Meet your guides and fellow travelers in the morning at our waterfront location in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, just 30 minutes from bustling Charleston, SC. We pack our gear into dry bags and stow them in our kayaks before getting fitted with equipment. Our guides provide an orientation for our next few days, including an overview of the ecosystems. We ride out to Shem Creek and begin the first paddle of the day in the Francis Marion National Forest, winding our way through the flooded forest of a blackwater cypress tupelo swamp. A wide variety of birds, including herons, woodpeckers, owls and passerines flit their way through the canopy. We follow the creek to the Santee River, where our campsite awaits in the far reaches of the forest. Before dinner we have a hike through the longleaf pine forest, home to several endangered species of plants and animals. As the sun starts to set over the river, we enjoy dinner around the campfire. Lunch and dinner included.
Kayaking: 5 miles (3 hours); Hiking: 2 miles
Our day begins with a sunrise yoga-style stretching session to prepare us for our 15-mile paddling day, followed by coffee and a hot breakfast prepared by our guides. We head out on kayaks looking for longnose gar swimming in the shallows before ducking down a side creek known for its numerous alligators and bird species. Bottlenose dolphins make their way up these protected creeks to raise their calves. Watch as the water changes from emerald green to black as we transition back into the black water ecosystem with towering bald cypresses and sweet-smelling tupelos. We arrive at our new campsite on a remote part of the swamp. Appetizers are served and we are treated to a delicious feast prepared by our guides. We are lulled to sleep by the soft sounds of the nearby creek. All meals included.
Kayaking: 15 miles (6–7 hours depending on tides and current)
After a hearty breakfast we head out to a landing on the intracoastal waterway to catch a private boat ride out to Bulls Island. We'll pass through the 66,000+ acres of salt marsh estuary that make up Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Bulls Island hosts at least 293 different bird species, as well as the highest concentration of American alligators north of Florida's Everglades. We hike through this barrier island’s maritime forest which encompasses four different ecosystems. A visit to Boneyard Beach is a must, where the beach gets its name from a driftwood forest in the ocean. The sun-bleached trees jut out of the sea, creating an otherworldly experience. Our boat meets us for an evening cruise back to the mainland, stopping along the way for some oyster harvesting when the season allows. We return to our peaceful campsite and another delicious dinner by the campfire. All meals included.
Hiking: 7 miles (6–7 hours)
With the birds singing and abundant wildlife waking up, a sunrise hike through the forest of the blackwater swamp is a magical way to start the day. After breakfast we paddle up the creek in search of river otters, birds, and bald cypress trees. Then we have our final lunch together on the river’s edge before heading back to Mount Pleasant for final goodbyes. Breakfast and lunch included.
Kayaking: 7 miles (4 hours)