Imagine paddling a kayak through a reedy marsh. You spot an alligator, its head just poking above the water. As your kayak comes closer, the alligator drops below water and disappears. This immersion into a natural environment is one aspect of ecotourism.
Ecotourism involves interactive and learning opportunities to discover cultures and environments. It’s a broadly defined term for traveling to often undisturbed locations, allowing the traveler to become educated about the cultural, native, and conservation aspects of an area. Ecotourism involves responsible travel to natural areas for education, while simultaneously creating the least impact on the physical surroundings.
Mobile, Alabama hosts a variety of flora, fauna, and cultural heritage, making it an ideal destination for an eco-tour. You’ll find a variety of immersive experiences from bird watching at a sanctuary to kayaking the river delta with alligators.
Cruise the Waterways
This leisurely cruise with Captain Mike Dorie of Wild Native Tours travels from the Mobile River to Mobile Bay, and on to the Tensaw Delta, allowing you to see everything from alligators, birds, dolphins, historical landmarks like the USS Alabama, the working port of Mobile Bay, crab and shrimp fishermen, to towering cargo ships.
Tour the 5 Rivers Delta Center
The Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Appalachee, and Blakely rivers flow into Mobile Bay making the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta the second largest river delta system in the continental United States. The $10 million 5 Rivers Delta Center features an interpretive center, kayak and canoe launch, six campsites (four of which are floating platforms), a theater, and more.
Kayak the Bartram Canoe Trail
Launch at the 5 Rivers Delta Center for a guided kayak trip. Discover a gateway into more than 250,000 acres of waterways, woods, and wetlands.
Spend a Day Exploring Dauphin Island
This charming small island community is home to pristine beaches, a bird watching sanctuary, an Estuarium, and Historic Fort Gaines.
Bird Watch at the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary
There are 164 acres of beautiful woodlands, home to a freshwater lake, swamps, and the Gulf beach. Miles of walking trails take you through pines, live oaks, magnolias, swamps, and along Gulf beaches. There are educational signs posted to explain the various animals, vegetation, and the interconnection in these ecosystems. Dauphin Island is classified as a “Globally Import Bird Area” by the American Bird Conservancy and is well known as one of the best places in the country to observe “neotropical migrants”—a term for those flying south each fall to the tropics, and north each spring.
Explore the Estuarium at Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Founded in 1971, the Estuarium at Dauphin Island Sea Lab is Alabama’s only marine science education and research laboratory. The Sea Lab offers a closer look at the four local ecosystems of coastal Alabama: the Delta, Mobile Bay, the Barrier Islands, and the Gulf of Mexico. Learn what makes each of these ecosystems and its inhabitants special through visual displays, aquariums, and interactive exhibits.
Step Back in Time at Historic Fort Gaines
See how soldiers lived in the 1800s at Fort Gaines, a 19th-century brick seacoast fort with a working blacksmith shop that features incredible demonstrations like this, Officer’s Quarters, costumed interpreters, and the firing of actual cannons used in the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Interact at GulfQuest, National Maritime Museum of the Gulf Coast
The first museum dedicated to the Gulf Coast’s rich maritime tradition and only the third interactive maritime museum in the world. GulfQuest is housed inside a 120,000 sq. ft. structure shaped like a vessel headed out to sea. Try your hand at piloting a ship in the Take the Helm simulator, identical to those used to train professional boat pilots. You’ll get the chance to navigate vessels around the Port of Mobile, Mobile Bay, and the Tombigbee River. The simulations in this interactive exhibit are based on models of real downtown Mobile, Mobile Bay, and river locations. Watch a video here.
Brave Alligator Alley
Alligator Alley, a swamp sanctuary with an elevated boardwalk offers a close view of over 200 American Alligators and wildlife. See Captain Crunch, a 13-foot, 2,982-pound alligator with the world’s strongest bite.
Learn more about an eco-tour to Mobile, Alabama.
Jill Dutton, travel writer and publisher of Evolving Magazine, takes an intimate look at authentic travel experiences. While traveling, she seeks out what foods are indigenous to an area, the local food scene, outdoor activities, and wellness modalities. As a Kansas City expert, Jill’s travel guide, Best of Kansas City, launched number one in its category on Amazon. Follow Jill’s travels on her blog (www.USAbyRail.blog.) Jill’s first of 12 train travel guides, Ride the Southwest Chief, publishes Winter 2018.
Originally published in the November 2018 Evolving Magazine.