HELP SCIENTISTS LEARN ABOUT OUR MOST FASCINATING WILDLIFE

Admit it: You may not always see them, but you always look for them.

Sneaking a quick glance from the Cross Island Parkway and the bridges that connect Hilton Head Island to the mainland, most of us scan the waters below for the tell-tale fins of bottlenose dolphins as they break the surface.

LOCAL SCUBA FANS TAKE EXPLORATION TO NEW DEPTHS, URGE BOATER CAUTION

The first time Matt Garbade went scuba diving in the May River, the darkness was unsettling. But coming back up to the surface was even more harrowing. 

Garbade is one of a growing number of divers who brave the Lowcountry’s murky waters in search of treasures, and while he’s grown accustomed to exploring the river bed with limited visibility, he still feels uneasy about coming back to the surface because of boaters who don’t always heed the warnings that divers are in the area. 

CYPRESS AND TUPELO GIANTS STAND GUARD AT EBENEZER CREEK

A kayak and canoe trail winds through the tupelo-cypress swamp at Ebenezer Creek. Locals know that paddling is the best way to experience this unique habitat. 

“This is a wild and scenic waterway,” said Brian Cohen of Backwater Expeditions, an adventure outfitter helping people explore this protected wetland. “It’s fed by several artesian springs.” 

TOWN OFFICIALS SEEK SOLUTIONS TO BACTERIA LEVELS

He’s spotting more bottlenose dolphins in the May River than ever, and the oysters, fish and crabs seem to be doing fine. But Larry Toomer, owner of Bluffton Oyster Co., has noticed that new homes are springing up on the river’s banks and boat traffic has increased — not always good omens for the river’s health. 

“I’ve been working on the May River for 30 years and I’m out there almost every day, weather permitting,” he said. “From the water you can see it. Everybody wants to live on the river.”

HELP RARE AND COMMON SPECIES RECOVER WITH THESE SIMPLE STEPS

Can you imagine what life would be like without seeing birds soaring overhead, or hearing them sing as we awaken or set off for a walk on a beautiful summer day?

If something isn’t done to reverse a worrying trend, this scenario is not far-fetched.

PINCKNEY ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

More than 14 miles of gravel roads and grass trails wind through Pinckney Island, providing visitor access to a wide range of habitats, including salt marsh, forestland, brushland, fallow fields and freshwater ponds.

PALMETTO BLUFF BAT PROJECT REVEALS 13TH LOCAL SPECIES

Every evening, as the Lowcountry sky darkens, you’ll see them swooping and diving, flying pell-mell. Their flight pattern is distinctive, and once you learn to recognize it, you’ll start to see bats everywhere at dusk.

Fourteen species of bats can be found in South Carolina; until recently, only 12 were known to be present in Beaufort County. But there’s a new bat in town. 

FOOTHILLS TRAIL OFFERS GREAT FALL HIKING IN THE UPSTATE

Living in the Lowcountry, where the only thing approximating a hill are berms on a Hilton Head Island golf course or the graceful arch of a bridge, it’s easy to forget that South Carolina has its own small share of the majestic Appalachian Mountains. 

Tucked away in the northwest corner of the state lies the Foothills Trail, a shorter — but no less spectacular — cousin to the more famous Appalachian Trail. The idea for this National Recreational Trail began in the 1960s as an effort to preserve and protect the beauty of the Appalachian foothills. The trail corridor was completed in 1981. 

PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY MEMBERS OF HILTON HEAD AUDUBON 

Birding is one of America’s favorite leisure pastimes. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 45 million Americans watch birds, whether in our backyards or in a local park or far-flung destination.

The good news is that on Hilton Head Island, you don’t have to go far to enjoy great-looking birds. You just need to step outside. More than 220 bird species have been observed on Hilton Head, and fall migration is a great time to see them.

LOWCOUNTRY CAPTAIN IS HOOKED ON GREAT WHITES

Chip Michalove has always been obsessed with sharks.

Luckily for him, there are plenty of them out in the waters surrounding the Lowcountry.

“When I started out, I thought there were two or three great whites off of our coast,” he said. “But we really have over 1,000.”