $50 per adult and $45 per child (8 years or older recommended). Reservations can be made online at or by calling the Explorers’ gift shop during their MWFSAT operating hours between 8am-5pm. 

Tarpon Bay Explorers is the concessionaire to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The company offers informative tours and recreational activities for the refuge. A portion of their proceeds goes back into the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the care and protection of wildlife refuges across the nation.