Wilderness Southeast is without question the oldest and most comprehensive ecotourism operator in the area. They offer a wide variety of programs on land and on water, exploring local wildlife and habitat with highly skilled and certified naturalist guides.
Sample tours include Alligators and Anhingas, Blackwater River Float, Urban Forest, Salt Marsh Walk, and Enjoying the Night Sky.
Custom and group tours available. Go to www.wilderness-southeast.org or call 912.236.8115.
TURTLES & MORE
As part of its 2012 Beach Week incentive, Georgia's Department of Natural Resources is bringing its mobile educational unit to the Tybee Island Marine Science Center Wednesday, June 27.
The 30-foot Coastal Ark will be at the Tybee center from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., with information and materials covering a wide variety of subjects including beach water quality, sand dollar stewardship and significant marine fisheries. It is free and open to the public.
The center's public programs, continuing all summer, include Beach Discovery Walks and Marsh Treks several days a week, on both the north and south beaches of Tybee. There are also Turtle Talks, for education and edification on the loggerhead and green sea turtles that nest on Tybee and Georgia's other barrier islands during the summer season.
From June 28 to 30, the public is invited to learn about, and help facilitate, the center's planned expansion onto a new site and into a larger, state-of-the-art marine science education and conservation facility. Go to tybeemarinescience.org to RSVP, and to register for all scheduled programs. For information, call 912.876.5917.
At the UGA Marine Extension Service Aquarium on Skidaway Island, 17 exhibit tanks house live animals that represent numerous species of fish, turtles, and invertebrates indigenous to the Georgia coast. The University of Georgia opened the aquarium in 1972, after the dissolution of the Georgia Ocean Sciences Center, and the acquisition of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography by the state university system.
Until the arrival of the Georgia Aquarium in 2005, it was the only saltwater aquarium in the state. It's funded almost entirely through public admission fees, program fees (there are daily field trips, study sessions for budding oceanographers) field trips and other programs.
For information, go to marex.uga.edu/aquarium, or call 912.598.2496.
The closest thing Savannah has to a zoo is Oatland Island Educational Center, a combined educational/rescue/rehab facility which features wildlife as diverse as wolves, cougars, bison, raptors, and of course Wa Hoo Hoo the barred owl, all on shaded trails on the marsh.
They offer various summer programs. They're at711 Sandtown Rd. off Islands Expressway. Go to www.oatland.org. Modest admission is charged.
Oatland is running a fundraiser this year in conjunction with Monkey Joe's on the southside. On June 28 and July 12 and 19, 20 percent of admission and concession proceeds will go to the Friends of Oatland.
Another option is to visit the sprawling Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles Georgia and South Carolina. A brand-new and quite impressive Visitors Center is off Highway 17 just over the Savannah River in South Carolina. From there you can walk the grounds and enjoy viewing waterfowl and various wildlife.
This U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-run site is free and open daily. The Visitors Center is open Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Go to www.fws.gov/savannah.
And don't forget Skidaway Island State Park, which has several nice shady trails and a tall wooden observation tower overlooking the scenic Skidaway Narrows. Go to www.gastateparks.org/SkidawayIsland.
RAILS TO TRAILS
Set along the old rail bed to Tybee Island, the McQueens Island Rails to Trails project takes you several miles along a channel of the Savannah River. Because it's contiguous with Ft. Pulaski, you can extend your walk or bike ride through that historic facility on Cockspur Island as well. Cordgrass, cabbage palms, yaupon holly and cedars line this trail.
Paddleboard and kiteboard rentals, lessons and friendly advice on Tybee Island
406 Hwy 80, Tybee Island/912.472.4197
Skidaway Island tours, sales, rentals and Standup PaddleBoard Yoga in conjunction with Savannah Power Yoga
912.658.6212 or 912.373.6070
East Coast Paddleboarding
Flat water paddles or open ocean. Lessons, tours, camps and rentals
912.484.3200 or 781.267.1810/eastcoastpaddleboarding.com
All Out Kiteboarding
Paddleboard and kiteboard guided excursions, lessons and full/half day rentals
1510 Butler, Tybee Island/912.786.8080
Savannah Canoe and Kayak
All ages, all abilities, full/half day tours, rentals
414 Bonaventure Road, Savannah/912.341.9502
Sea Kayak Georgia
Kayak and canoe tours of Little Tybee and inland
1102 Hwy 80, Tybee Island/912.786.8732
North Island Surf and Kayak
Equipment rentals, guided tours and surf lessons from Lazaretto Creek
1C Old Hwy 80, Tybee Island/912.786.4000
Moon River Kayak
Explore the natural beauty and wildlife of Skidaway Narrows
Rodney J. Hall Boat Ramp, Skidaway Island/912.344.1310