North Carolina stretches from the highest mountain peaks in the Eastern United States all the way to the endless barrier islands of the Outer Banks in the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to this impressive diversity of habitats, North Carolina is home to a surprising collection of stunning creatures. Our North Carolina Wildlife Tour is designed to show you the best the state has to offer, from Black Bear cubs to Bottlenose Dolphins, from Beavers to Sea Turtles. And May is a great month to see newborn babies! We’ll visit some of North Carolina’s impressive wildlife conservation success stories, like the critically endangered Red Wolves in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, the reintroduced Peregrine Falcons nesting in towering cliffs, and NC’s only herd of Elk in the Smoky Mountain National Park. We may even spot an American Alligator which have re-established themselves in the southern reaches of the state. Be prepared to be amazed by North Carolina’s wildlife!
• This is a small-group tour for 2 guests, plus 2 tour leaders.
• Due to the nature of our accommodations, this tour is only available for couples.
• A $500 deposit will reserve your space on this tour.
• The booking cutoff date for this tour is March 20, 2015.
• Tour Leaders: Cristina Garcia and Hal Brindley
We will definitely see:
We will try to see:
How many people will be on this tour?
There will only be two guests on the tour, plus two tour leaders, for a grand total of four people. This allows us to move quietly through the wilderness, participate in small local tours, and experience nature in an intimate way.
What will the accommodations be like?
Lodging will be in comfortable guest houses, hotels, and vacation rental properties, as well as one night of front-country camping in a large tent with queen-size airbed.
What kind of meals are included?
We’ll be dining out in restaurants when available. When restaurants aren’t available or convenient, your hosts will prepare all meals for you based on your own personal dietary needs. We intend to eat very well on this trip!
Can I join the tour as an individual?
Our tour is designed to accommodate couples, or pairs of people who don’t mind sharing a bed. Having a small tour size allows us to stay in places that most tours can’t reach, like small wilderness cottages. This means that some of our accommodations are in shared houses (one bedroom for each couple.) As a result it is not feasible for us take individuals who require separate rooms without charging an exorbitant supplemental fee.
Do I need to be in good physical condition?
This is a semi-active tour. We will be hiking on moderately difficult trails on a couple occasions. It is possible we do a very easy flatwater kayak paddle as well.
Day 1: Arrive in Raleigh
We’ll pick you up at Raleigh/Durham International Airport in North Carolina’s capitol city. Time permitting we’ll visit the Prairie Ridge Ecostation or the Museum of Natural Sciences for an introduction to North Carolina’s incredible diversity of wildlife.
Overnight in Raleigh
Day 2: Elk in the Mountains
Today we leave the central planes of the Piedmont and wind our way west into the southern Appalachian Mountains. The vast forests and rugged terrain of western North Carolina hold the highest peaks east of the Rockies (Mount Mitchell) and we’ll be staying just 15 miles away in the mountain paradise town of Asheville. First we’ll visit the eastern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to look for North Carolina’s only wild Elk herd in the Catalochee Valley. If we’re lucky we’ll spot some new born babies! We’re also likely to see Wild Turkeys, and there’s always the chance of spotting a Black Bear or a Wild Boar. After dinner we’ll return to our guesthouse to watch for the local Flying Squirrels leaving their nest and listen to the Screech Owls calling in the night.
Overnight in Asheville
Day 3: Deer and Turkeys in the Smokies
Today we head deep into the Smoky Mountains National Park where we’ll see stunning mountain views and arrive at the famed Cades Cove.
Here we’ll take an evening wildlife drive in search of Black Bears, Bobcats, Coyotes, Wild Turkeys, and White-tailed Deer. In the evening we’ll grill around the camp fire, watch the stars, and settle into our private tents with queen-size airbeds.
Overnight at Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Day 4: Peregrines and Beavers
This morning we rise at the break of dawn for a wildlife drive around Cades Cove (or for the more adventurous we can ride the loop on bicycles) in search of more forest creatures and mountain magic. We are guaranteed to see the White-tailed Deer and Wild Turkeys roaming the pastures, and have a decent shot of spotting a Black Bear. After a hearty breakfast we’ll pack camp and head south into the Blue Ridge Mountains where we’ll search for the fastest animal on the planet: the Peregrine Falcon. A short hike to the top of a stunning cliff will take us to the nesting site of some of North Carolina’s only Peregrine Falcons. On our way back to Asheville we’ll pass through Brevard to search for some of their famed White Squirrels. In the evening we’ll visit our secret spot in the Pisgah National Forest where we predictably see Beavers swimming just below our feet as they head out on their evening foray. This is a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with a wild family of beavers!
Overnight in Asheville
Day 5: Black Bears and Red Wolves at the Alligator River
After an amazing morning meal at our favorite Asheville breakfast eatery, we hit the road for our journey to the Atlantic Ocean. As we near the coast we’ll reach one of America’s hidden gems: the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Here we’ve discovered the most predictable Black Bear watching that we’ve ever seen. It will be the perfect time of year to spot small cubs who’ve recently emerged from the den! Alligator River is also the core of Red Wolf habitat, a critically endangered species that can only be found here on the coast of North Carolina. If we’re extremely lucky, we may spot one. We occasionally see River Otters here, as well as Barred Owls and venomous snakes like Cottonmouths. And yes, there’s even a chance of spotting an Alligator. This is the northernmost extent of the alligator’s range in North America!
Overnight in Manteo
Day 6: Dolphins & Coastal Creatures
This morning we head to the Outer Banks, North Carolina’s incredible collection of sandy barrier islands that stretch for hundreds of miles through the Atlantic. In the morning we’ll spy the reclusive Marsh Rabbits on Roanoke Island, and get up close views of an Osprey nest with newly hatched chicks. Then we’ll join a Dolphin Watch boat tour on the Roanoke Sound, where Common Bottlenose Dolphins come to give birth to their young in the safe shallow waters. In the afternoon we’ll visit the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge where we’ll see huge Snapping Turtles and a stunning variety of wading birds and shorebirds in the shallow lagoons. In the evening we’ll take another lap through the Alligator River to see more Black Bears. If we’re feeling energetic, we’ll take a night time walk on the beach by moonlight where we have the chance of seeing nesting Loggerhead Sea Turtles.
Overnight in Manteo
Day 7: Shorebirds and Sea Turtles
Today we head to Lake Mattamuskeet, famed for it’s winter concentrations of migrating waterfowl. We’ll see plenty of wading birds and shorebirds as well as the aquatic rodent known as the Nutria. Birds of prey like the majestic Bald Eagle circle in the sky. Plus we’ll have more chances to spot the elusive Red Wolf, Bobcats, Otters, and Black Bears. In the late afternoon we’ll return to the beach to visit Jeanette’s Pier that stretches far out into the ocean and is an excellent place to spot large Sting Rays and Loggerhead Sea Turtles. Here we’ll enjoy the sunset and eat our celebratory farewell meal.
Overnight in Manteo
Return to Raleigh with a smile on your face and catch your flight home.