- What if I don’t know how to paddle a kayak?
Introductory kayak paddling instructions and a safety talk are provided by a trained guide prior to launching the kayaks. All necessary paddling equipment is provided to you.
- Where do we meet for a tour?
Our tours meet at different locations. Specific meeting locations and maps are provided once you’ve purchased your tickets online or over the phone. Your Booking Confirmation email contains hot links for Google Maps and Apple Maps, so you can use a smartphone to navigate to the launch spot. You can also print directions from your Booking Confirmation email or your tour’s description page.
- What if I want to cancel my booking or decide not to show up?
Tickets are refundable or can be rescheduled up to 24 hours before the tour. We plan for the number of guides and boats needed based on advance reservations and may turn away people if the tour fills up. Please do not sign up members of your party if you do not think that they will attend. We may cancel tours at our discretion with no charge to you in the event of bad weather or other circumstances.
- Do you take credit cards?
Yes. Advance purchase is required and tickets can be purchased through our website or by phone with a Visa, MasterCard, or American Express card. In order to maximize getting the day and time you prefer, please book early.
- What should I wear?
Brimmed hats, caps, or sun visors and footwear that you do not mind getting wet. Sneakers, sandals, or surf slippers are appropriate. You may want to be prepared to swim in warmer months. If the weather will be cooler in the morning, then dress in layers since it can warm up rapidly during the day. If it will be cold and windy, gloves and a windbreaker are a good idea. The Sandy Island Tour has the opportunity to wade through a really amazing bog with carnivorous plants, so flip flops are not a good choice there.
- What should I bring?
You should bring a strap for any glasses, sunscreen, bug repellent, waterproof or disposable camera in a zip lock bag, a sack lunch or snacks, and plenty of liquids to drink such as bottled water. There is room for a soft-sided or small 6-pack type cooler in your kayak. Be sure to bring any personal emergency medications, e.g. for allergies, that you may require. Leave valuables that you do not want to risk dropping into the water locked up in your car or at home. You can lock your car keys in our truck to keep them dry while you paddle.
- Will my young children enjoy this?
There are no age limits for children. We expect parents to decide whether their children will be entertained enough to last the duration of the tour. We do have youth-sized kayaks that can be great for enthusiastic kids under 5 ft. tall and under 100 lbs. This gives them an amazing boost in self-confidence, as they are in charge of their own kayak. Younger children should ride in a tandem (two-person) kayak with a parent to help with the paddling. Some of our tandem kayaks also accommodate a jump seat so that a very young child can ride with both parents in the same boat. Let us know if you need one when you purchase your tickets. We will also ask you to select the appropriate PFD sizes for each child in your party. Putting two children in a tandem kayak is generally a bad idea.
- What about my medical conditions?
If you are concerned about a medical condition that you have, you should consult your physician before participating. Our guides are trained in First Aid and CPR, but they are not qualified to determine whether you should be paddling with a bad back, heart condition, tennis elbow, pregnancy, etc. Moderate physical ability, but no prior kayak paddling experience is necessary to participate.
- Am I too old for this?
People of all ages with a spirit of adventure and an appreciation of nature and history will enjoy paddling the slow-moving waters of the Tidelands of South Carolina. Moderate physical ability, but no prior kayak paddling experience is necessary to participate. We have had guests as old as 92 enjoy our tours, by pairing them with another paddler in a tandem kayak. The Cypress Swamp tours offer the easiest paddling.
- What about bad weather?
Although we do not cancel tours for passing showers, we do not intentionally conduct tours during thunderstorms. If there is a problem anticipated, we will cancel, delay, or reschedule the tour and call you early enough in advance to let you make other plans. You may hear weather forecasters on the radio and television announcing thunderstorms for days in advance. Please do not be alarmed. This is the normal forecast for nearly every day during the summer; go ahead and make your reservations anyway. We have become very adept at checking current weather satellite photos and Doppler weather radar on the Internet in the morning. Although we can never be 100% accurate, we can better assess our local weather than the general statewide alarms that the radio and TV weather broadcasts offer.
- Did you say there are snakes and alligators?
Alligators and snakes, like all wildlife, can be unpredictable, but with some luck, maybe we will see one! As with most wildlife, they would rather not encounter humans. We are not on the alligators’ list of foods, and they are not aggressive towards us. We leave them alone, and they leave us alone. Over 99.9% of the snakes seen on our tours are non-venomous. They are mostly harmless water snakes basking in the sun on branches overhanging the water. The venomous snakes in our area do not climb trees (despite all of the stories). The harmless Brown Water Snake is frequently misidentified as a Cottonmouth/Water Moccasin. This is where most snake stories in our area come from. Our guides are very knowledgeable about snakes, and will often slip out of their kayaks to catch a harmless snake and let interested guests get a closer look. Many of our guests (even kids) choose to hold the snakes, once they realize that they are not aggressive when handled gently. If you do not wish to be anywhere near a snake, just let the guides know. We don’t force snakes on anyone.
- What kind of kayaks do you use?
We use stable, Sit-Inside River Kayaks, either solo (for one person) or tandem (for two people), are used on our tours. It is your choice. Some of our tandem kayaks also accommodate a jump seat so that a very young child can ride with both parents in the same boat. Let us know if you need one when you make your reservation. We recommend using solo kayaks unless there is a physical or age limitation preventing a guest from paddling their own boat. We always recommend single kayaks UNLESS one of the guests is too young, too old or has some physical or mental limitation that requires them to go in a tandem kayak with another paddler. Here are some tips for kayak choices:
- Youth kayaks are best for kids 9 years or older AND under 5 feet tall AND under 110 lbs. Some kids are not comfortable being in their own kayak, in which case you go to the next bullet point…
- If someone has a child that is not big enough for a youth kayak, or not comfortable paddling their own kayak, the best solution is to put them in a tandem kayak with an adult. Putting two children alone in a tandem kayak is NOT a good idea.
- A jump seat can be added to a tandem kayak with two adults to allow a toddler to ride between them. This is only for toddlers. A four-year-old will be very unhappy in a jump seat.
- If someone is over 275 lbs., there are two choices
- They can go in a tandem kayak with another person
- They may be more comfortable paddling alone in a tandem kayak with the seat moved to the middle. We have kayaks designed to handle this.
- We do not allow youth boats on our Full Moon Tour or 6-Hour Sandy Island Tour.
- We do not allow canoes on our guided tours. They are more difficult to paddle and slower than kayaks.
- What if I want to go on my own without a guide?
We believe that you will maximize your paddling enjoyment with one of our highly trained Naturalist Kayak EcoTour Guides. They know the area and know the impact of the tide, wind, and current in our area, and they are skilled at spotting our local wildlife.
- What other kayak tours do you have and when?
Naturalist guided kayak tours are regularly scheduled throughout the year, and locations vary weekly depending upon the time of year. 2-hour, 4-hour and 6-hour tours are scheduled year-round in the mornings. 4-hour Summer Full Moon tours are scheduled the week preceding full moon. Evening harbor tours are scheduled April through September. In the spring, summer and fall, a two-hour Huntington Beach State Park tour is scheduled every Monday, March through mid-November. Visit our kayak tours page for planned dates and complete descriptions.
- Can I get a gift certificate for someone?
Yes, you can! Gift certificates make great birthday or holiday presents and they are available for tours or to be used toward a purchase. Call during store hours with your Visa or MasterCard ready and we can mail it to you or the recipient. There is no expiration date for purchased gift certificates, and the recipient can use it at any time.
- Can I bring my dog along on your kayak tour?
Unfortunately, as much as we like dogs, we cannot allow dogs on our guided tours for insurance reasons.
- Can I bring my own kayak?
We give a small discount for guests who want to bring their own kayaks. Kayaks should be at least 10 feet long. Shorter boats will have trouble keeping up with the tour.
- What is the best tour?
What to Expect by Season:
In the Spring, the Cypress Swamp and Sandy Island really come alive with wildlife. This is the best time to experience them. Critters like snakes, alligators, turtles and frogs are more active. Feathered friends are nesting and hunting to feed their young. Native flowering plants like Wild Azaleas, Dogwoods, and Yellow Jessamine are blooming.
During the Summer, the Salt Marsh wildlife increases while the Cypress Swamp wildlife decreases a bit. Summer in the Salt Marsh is when we see an abundance of Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, and more marine life with the possibility of seeing dolphins and sea turtles. The Cypress Swamp is still very beautiful, and we may see alligators, but many of the snakes tend to move deeper into the woods to escape the heat. The Cypress Swamp is a bit cooler and is the easiest tour to paddle in hot weather.
With that being said, we encourage people to do the Early Bird and evening tours Salt Marsh Tours to avoid the worst of the heat in July and August. In hot summer weather, we do not recommend 6-hour tours at all. It is simply too hot to spend that much time on the water.
In the Fall, the wildlife will start to improve in the Cypress Swamp again, and the Salt Marsh will continue with good wildlife including Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, and the possibility of seeing dolphins and sea turtles.
In Winter, the Cypress Swamp and Sandy Island will be less abundant with wildlife, but the Salt Marsh gains some very interesting winter bird visitors. The 4-Hour Salt Marsh Tour in particular, can get an amazing variety of birds out near the jetties in the winter.
- Will I tip over?
The main cause of tipping over is people clowning around in the kayaks. If you sit in your seat and paddle, you should not tip over. If you lean out over the water, you could tip over. If you stand up in your kayak, you will almost certainly tip over. Don’t do this. If you manage to tip over, our guides are trained to quickly get you safely back in your kayak.