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Spend the day at Tarpon Bay Explorers

By Staff | May 3, 2017

Tarpon Bay Explorers Assistant Manager Adam Sauerland gives a tank talk before their nature and sealife cruise. ASHLEY GOODMAN

As season is coming to a halt, now is the best time to enjoy what Tarpon Bay Explorers has to offer.

General manager and co-owner of Tarpon Bay Explorers Wendy Schnapp said that during the summer one of the main things that people love to come and see are the manatees.

“They’re here most of the year, but they’re here all the time when it’s warm. In the wintertime when we have cold snaps, they will leave the bay temporarily and go to the power plant but throughout the summer months they’re pretty much out here every day. So if you have enough time and patience and you’ve done enough activities, you should be able to spot them. There’s about 950 acres of water out here and there’s always manatees somewhere in it,” Schnapp said.

As far as rentals, she finds that kayaks tend to be the most popular during the summertime.

“It’s the biggest part of our business. It has a lot to do with the fact that it’s easy, it’s flat water, it’s a stable boat and it’s family friendly,” Schanpp said.

Guests get ready to take off on a guided cruise around the bay. ASHLEY GOODMAN

Kayak rentals are $12.50 an hour for a single and $16.50 for a double. There is a two-hour minimum. Kayak trail tours are also available as well. The trail tours are a great way to learn more about Commodore Creek and its surrounding habitat. An added benefit of the trail tours is that paddlers are allowed to keep the kayak for the remainder of the day free of charge. Trail tours are $30 for adults and $20 for children.

Schnapp said another popular rental are the stand-up paddleboards which were added about five years ago.

“They’ve really taken off. Obviously, you have to have a certain amount of balance to do it but we have great beginner boards and we have lessons that teach people how to learn to get up and stand up and be comfortable then they can have more fun with turning and things like that. For the paddleboarding, you do have to be 13-years-old,” Schnapp said.

Beginner standup paddleboards are $25 an hour, intermediate paddleboards are $35 an hour. Each additional hour is $10. Tarpon Bay Explorers also offers a standup paddleboard tour for all skill levels. The tour lasts approximately 1- 1/2 hours. The cost is $50 per person.

Sunset rookery paddle tours are also available. The tours are a perfect way for guests to see brown pelicans, egrets, herons, ibis and cormorants up close. There is also a good chance to see dolphin or manatee. Sunset rookery paddle tours are offered everyday from 5:45 to 8 p.m. The cost is $40 for adults and $25 for children.

In addition to kayak and boat rentals, Tarpon Bay Explorers offers fishing charters which Schnapp describes as “very family friendly.”

“You stay here in the bay so it’s very calm, protected water. We catch a lot of trout, some redfish, snapper, jacks, mackerel and snook. There’s a lot of variety, it’s a lot of fun. If you go on the charter everything is included – the captain, the boat, the bait, the tackle, the license – it’s the easy way to go,” Schnapp said.

Fishing charters range from $175-250, depending on the amount of people.

For those who would rather do it their own way, pontoon boats are available to rent for fishing or for leisure. Prices for a pontoon rental range from $180-$305. Prices depend on the amount of people and the length of time the boat is being rented for.

The nature and sealife cruise gives guests an up-close look at wildlife. Before the cruise takes off, guests will have the chance to hold and touch sea stars, horseshoe crabs, oysters, shrimp and live shells in their aquariums. The cost is $23 for adults and $15 for children.

“(Admission) always includes the touch tank on all the cruises. It’s a half-hour where the kids get to touch and learn about the different animals and then we go out on the water for an hour or an hour-and-a-half depending on the time of day. Again, there’s a good chance of seeing manatees as well as dolphins and there’s bird nesting islands out there, we have a lot of activity,” Schnapp said.

For a full list of activities and rentals, go to tarponbayexplorers.com or call (239) 472-8900. Tarpon Bay Explorers is located at 900 Tarpon Bay Road. Reservations are recommended for all rentals and activities.