Dolphin Tour Review: Calabash Fishing Fleet
Every day on my way to work, I pause an extra second or two at the intersection of 67th and Ocean Boulevard. Here there is a beach access with a straight-on view of the ocean. As I gaze ahead, I hope to see a few fins gliding through the ocean. Of course, this never happens. I’ve only seen dolphins once or twice in the year and a half I have lived here and those moments were brief.
If you are like me, every chance you get you squint your eyes at the ocean, hoping that choppy wave you saw in the distance was perhaps a dolphin swimming into the sunset. The reality is that it’s usually not. That’s where Calabash Fishing Fleet comes into play.
Just a short drive north, right over the border in North Carolina is a small fishing town called Calabash. The smells of freshly caught fish and shrimp fill the air as well as aromas spilling out of local, family-owned restaurants claiming to have the best and freshest Calabash seafood.
When you arrive at the Calabash Fishing Fleet for the dolphin tour, you can stop at their quaint Ship Store which has basically everything you could think of for a fishing trip or other outings including bait, ice, drinks, cameras and souvenirs. And, of course you can pick up some freshly caught shrimp and purchase your dolphin tour tickets here.
Once the crew starts boarding, you will you will step onto the 65-foot Navigator, a Coast Guard inspected vessel which features a sun deck on top and viewing areas and seating around the outside. For cooler days there is also an indoor seating area complete with a snack bar in case you get hungry during your excursion.
As the boat leaves the dock for the dolphin tour, the captain points out various landmarks as the boat travels through the calm waters of the Calabash River, past the where the river crosses with the Intracoastal Waterway and out to the open waters of the Atlantic.
Birds bobbed up and down in the water as waves swooshed past the side of the boat. Once in the ocean the ship made its way towards a shrimp boat where we would be more likely to catch sight of the dolphins. We were instructed that it was ok to shout and yell once the first dolphin was spotted so that everyone could see it.
It wasn’t until we neared the shrimp boat that the first person let out a little squeal and passengers began “oohing” and “ahhing” at the site of the dolphins gently arching in and out of the water. They were feeding on the catch that the fisherman was throwing overboard. You never knew when another was going to sweep out of the blue ocean water. Sometimes two dolphins would gracefully emerge as if they choreographed their appearance.
There were multiple places on the boat where you could get a great view of the dolphins. Anywhere in the front of the boat was good, because whether you were on the left or right side, the captain maneuvered the boat enough so everyone could get a good look. Plus, often times there were dolphins on both sides of the boat. The upper level in the front was also great place to get a more overhead look of the action taking place in the water below. If you are lucky, you will be able to get a spot on the front narrow part of the bow, which is a slightly higher than the deck and offers an unobstructed view.
After a while of viewing the dolphins, the Navigator inched closer to the shrimp boat as the fisherman dumped his net to sort through his catch. Multitudes of birds, from pelicans to seagulls, swarmed around the shrimp boat, waiting impatiently for their share of the pile of sea life on his boat.
One of the deckhands grabbed a basket as the fisherman threw over two bags full of items called by-catch for him to show us. One by one, he pulled different sea creatures out of the basket, allowing people to touch them if they wanted to. He explained different facts about them as he showed off a sponge, blue crab, sand dollars, hog choker, star fish and mini sharks. He also made sure to explain how to tell if a shrimp is actually fresh when purchasing them.
As the demonstration was going on, we headed back to the river and back to the dock. The experience was wonderful overall and is a great attraction to plan in your Myrtle Beach vacation. Plus, they guarantee you will see dolphins on your cruise so you don’t have to worry about missing out.
Here are some tips to make your dolphin tour the best it can be:
- Dress for the weather: If it’s slightly cool outside and cloudy, it will be likely even cooler in the open areas of the boat while out on the water. It’s best to bring a light jacket or windbreaker just in case so you are comfortable during the dolphin cruise.
- Make reservations: The cruise is two hours long and they fill up fast, especially during the summer. Give them a call ahead of time to make reservations so you don’t make the drive up there just to find out the cruise is full. You don’t want to waste time during your Myrtle Beach vacation!
- Bring your camera: Bring your camera but don’t expect to use it much. I brought my camera with but had to be careful not to get it wet. On the river it was fine to have it out, however, as the boat started its trek to the ocean, the captain warned that it would be choppy and to put your camera and phones away until we slowed down to our destination. Once near the dolphins it was hard to get pictures because they moved so fast and the boat was bobbing up and down. You may want to try to take a few photos, but make sure you enjoy the moment too and don’t worry too much about getting a good shot.
- Bring your VMB Card: With your VMB Card you will get buy one get one half off for the dolphin cruise (Thursdays in November, Wednesday Thanksgiving week). It’s a great deal to get on your Myrtle Beach vacation! Note: All cruises in November are weather permitting. After November cruises will resume in the spring.
- Book a resort on the north end of Myrtle Beach: Beach Cove Resort, Ocean Creek Resort and Sea Watch Resort are all close options. That way, you will only have to drive about a half hour to get to the dolphin tour.