Below are a few common questions which are asked and may help you in your planning.
What should I bring?
Check your weather for the day to plan for some of the things you might want to take. Especially during the warmer summer months we recommend water or something to drink. We have a selection of cold drinks for sale at the shop or you can bring your own. Sun lotion and /or bug spray if you think you may need it. During summer months it is suggested to put sun lotion on at least a half hour before going outside so it can dry in before sweating off. While out on the water sunlight is amplified from being reflected off the water and makes it easier to be burned. Hat or sunglasses if you think you need them, sometimes the water can be reflective with the sun light which may be a bother. Shoes which will hold onto your feet (flip-flops are not recommended) such as croc’s, sandals, or old tennis shoes. Light jacket if you get chilly from breeze. Waterproof camera or a camera in a water tight bag, there are some great photos out on the water with nature and the family or friends. Binoculars if you like in case you want to look close up at some birds which may be in the distant part of the creek.
Quick suggested over view; drinks, sun lotion, bug spray, hat, sunglasses, shoe which hold your feet, light jacket, camera and / or binoculars in protective bag, tip for the guide if you feel.
*Anything you choose to take out with you such as but not limited to; wallet, watches, cameras, binoculars, cell phones, car keys or anything else which may be lost or damaged along your excursion is your responsibility since it is your choice to take that item out with you. We have a lock box in the store which we can lock up items in when out if you choose not to take them with you or lock them in your car.
What should I wear?
Wear what ever you feel comfortable with for the weather on your paddling day. Wearing layers is recommend so if you get hot or cool you are able to peel off a layer. When most people get out and start paddling, they will start to warm up pretty quick from the aerobic motion of paddling. The challenging thing is removing a jacket or shirt when out balancing in the kayak on the water wearing a life jacket. So plan ahead before heading out and if you plan on adding or removing a layer out on the water then try to make sure it is something easy to do with little struggle. Sun protection, especially during certain times of the year which may be sunglasses, hat, sun protection clothing or sun lotion. Shoes like sandals or any shoe which will hold onto your feet are OK, old sneakers or other full foot protection are more recommended. Flip-flops are not recommended. In-case of a roll over, most peoples reactions are to place their feet down and flip-flops do not offer a lot of protection out in the tidal creek environment. Water shoes are suggested to protect your feet since the water is cloudy, oyster beds among other unknown things may lay along the bottom which can be very be sharp. The marsh mud will also try to suck your shoes off should you have to walk in it for some reason.
What about the heat out on the water?
During the summer especially, the heat and humidity can be intense on Hilton Head. It is not only the heat though, also the UV of the sun is extreme a lot of times. This is why you want sun protection out on the water is important and bring something to stay hydrated with. Mark wears a brim hat, sun glasses since the sun reflects of the water and can sometimes cause sun burn to eyes, sun lotions and neck gators (seen worn by fisherman often). With little kids an hour and half may get on the long side, an hour will tend to be enough, while less might be more comfortable sometimes during the summer. You will know yourself and your group better than we will when it comes to what you can handle. Be mindful though, on tours we travel as a group at the pace, distance and time out up to the average, as a group. To help with this for children or even for the adults, a wet towel to be around the neck will help some. There is a fresh water hose on the dock to wet a towel, your hair, hat, shirt, life jacket or what ever. It still may not last the whole time out there but will delay the feel of the heat. Mark wears 2 neck gators sometimes during the summer and high UV times. He will wear one wet around the neck to help stay cool and another dry one (to be able to talk and breath through but unfortunately may muffle the voice a little) which he can bring up to protect the face from the sun since they are 50 spf protection on top of the sun lotion and protective lip balm. This has helped Mark, the guide, who is out on the water a great deal and recommends from his experience being out there.
When is the best time to go kayaking in the creek, to see wildlife?
Anytime is a great time to go kayaking in the creek (except during bad weather). If you are planning a guided tour, then your guide will plan a route depending on the tide, a little more detail about our tides found on tide page. It is always recommended when going out kayaking to know the tides for the day or the time of the next rotation when you are going out in the water. If possible, plan a route in which you paddle against the current to start and then can ride the current back to the your end point. This way you do the hard stuff first, you can judge how far you can go and this way you can return safely with little energy. For wildlife viewing though in the creek, that is based off tides in the creek and less with time of day. Also understand though, that wildlife is “wildlife” which means you can not guarantee when it comes to wildlife but timing around the tides put the odds more into your favor. The tides change daily of later about 50 minutes roughly on average and kind of rotate each week, ie. one week may have low tides in the morning, the following week will have more of a high tide in the morning. It is advised to check a tide chart or call for guidance of when the best time maybe to go. Unfortunately, during busy season though, you may be limited on availability with limited choice because of time of tides, demand, mornings and lower tides tend to be the most popular times.
At HIGH TIDE, you have a wide selection of routes to explore around in the creek and can get under some of the canopies of the oaks overhanging the creek. There is also a marsh maze (like a corn maze but in a kayak) which is fun to explore. Wildlife viewing at high-tide is more limited to some birds resting in the trees or spartina grass, other wise most is under water, the guide can help point you in the direction of sightings while out there and still explain about the wildlife under water, unfortunately not seen but at the moment we can not control the moon and tides as much as we would like to be able to.
At MID-TIDE, you have a little of both worlds. There is still a selection of routes in which you can take creating a loop and explore out and about in the creek. The water is low enough where you can see some nature along the creek banks (more than high tide but less than closer around low tide). The down-side of a mid-tide will be the current in at least one direction will be strong when you have to go against it, stronger around certain moons such as full and new while weaker around the between moons.
At LOW-TIDE, there is limited selection in routes available for the kayaks since the creek is shallow then and most of it walkable. The low-tide (mid to lower to about mid tide again) offers the best wildlife viewing. Birds like to do there fishing then, oyster beds exposed, certain times of year fish jumping / shrimp may be running or jumping, fiddler crabs and low-tide has the highest odds of seeing dolphins feeding since they can trap the fish easier when feeding.
When is it the easiest or hardest to paddle with the “Tidal current?”
When people come out here they tend to come from kayaking in lakes, ponds or rivers with not much of a current, so here, many will underestimate the tidal current when paddling. With one of the greatest tide swing on the East Coast of the United States, this current can be fast sometimes or slow for here depending on the cycle of the moon.
Around the tide change of the day is when you will have the least amount of current and the easiest time to paddle. There will usually be two tides changes a day during daylight which can be caught while paddling (high-tide and low-tide, which have advantages and disadvantages listed in tide section) and these change a little later daily through the rotation. About an hour to an hour and half before to after the tide change will be fairly easy paddling. Ie. if High-Tide is 10 AM and Low-Tide is around 4 PM then you would go out around 8:30 – 9 AM or 2:30 – 3 PM for the less amount of current for about two maybe three hours. When the tide changes during your time out there, you can kind of do what they call the tide-ride by riding the tide both ways, but has to be planned around a change.
Also around new moon and full moon the current will be even stronger then normal because there is a greater change in depth between low and high tide, meaning a faster tidal current to deal with, some are OK with those currents, while others may struggle a little more. With a tidal current, think of it like you have to paddle against the river sometimes or like riding a bike on the beach on a windy day. You want to do the harder way first to let it push you back home, we will guide or suggest this for rental routes. A little more on tidal currents by NOAA
I have kids or someone older, what ages can go kayaking?
We have had several kids (4+ who were calm and comfortable) out over the years and older customers who both have enjoyed kayaking. When it comes to kids; school groups (some of 3-5 grades) have been out in doubles together, some in doubles with an adult and some alone. We have had an 8 yr old competitive kayaker girl do loops around the group, a lady in her 90’s who have been able to do the tour in a tandem while some in their 20’s who get tired quickly. You as an adult will know your child best and their abilities as well as your own. The biggest challenge here is the tidal currents, explained above, that people struggle with (along with the summer heat or breezy days), even experienced adults sometimes have difficulties. For the most part, kids between 10-12 is around that border line where they can go in a single if they have the strength. Under that for the most part is best advised to be with an adult in a double kayak.There has been some exceptions like the Competitive kayaker girl but others had to be towed back by a parent with a rope. Younger kids (single digit ages) sweet spot out on the water tends to be about 60 minutes on average, so be mindful on tours we average 80 to 90 minutes on the water often with non-family members in the group as you will know your child best when it comes to tours.
With the hybrid kayaks, they have worked with families with children (2 adults and small child together), a person in wheelchair, customers who have had knee or hip replacements because they are more stable and easier to get in and out. They do require a little more upper body though since a wider boat produces more drag when paddling.
There is not really an age to kayak as long as you understand that it is a physical activity when it comes to paddling and in the sun for the most part. Although, sometimes in a two person, one may have an easier paddle than the other.
What does the average nature tour consist of or expect at Jarvis Creek Water Sports?
A nature tour is a guided group of people who may be all one family or groups of smaller families within the tour group itself. Most tours we provide, we do our best to stay between a min of 3 and max around 10 members to a group, but finding ourselves having to adapt sometimes for the tourist on vacation who may be 2 adults and 2 kids, where 3 families may put us around 12 or 13 for a tour occasionally especially during the busier season. To be honest, there has been a time or two when we have been around 14 with a single family or extreme busy times (such around the week before and after Easter because spring breaks for kids in school and people to the island with larger families) where 2 additional tour people have been added because such high demand (family sizes of 6 or 8) where other tours have been full really trying not to have anyone miss a tour or that a certain time / tide was in high demand and not enough people ( 3 ) to make another tour go so the two were added as an alternative. We prefer to stay with smaller tours of 3 to 10 (12 or 13 on high side usually with some kids riding double with parents) and do for the most part stay 12 or under to a tour. Because of being a one man operated shop it takes longer dealing with bigger groups to get fitted, launched, groups tends to spread out more and retrieving at dock. For this reason, we ask that you schedule buffer room around tours especially during the busy season as things might get delayed 10 or 15 minutes even though we try to do our best to stay on schedule there are more people calling, renting and wanting tours with the busiest time around midweek in the mornings especially during popular vacation times .
A quick run through of the average 2 hr tour, even though it is a 2 hour tour, plan on maybe 2-2.5 hours for everything being a one man operated shop and tour group speed, allow a little buffer room when planning:
Before tour: Paper work, life jackets, (do you have drinks, bathroom, anything you want locked up in shop?) boat selection since we have a mixture of different style boats which I will explain the good and bad of different style kayaks, boat fittings (adjusting foot braces or seats if needed on what is adjustable), paddle instructions on turning, stopping, reverse and forward followed by safety instructions incase someone does tip by accident which are low numbers on average (most who we give tours for are new to kayaking or little experienced, so we asked experienced kayakers to be patient with the process) , finally helping each other get the kayaks from the yard to the lower dock where we launch. All of this may take between 20 and 40 minutes depending on the group, smaller groups quicker to water while larger groups or some whom may need a little extra time in fitting a kayak may be on the higher time side. Mark will be last in the water and first out as he helps everyone in and out by the dock.
Water time is about an hour and half for a tour which seems to be enough for most people, even two hour renters will tend to come back often around an hour and half with out a watch or knowing the time. So an hour and half (1.5 hours) seems to be around the sweet spot for the majority of people we guide out there (but also renters). The average distance we travel on tour is 2-3 miles for most tours since most consist of kayakers with little experience and we are talking about the wildlife. A faster pace may cover more distance but more tiring for a lot and you do not hear as much about nature since you will be moving faster and tend to spread out more. So again, we ask if you are a experienced kayaker, to be patient and thoughtful with the group that may not be up to your level and speed of kayaking. Mark, who guides at Jarvis Creek Water Sports has had tours range from a half mile to 5 miles with in the 2 hour tour based off the group on the tour. For the most part, tours are 2-3 miles which seems to be the sweet spot for most of the people we guide. The short and long distance tours were groups of single families which met the 3 min requirement and may be full or may have had no one else sign up, so they ended up becoming like private tours and they or tour (as a group) set the pace and distance they would like to do in the water time.
The last thing when returning from the tour is that Mark will get out first at the dock to help guide and assist the returning tour, we will then help each other to get kayaks back up to the upper dock / yard from the lower dock, make sure you have everything you came with before you leave out of the kayaks you used and life jacket pockets before you leave.
This is what to generally expect from our kayaking nature tour. With years after years of this tour, this seems to be the system which works with the vast majority of the clientele. With that said though, a tour is not for everyone and no one style tour will work with everyone but the tour is geared to the majority. If you are looking to have more water time, less instructions or faster / slower pace it might be better to rent kayaks instead of being on a tour which everything is based off the group as a whole. If you expect this from a tour it might be found elsewhere from another outfit maybe or since we do not offer private tours unless a family / party takes all the spots or there is no other people to join group but still has the minimum to go. Over the last decade, Mark has been guiding here this tour has worked with the majority of our customers and many have returned several times over the years who have enjoyed this tour. Again, that being said, no one tour may work for everybody out there though, so we hope this informs you on what to expect from our tours when planning. Being the surrounding solitude of the creek compared to most other locations on the island, we try to operate our tours in a more relaxed atmosphere which seems to be the most comfortable for the majority of the people we guide.
What does a rental involve and time mean?
Unlike a 2 hour kayak tour which involves instructions and safety in part of the time. Although if you need instructions on rental lets us know since most renters tend to be more of an experienced kayaker. A rental is more based on water time for the multi-hour time. Another words if you sign up for a three hour rental your time will start around the time you are put into the water for three hours. If you plan on using the whole water time, makes sure you add a little time to your schedule for paper work, life jackets selection and boat setup since we are a one man shop, rentals are done around tours and sometimes can be put in quickly but other times maybe a busy day, multiple rentals or large rental group which may take a few minutes to get set up and boats in the water. Also, because they are done around tours, if you come back and Mark is on a tour, then you will have to be able to get your self out. The final thing we ask if you can help get the boats from the lower dock back up to the upper yard where Mark will rinse everything before it is put up. All rentals are final and pre-paid for the time you signed up for, so you can use part or all of the time. On the rental, Mark has created a little map to loan and help guide you in the creek as a reference, there are no official maps of the creek for navigation.
What kind of kayaks do you have?
At Jarvis Creek Water Sports we offer a mixture of kayaks. We go through this on tours and if asked on rentals. Some kayaks are sea kayaks, aka touring kayaks in single and double cockpit. These kayaks paddle very easy, track well, kind of fast, I can paddle with my bare hands but has a tipper feel for most which takes about 20 min or so to adjust to the balance of the boat. After that majority like it since easier to paddle and better controllability. Another we offer are some SOT’s or Sit-On-Tops, these kayaks are a little wetter style since they are self bailing but popular during summer because you can splash your self, sun your legs, little wider for stability, often used in fishing style, if rented can swim off of or used off the beach. These are more along what they call a recreational style kayak, but recreational kayaks can also come in a form of large cockpit style as well. The last kayak style are the hybrid’s, these kayaks are half canoe half sit-on-top style kayak. They are wide where I can stand in for fishing, kids who can’t sit still, people who need more leg or hip room, some customers who have had knee or hip replacements since easier to get in and out. We have even had someone in a wheel chair out with is a few times (not in the wheel chair) in them. They are also good family boats because they have a higher payload capacity and can be setup with 2 adults and a small child or an adult and 2 children. These hybrids are more stable but a little more boat to paddle with the wider hull creating drag in the water. The final craft we offer which most people are familiar with is the traditional canoe. Canoes have a higher payload capacity than a kayak and more room inside as most now. These are more popular for rentals than used on a tour though.
Do a lot of people tip over?
We do not have a high rate. On average maybe around a dozen a year out of several thousand who come through. With the paddle instructions it will help. One thing in kayaks is, you do not do a canoe stroke where you lean in to it. In kayaks, you want to keep a center of balance in the boat. It usually takes 10-20 minutes to adjust to a balance of a kayak even if experienced since they all have a different balance you have to adjust to. After that, you will becomes a lot more relaxed and comfortable with the kayak to enjoy it more. Some boats have more stability (primary stability) than others but as a trade off, they are a little wider boat to paddle through the water, another words a little more muscle compared to a skinnier, tippier boat (know as secondary stability). Every boat can be turned over, but some are easier than others but the trade off will be easiness of paddling then. A few other things which cause some tip overs are people trying to splash each other and someone leans into it to much and also playing bumper boats are some other reasons why the occasional tip over. Most boats that do tip over are the singles instead of a double. In a double the people paddling tend to be more conservative while someone in a single tends to be more adventurist in paddling.
Who operates Jarvis Creek Water Sports and why by appointment?
Jarvis Creek Water Sports is worked by Mark who you will talk with on the phone, does the rentals and guides the tours, kind of the face of the business. Mark is not the owner, but the guy who has worked the kayak shop for the last 10 years. The owner has Mark operate the business as by appointment during the weekdays, so make sure to call a head for activities since it has to be scheduled around tours and other rentals. If you call and no one answers, just leave a message incase he is guiding on the water (shop will be locked up then, so no walk in) but also since he does not get paid to sit around, he may be at a second job where he takes care of several yards with landscaping machines when not at the shop and he will get back to you as soon as he can. Being Jarvis Creek Water Sports is a small business, it is a more relaxed atmosphere but also limited with kayaks and staff, also hence the by appointment. From the pattern of the vacationers, our busiest days are middle of the week and mornings while the weekends are slow when most leave and new ones come for the week, why we are closed around the weekends so Mark can focus on the yards he takes care of. Mornings (before heat of day) and around low-tides (better wildlife viewing) tend to fill up faster, some times they are the same time of day, others times they are not depending on cycle of moon. When the low-tides fill up or on days with bad timing with the cycle of the moon, unfortunately customers who want to kayak with wildlife may not get the better wildlife timing with the tide cycle. Appointments are by first reserved, first served. This is why best to call ahead as soon as possible especially during busier times to have more of a scheduled time you may be looking for around that days tides. Waiting to the same day you want to go out may have limited availability or be already booked full especially around the busier season.
Are there restrooms?
Next door at the Crazy Crab, we can use their restrooms just across from the parking lot while they are open. If you are doing a rental or tour pretty early in the morning though, the restrooms may not be opened yet, so make sure to go before you come.
Is there a place for lunch or dinner close by?
Sharing the same parking lot is the Crazy Crab which overlooks the creek which we operate in. They provide mostly seafood on the menu but have a few other options as well with indoor and out door seating with a deck right next to the main channel of the creek. This is a great place to refuel and share stories with each other after your experience out in Jarvis Creek. We have also had a few customers who use the outside seats at the shop for a little picnic as well when they were done kayaking.
Should we or can we tip?
Think of it like at a restaurant, you tip at your discretion on what you feel the service you received. With the restaurant in mind, when you do take out most people do not tip but some do, similar to a rental. When you sit down and eat at a restaurant, the server is providing a service and spending time with you with questions or such at a meal like a guide does for a kayak tour trying to help you out and safely return. With out going into great deal about it but a basic understanding of how for the most part guided service in the area work. Every outfit has a slightly different pay structure when it comes to guides, some are hourly, some are a base tour rate and then per head which might be less for a child than an adult. So generally, a guide tries to provide a good service to help his hourly break down of the tour since some tours you do not make much on, while others you may do ok or feel great about to offset maybe a not so good tour. It all depends on the season, type of arrangement a guide has with an outfit, how full the group maybe and if the customer appreciated what the guide offered through out the tour or not. So, like a sit down meal with a waiter or waitress, you may tip based on how you felt the service was if you would like to tip or not.
If weather becomes to bad, we may have to reschedule a trip to a new time if possible. An example of an automatic trip rescheduling could be but not limited to, storm warnings / watches with lighting, hail or tornadoes. Also, hopefully the obvious would be hurricanes and tropical storms in the area. Sometimes though with our weather around here, storms can pop up quickly and disappear just as fast, or being storming in one section of the island and not the other, so it can be a challenge sometimes and may not be able to make a call until we get to the shop. Currently though, we do not take pre-payment for reservations, just names so a cancellation is not difficult. If you choose to cancel as well, we just ask for your curtesy to call ahead to let us know.