Paddle With the Dolphins

Reservations required if you really want to see food . . .

Everybody knows Shem Creek is a popular venue for seafood down Charleston way. The parking lots are always full. It’s known too for its picturesque shrimp trawlers. But check out Shem Creek proper and you’ll see it’s got more than trawlers and catamarans moored there. You’ll see paddlers in brightly colored kayaks gliding by. You’ll see intrepid souls paddling by, upright on paddleboards. Well, why not join them and paddle with the dolphins, as a motto for Nature Adventures Outfitters proclaims.

Shem Creek provides a good launch point for exploring Charleston Harbor and tidal marshes. Paddling out of Shem Creek gives kayakers a chance to ride the tides and see wildlife, including dolphins. Yes, you literally can paddle with the dolphins. While shore birds are common, surprises include manatee and sea turtles. Views of man’s creations include Castle Pinckney, Patriots Point, Ravenel Bridge, Fort Sumter and the Sullivan’s Island lighthouse. Don’t be surprised if a vee of eastern brown pelicans glides right over you.

Why?

Because kayaking is a stealthy way to observe wildlife. Sitting low in the water, devoid of your human profile, you’re at one with nature. No noisy gasoline engine announces your approach, nor do fumes. You’ll catch a lot of wildlife off guard. Paddle quietly and smoothly and you’ll navigate a place flooded with beauty and wildlife. While seeing wading birds is common, you just might see dolphins, manatee and sea turtles as well. Nature watching is one of kayaking’s true joys. Another perk is exercise.

You’ll be in capable hands. Guides know their stuff. Guides are university degreed or are certified master naturalists in Biology/Ecology and other related fields. They understand, too, the need to protect our environment. Safety is emphasized at all times. Many guides hold certifications in First Aid / CPR / Lifeguard, Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Responder, NOLS, Master Naturalist and more, as well as American Canoe Association and British Canoe Union (kayak) certifications.

Nothing beats a day on the brine seeing classic Charleston landmarks and wildlife to boot. Expect to hear a lot of shouts: “Look at that dolphin!” “Wow, was that a manatee?” Plan a trip when the tide is high to get the biggest bang for your bucks. Walk-up adventurers are welcome but it’s best to plan an excursion before making the 147-mile trip to Shem Creek. Contact Nature Adventure Outfitters and get the details. You can rent kayaks, canoes and paddleboards and explore on your own or book a family tour. Beginners and ages 4 and up are welcome. The outfitters hold daily tours of two hours, three hours or full day and overnight expeditions. Check out their website. You can book your adventure online. And if you paddle up a good appetite, you don’t have to drive anywhere. You’ll be surrounded by restaurants aplenty.

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]