I took a guided sunset kayak cruise through the marshes of Fripp Island, SC. I expected to witness some nature, watch the sun set, and maybe do a little paddling. What I got was really the coolest two hours I’ve spent in a long time!
And a lot of paddling…
I had a quick kayak lesson from our tour guide and naturalist, Jessica. Since I never kayaked before, I paid close attention. You need to be able to read the lettering on the paddle, so it’ll do the job properly. Next, was getting into the kayak. Sit first, then flip your legs into the kayak. (And yes, I wore the life jacket the entire time.)
Now things are precarious. I’m rocking the kayak back and forth pretty good. Jessica suggested sitting crossed-legged. Being 6′ 6″, there isn’t a lot of room for this, but I could barely paddle without wild rocking. Once I managed a reasonable crossed-legged, I stabilized the kayak enough to paddle.
Quick note: the paddle has drip guards on each end whose purpose is to prevent the water from entering the kayak or getting you wet. They’re useless. Just saying.
For the tour, the tide was ebbing (going out) and the wind was following. We fought that to start with–I’m so glad I got stabilized. Otherwise, I would’ve capsized.
The guide explained about the benefits the seagrass provides. The thick brown “hay” you see on the beach is the seagrass that has died off.
Then, there was a dolphin sighting about fifty yards away to port. First, the fin, later the top of the body emerged, accompanied by a snort. The guide had us paddle slowly and quietly, so the paddles chopping the water didn’t interfere with the dolphin’s sonar. He can’t really see much because the water is brown, which means it’s filled with nutrients the ecosystem needs.
While following the dolphin, we saw oyster beds. An oyster can filter as much as fifty gallons of water a day, sucking in the abovementioned nutrients. In the trees of Old Island, an osprey searched for a quick meal. Also, there was a section where the trees looked dead. Last year, they had a lightning strike there, and it burned for several days. The Old Island is 10 miles long, about 400 acres, and no manmade anything. Any wildlife there either flew or swam.
In the distance, a single engine prop plane flew. I heard it before I saw it. Now was not the time for a crazy pilot to buzz the grounders. I was stable and paddling well–I didn’t need more challenges. At this point, I realized that the camera in a ziplock bag in my shorts was going to stay there. I didn’t have the time to take pictures. I was continually paddling to keep up with the guide and the other two tourists. The current, while not overly strong, would carry you away as I found every time I drank a mouthful of water.
The dolphin swam close to the seagrass on several occasions. He thrashed about, almost like he was fighting or playing. Instead, he was stunning fish for an easy meal. We got to witness this a handful of times, which was pretty cool. And quite often when he came up for air, he’d snort. All in all, the closest we got to him was about twenty-five yards.
When we headed back to the dock, the paddling was supposed to be easier. It wasn’t. I was paddling hard for the last half an hour. We saw Great Blue Heron fly across the marsh. With the sun setting, the sky was a vivid array of colors. A half-moon stared down at us, and a little later Jupiter and Saturn appeared.
At this point, Jessica, our guide, exclaimed, “What was that!” I’m thinking that’s what she’s here for–I’m a city/suburb boy. She startled a stingray, which moved quickly, and it startled her.
With the sun below the horizon, I finally made it back to the docks without capsizing. That was the bar, and I got over it. Along the way, I learned a little, took in some beautiful scenery, and saw nature in action. I will do this again.
All pictures courtesy of Kelly Smith-Moore.