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Times of the Islands Magazine


May 01, 2023 03:45PM ● By Ann Marie O'Phelan

Explore the picturesque Tarpon Bay by kayak with Tarpon Bay Explorers.

Whether you’re heading out for a kayak tour, enjoying a few hours jet skiing, paddling a boat, or
riding down a flume, May and June offer the perfect time of year to get wet.
“May is one of my favorite months out of the year. The weather is perfect, not too hot, and not too humid. The waters are warm, which is great for manatee sightings,” says Adam Sauerland, program and education manager at Tarpon Bay Explorers on Sanibel, the licensed concession to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Based on Tarpon Bay, the concession rents kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and pontoons, and conducts daily tours (once operational again, post hurricane).
Besides manatees and dolphins, boaters might also see birds nesting on rookery islands, wading birds, and fish jumping out of the water. “The fishing is fantastic this time of year. It’s a wonderful time of year to visit Sanibel and paddle at Tarpon Bay,” says Sauerland. Among the fish to be found in the bay are snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, grouper, mangrove snapper, pompano,
flounder, sheepshead, and Spanish mackerel.
For those who enjoy a casual cruise through quiet waters, Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers is the place to go. Originally a rock quarry in the 1960s, the park now features 158 acres of freshwater lakes in a picturesque setting where visitors can rent swan pedal boats from Wheel Fun Rentals. Owner Scott Ellington says other boat rentals, such as kayaks, should be operational before long. Wheel Fun also rents bikes for riding the park’s 2.5 miles of trails around the lakes.
Looking for a little more excitement?

The Jet Ski Dolphin Tour takes participants into Estero Bay to view wildlife from jumping dolphins to wading birds. Photo courtesy of BONITA JET SKI & PARASAIL, INC.


Head to Estero Bay and take a Jet Ski Dolphin Tour with Bonita Jet Ski & Parasail. “The tour provides a thrilling and unforgettable experience for everyone
who loves the ocean, nature, and adventure,” says manager Kevin Nobis. After a brief safety orientation with the tour guide, participants set off into the bay where the tour takes them
through mangrove forests and over the seagrass beds, spotting diverse marine life, including manatees, seabirds, and curious and playful dolphins. The tour guide points out the sights and
wildlife and explains the importance of preserving the bay’s fragile ecosystems. “Whether you are a solo traveler, a family with children, or a group of friends, the Jet Ski Dolphin Tour is
an activity everyone can enjoy,” says Nobis.
Bonita Jet Ski & Parasail also offers kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and bicycle rentals, along with parasailing experiences where guests will enjoy a birds-eye view of the gulf coast, including
Barefoot Beach, Estero Bay, Lover’s Key, and Sanibel Island.

Sunsplash in Cape Coral provides water fun of all kinds and for all ages. Photo courtesy of SUNSPLASH FAMILY WATERPARK


For family fun, an exciting new 2023 season has begun at Sunsplash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral. “This is a family must-do when we go to Southwest Florida from Ohio to visit family in early summer each year. My children all love Sunsplash, as it’s a full day of fun. They also have food like pizza, burgers, and beverages, so we make a full day of it,” says visitor Jenny Monroe.
The park officially opened for the season March 18, and plans to stay open through Thanksgiving weekend, its longest season ever. It is also extending its operating hours on select summer
nights. The park offers choices for all levels of thrill seekers, from the gentle quarter-mile Main Stream River Tube Ride that winds its way around the park, to the tall and exhilarating Terror Tube, to Pirate’s Cove for young adventurers who love to slide and enjoy blasters, gushers, and geysers.
Plus, the park has added a special events lineup throughout the entire season, says chief marketing officer Ron McKenzie. Upcoming events include Mother’s Day Weekend Celebration May 13-14, featuring free entry, a special Hawaiian-themed gift, and specially priced “Momosas.” The Memorial Day Weekend Celebration May 27-29 offers a special thank you by offering one free admission ticket for all active and retired military members (with valid military ID). Dad gets his special weekend June 17-18 with free entry and specially priced drinks at the Man Cave. A nice, cool way to start the summer.

Bonita Jet Ski & Parasail
27890 Hickory Blvd., Bonita Springs

Sunsplash Family Waterpark
400 W. Lake Kennedy Drive, Cape Coral

Tarpon Bay Explorers
900 Tarpon Bay Road, Sanibel

Wheel Fun Rentals
Lakes Regional Park, 7330 Gladiolus Drive, Fort Myers

Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.