The combination of forested land, warm ocean, and fresh river waters sets the stage for a unique biodiversity along the coast of South Carolina. As alligators bathe in the marshy wetlands, ospreys build their nests on Spanish moss-covered oaks. Impressive American bald eagles circle high above the ocean waves before diving in for the kill, right next to a pod of dolphins happily splashing and feeding on shrimp. Yet, within the same square mileage are big cats of the African safari, sharks and tropical fish from around the world, and domestic horses ready to plod both beach and trail. Bookmark these rare opportunities to interact with animals for your next getaway to Myrtle Beach!
If the Tiger King helped you through the quarantine of 2020, then the only logical thing to follow is to befriend a tiger in real life! Myrtle Beach Safari is a 50-acre preserve for animals of the African wilderness. The Wild Encounters tour is a 3-hour guided tour full of hands-on animal experiences. You’ll get to interact with majestic beasts like Hercules the liger and Ramses the cheetah, play with sweet tiger cubs, feed Bubbles the African elephant, and then hang out with the apes.
Myrtle Beach Safari also operates a specialty night tour that includes the rare opportunity to hand-feed other big cats like Bengal tigers, a snow white tiger and a golden tabby tiger. The pleasant evening stroll through the tropical gardens includes dinner and roasting marshmallows with the chimpanzees!
Separate from the Wild Encounters tour, Myrtle Beach Safari offers an additional opportunity to get your photo taken with an adorable tiger cub in your lap at the Preservation Station. The Preservation Station has two convenient locations: one at The Safari Lodge in South Myrtle Beach and the other at Barefoot Landing. No matter which side of town you’ll be visiting, you can’t miss this unforgettable animal encounter!
Just as big cats earn much of the attention on land, sharks rule the dominion under the sea. At Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach, the Dangerous Reef is the most popular exhibit for a reason. Sandbar, sand tiger, and nurse sharks glide overhead and all around you as you walk the 340-foot transparent tunnel on the aquarium floor. Head on to Stingray Bay for an up-close and personal visit with several species of stingrays, and then marvel at the colorfully backlit jellyfish at Planet Jellies. In total, Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach provides eight exhibits and five extraordinary in-person experiences, including a virtual tour, where you’ll see every sort of aquatic creature from turtles and penguins to sea dragons and octopuses.
In a sense, the most intriguing Myrtle Beach zoo is the local outdoors. Waccamaw Cooter Airboat Tours hosts a few special ways to witness the native flora and fauna from the comfort of a 60-foot pontoon boat or an airboat. The Plantation River Tour is a great way to see why this rich land attracted 19th-century plantation owners. Set to a local historian’s narration, the 2.5-hour tour cruises along the Waccamaw River for views of six different plantations. Colonial-era architectural remains like trunk gates and slave cabins still stand in contrast to their natural environment of moss-laden oak and grand cypress trees. Meanwhile, the Airboat Tour explores the Waccamaw, Black and Pee Dee Rivers along the National Wildlife Refuge, where you have a good chance of seeing eagles, alligators and osprey. Rather than bringing the animals into the human world, Waccamaw Cooter Airboat Tours brings you to the animals in their preferred habitat.
Coastal Scuba is a one-stop shop for all the diving gear you’ll need for purchase or rent, professional-grade PADI-certified dive training, and scuba diving advice from experienced staff members. Beginners to scuba diving can get as much practice as they need through Coastal Scuba’s training program. When you’re ready to take on the deep blue, sign up for one of their scuba diving charters. Historic shipwrecks at their popular diving sites are always teeming with marine life like Spanish mackerel, barracudas, black sea bass, coral, sponges, stingrays, and much more. Coastal Scuba is both an immersive way to experience the Myrtle Beach wildlife and a chance to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean depths like a mermaid!
Myrtle Beach Horseback Riding
As one of humankind’s first tamed companions, our equine friends must not be excluded from your search for animal connection. Don’t miss out on the Myrtle Beach horseback riding opportunities at Grand Strand Horseback Riding. Their trail riding adventure wanders through 100 acres of scenic woods, crop fields, pastures and ponds on the back of a well-trained and sweet-tempered horse. Or, take in the salty ocean air as your sure-footed friend carries you across the Myrtle Beach shoreline on the beach riding tour. Remember to keep an eye and a camera out for the local woodland critters and aquatic wildlife!
You’ve been to the beach plenty of times, but have you ever splashed in the shallows on horseback? Myrtle Beach Horseback Rides will expose you to a new perspective of the sandy shoreline with their 1.5-hour beach ride, running from November to February. During these excursions, it’s not uncommon to see pods of dolphins, bald eagles, pelicans, jellyfish, horseshoe crabs, and other coastal creatures. The horses would also love to accompany you to their favorite stomping grounds about a half hour’s drive away. From March to October, the countryside tour wanders through the gorgeous equestrian trails of Conway. Each tour includes an expert guide to teach you how to ride, plus complimentary photos to help you remember this lifelong memory.
The native wildlife is one of the most beautiful things to explore in Myrtle Beach, especially for people who feel a special connection to the environment and all of Earth’s critters. Nature lovers will also appreciate the abundance of non-native animal preserves striving to protect the lives in their care and educate the public about the symbiotic nature of ecosystems. From zoos to outdoor habitat excursions to horseback riding adventures, there are countless opportunities in Myrtle Beach to encounter animal species of all kinds and indulge in your appreciation for nature.
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