Spirit of Tybee—Many people yearn to hear what there is to do on Tybee and about the island experience, so I went on a trolley and dolphin tour that was offered to locals recently. This is about my journey. We began with the dolphin excursion with Capt. Mike’s Dolphin Tours. We arrived via trolley and began our trek towards the docks near Coco’s Sunset Grille in Lazaretto Creek. The oaks above tower with their giant branches giving a warm vibe that instantly makes you feel as if you belong. Crossing the wooden walkway, views of the marsh glow with vibrant greens and dark browns. Tops of the shrimp boats are visible and as we walk further down, there are jet skis gently nudging the dock with each passing lick of the waves. Kayaks are stacked along the dock in a colorful bouquet.
We board the Dolphin V with tour operator, Clark. The front of the boat is a standing area only and the back is for sitting or kneeling. As I enter the front of the boat, I laugh to myself as I realize the “tan at yo own risk” sign is really meant to be “stand at your own risk.” I climb up the ledge and hold the handrail. I am at the very tip of the boat, and I already see dolphins as I excitedly tell strangers beside me.
The motor is running; a low hum vibrates the boat as we start to propel forward. We pass under the Lazaretto Creek Bridge, past several large shrimp boats. The guide explains that the shrimp boats must lower their nets to fit under the bridge. There is also a large chain they drag under the boat to “stir up” the shrimp. Excess things such as fish are dumped back into the ocean; the dolphins love this and chase after the boats.
Under the bridge are also pelicans perching along the concrete beams. He takes us out on the open sea, the boat is humming, and the wind is whipping. We smash head on into waves and the boat dips and sways. I begin to think about the location of the life vests at the rear of the boat as he tells us we are now at the deepest part of the tour.
We stumble across a group of dolphins, which is called a “pod” or “school”. Male dolphins are “bulls” and females are “cows.” Males are usually off doing their own thing, but the females tend to stay together and raise babies. Mothers will stay awake for 30 days after the birth of a new baby and also will flip the baby into the air to get its first breath. This pod had a little baby and it was dancing with his mom twirling and flipping. Babies are dark black for camouflage and lighten to a gray as they age. We stay a bit as we watch several dolphins popping up again and again out of the water. Try as I may, dolphins are hard to photograph! I didn’t get any good shots, but there’s always next time. We start to move on and let them have their privacy with the new baby, which was so super adorable!
We zoom down the shoreline and are able to see beach-goers and fisherman alike. The lighthouse is spotted and he tells us about the 1000 watt light bulb that is always on, and can be seen in all directions for like 300 miles. He told us of lighthouses in the past and how one was destroyed by Confederate soldiers to prevent the Union army from using it for navigation purposes to bring in more supplies.
We loop around and head back in. My eyes (despite my sunglasses) sting from the wind hitting me straight in the face. I however, do not regret my decision with being at the head of the boat. We come across the Cockspur Lighthouse, which is a beautiful old lighthouse at the mouth of the Savannah River. It was built in 1855 and was decommissioned in the early 1900’s. When built, it was completely on land and is now completely surrounded by water. At high tide, water is 1/3 way up the structure and you can tell this because the bottom is discolored. The old white bricks and small door have a rustic charm that take you back in time.
Ft. Pulaski is just beyond that and is still open today for touring. In the Civil war, Confederate soldiers were given a false sense of security as they thought they were protected from everything in this thick brick structure. The Union forces recently developed a technique known as “rifling”, which helped cannon fire get more distance and better accuracy. They would carve a little groove along the barrel. Within 30 hours, they had breached one of the corner walls of the fort and Confederate forces had no choice but to surrender. Only 2 soldiers were actually killed.
We head back towards the bridge and start to slow down as jet skiers are attempting to move out of the alley. The first few people pass by the boat, but their grandma was stuck doing slow circles in front of us. She panics a bit as the boat drifts closer, but then finally rights the Jet Ski and rides past. We all clap and cheer for her and I’m sure she was mighty embarrassed, but she really made the trip for us. These tours are great for newbies that want to see the history and highlights of our scenic area, plus a little dolphin magic.
We dock and exit by Coco’s, which had a huge lunch line, and then we load into the trolley yet again. Kim, from the Tybee Visitors Center tells us about various locations as we ride past. She tells us that our next stop is the Tybee Island Lighthouse and that we have 15 minutes there so if we are climbing the lighthouse, we must do it quickly. I accept the challenge; I want to see the view from the top. So, I climb and climb and climb stairs. I climb some more, cursing under my breath at myself for being so out of shape. I pass by 3 landings and keep climbing.
The landings all have a small window looking out. There are other people there panting and sighing from exhaustion. I keep huffing and did stop at the next landing to sip on my water. Onward and up, there is a time limit. Admiring the brickwork and crazy stair perspectives, the lighthouse definitely is unique. I finally make it to the top, and exit to the open blue sky. It’s beautiful and took my breath away, (or was it the high altitude?) My ears popped a few times. I walk along the rim of the walkway so as to a get a better view of everything. The ocean was endless, the salt permeated the air, and the sand glistened like a girl’s best friend. As I enter back in, I have to check out this 1,000 watt light bulb that I’d heard about. It was small, unimpressive and didn’t seem that bright, but it is! And, the climb back down…seemed more difficult as I struggled to maintain footing on the narrow path. With my legs already burning, I kept pushing myself until I finally make it the bottom again, 178 steps later. There are other small buildings associated with the Lighthouse there, but because of the time restriction, I didn’t have time to check those out. Also, with price of admission you can also check out the bunker just across the small street.
The next stop was the Tybee Post Theater built in 1930, and was recently remodeled into an absolutely stunning venue. It was originally built by the United States military for the soldiers stationed at Ft. Pulaski. As we exit the trolley, we step onto a “Hollywood” style entryway to the theater. It has names and quotes embossed with stars into the sidewalk. We walk in the front lobby where the guide explains that the ticket booth’s white marble walls are authentic to the history of the building. We then enter the actual theater and it was much more than expected. It was grand with high ceilings and a beautiful staging area. Above, you can see the lighting area, and it is a professional set-up. Rows of cushy theater seats line the building and slant down to the staging area. She tells us about the upcoming shows that are coming and we convene about how to get the word out to the new set of 10,000 people that come to the island every week in the summer. The venue can be rented for weddings, shows, or any kind of performance and can seat 206 people. While it is used for live performances, they also are equipped to play films on the big screen. For the upcoming showing of “Love Story” on 5/28, they are giving out a complimentary glass of wine to each guest.
So, all good things must come to an end, as we parted our ways from the trolley. I was pleasantly surprised with a renewed love for our amazing little island as its beauty is overpowering and refreshing all at once. People come here from all over to get away from their busy schedules and to find purpose in life and their smiles again.
Yours Truly, Caitlin <3