Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise With Barrier Island Eco Tours--A Relaxing Cruise To A Timeless Charleston Wonder

There were storms in the area, but from my experience, the sun always shines on the Isle of Palms. As I crossed the Daniel Island bridge, I could see the rain falling out over Charleston, but looking to the direction of the IOP my belief was confirmed--blue skies filled the horizon. I was traveling to the Isle of Palms Marina where I would board Barrier Island Eco Tours 49 passenger pontoon boat called the Caretta for a two and a half hour Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise to Capers Island. It was scheduled to leave dock at 6:00 pm.

Upon my arrival, I checked in at Eco Tour's booth, received my parking pass and picked up a couple of snacks to take on the cruise. Since it was 5:30 pm, I had an half hour to kill. While I awaited the signal to board, I sat on the red stained, wooden deck of the market and soaked in the late-afternoon marina atmosphere and humid, salty air of this popular backwater gathering place overlooking Morgan Creek. From the size of the gathering and awaiting crowd, it was going to be a full cruise.

As we boarded the Caretta, Captain Mike warmly greeted me and every person that crossed the gang plank. I took an outside seat along the rails for optimum picture taking and was joined by two other cruisers. The declining sun was still quit hot. As the boat gently rocked in the creek's ebbing current, the tour's naturalist, Sarah, welcomed everyone aboard. She delivered some opening words and ended the introductions with, "So, let's get the air conditioning going." With that said, Captain Mike fired up the engines and we eased away from the docks. The slight back water breeze and forward motion of the boat offered a welcomed cooling reprieve.

As we slowly motored in the no-wake zone, everyone on board one-by-one shared their places of origin with Germany the farthest. Sarah talked about the meaning of a tidal creek and how the level of Charleston's estuaries rise and lower on an average of six feet and added, "It does that twice in a twenty-four hour period."

Our first stop, after leaving the no-wake zone, was a nearby tributary where Sarah employed the assistance of the younger cruisers in pulling up some of Eco Tours' crab traps marked by floating buoys. Each of them enthusiastically took hold of the attached rope and dragged the trap on board. The first trap came up empty, except for two spade fish. It seemed the crabs discovered a way of escape through a damaged section of the cage to freedom. However, the second trap offered up the desired prize. She pointed out the various names people identify the captured crab by, but in South Carolina, it is known as the blue crab--a Charleston delicacy. After a few facts about It habits and identifying its sex, we headed to the open waters of a area called the Shark Hole--a deep hole, approximately 90 feet, scoured out by the constant current flowing in and out of the Atlantic channel between Dewees Island and the IOP.

Sarah asked what wildlife we hoped to see on our way to Capers Island, and of course dolphin, the bottlenose variety, was on top of the list. After all, this was a dolphin discovery cruise. She related some particulars about the dolphin. For example, South Carolina estuaries are the only place you can view the feeding frenzy called strand-feeding. One other interesting tidbit I learned from her informative narrative was that the dolphin is a highly protected marine species in South Carolina. You are not permitted to feed, catch, or hold a dolphin in captivity. Not even the South Carolina Aquarium display dolphins in their numerous exhibits. "In the wild, they are neither afraid of you or interested in you," she stated.

"Other wildlife you may see on our way to Capers is the loggerhead turtle, the opportunistic brown pelican--known for diving face first into the water to scoop up its dinner or patiently waiting for the dolphin to stir up some lunch, and a variety of other birds," Sarah informed. We scanned the sparkling waters for something to break the surface of the water. The boats expert dolphin-spotter named Hobbs, a mixed breed dog, alerted the group, but the sighting was brief. It was now time to leave the Shark Hole and head to Capers. With a thrust of the engines and spray of salty water in my face, we headed to the south-end of the island.

It was low tide. The sand that is usually covered by water was now exposed making the beach more expansive. The subtle rays of the declining sun washing over the island's sandy beachhead gave the terrain a soft glow. Not too far in the distance, the grayed timber of Boneyard Beach rose out of the sand like bleached skeletons left over from the age of the dinosaurs. The dead trees are a testimony to the Atlantic Ocean's relentless erosive power. I walked under their barren branches and photographed their fallen monarchs. The walk back to the Caretta was even more inspiring. Posing on the horizon, brushed over with the orange tint of the skylines changing evening palette, the darkened silhouette of the Caretta awaited our presence for a relaxing ride back to the Morgan Creek docks to the music and panorama of the living IOP estuary.

Unless you own a boat or know someone who does, some of Charleston's more secluded natural wonders are out of reach. Barrier Island Eco Tours Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise to Capers offers you the opportunity to see one of them firsthand. The cruise aboard their Caretta is a relaxing evening jaunt to one of Charleston's most beguiling and picturesque barrier Islands. While you are enjoying the scenery, the naturalist on board shares with you their knowledge of what you are observing giving you a greater appreciation for the wildlife and the estuaries that make Charleston the number one destination in the world. Our naturalist for the evening delivered an informative presentation laced with a good balance of humor and included the younger ones in the activities. Somewhat disappointing, we did not see much in the way of dolphin activity. Possibly, it was the low tide, but that is the nature of things when it comes to wildlife in their natural habitats. It is a matter of timing. Capers Island did not disappoint. The low tide and setting sun enhanced the timeless beauty of the island's Boneyard Beach.

Offered Sunday-Friday from 6:00-8:30pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Offered Sunday, Wednesday and Friday year round. Times vary with sunset.

$36 for adults, $26 for children 12 and under, 2 and under are free
Purchase tickets

Barrier Island Eco-Tours 50 41st Avenue
Isle of Palms, SC

1 comment:

Reservations said...

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