Do something different on your next South Carolina vacation. Snorkel with a stingray. Too tame for your taste? Take a two-day rafting trip on the white-water river made famous in the classic ‘70s action film, "Deliverance." Whether you prefer high adventure or a low-key getaway, you'll find just the right out-of-the-ordinary experience to add to your South Carolina itinerary.
Here are 5 of the best exotic adventures in South Carolina:
1) Edisto River Treehouses. Carolina Heritage Outfitters offers a two-day, 23-mile self-guided canoe trip on the beautiful Edisto, the longest free-flowing blackwater river in North America. You'll spend the night in one of three secluded treehouses located on a 100-acre private wildlife refuge. The off-the-grid accommodations are rustic but cozy with a propane stovetop, futons, and lighting provided by oil candles and tiki torches. You'll need to bring your own sleeping bag, food and water, and be prepared to use an outhouse.
2) Dominick House Expedition. A 1920s hunting lodge on Bulls Island serves as base camp for this nature-packed, three-day weekender offered by Coastal Expeditions. Led by a team of experienced naturalists, you'll have the chance to explore the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, a 22-mile stretch of pristine wetlands, bays, creeks and islands that serve as habitat for some 293 species of birds. Among the highlights of the coastal eco-adventure are the sunrise outings to Boneyard Beach, an erosion-wracked section of shoreline littered with the sun-bleached remains of trees that were once part of the island's maritime forest. This excursion is offered on a limited number weekends during the year.
3) Chattooga Overnighter. Raft the same rapids Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox paddled in the movie "Deliverance" on this two-day trip through Sections III and IV of the National Wild and Scenic Chattooga River. Along the way, you'll enjoy stunning views of the protected mountain wilderness that served as the backdrop for the adventure thriller. After your first day of rafting, you'll have the opportunity to swim, hike or fish in the gorge before settling around a campfire for a catered steak dinner. The next morning's bacon-and-eggs breakfast will help fuel your run on Class 4 and 5 rapids like 7-Foot Falls, Corkscrew and Sock-em Dog. Except for a sleeping bag and pillow, all camping and rafting gear is included.
4) Dive with Sharks. Get up close and personal with those oh-so-maligned bad boys of the sea in this underwater experience at Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach. You need to be a certified diver to participate, but all your diving equipment, including wetsuit, will be provided. Before you get in the water with the sharks, you'll be taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of the water chemistry lab, food prep area, and the pumps and filters used to maintain the 750,000-gallon shark tunnel that's part of the aquarium's Dangerous Reef exhibit. You'll have 30 minutes in the tank to swim with sandtiger, sandbar and nurse sharks ranging in size from 4-10 feet. Among the other exhibit inhabitants are a green sea turtle, sawfish, snapper, tarpon and stingrays. If you're not a certified diver or prefer to mingle with tamer fish, sign up for the Stingray Experience, where you can wade and snorkel in the Ray Bay with southern, cownose and spotted eagle rays that have had their barbs clipped, along with a couple of small bonnethead and bamboo sharks.
5) On Stage with Sea Lions. One of several backstage tours offered at Columbia's popular Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, this animal outing takes you behind-the-scenes of Sea Lion Landing, a state-of-the-art habitat for the lovable marine mammals. You'll see how their food is prepared, view their evening living quarters and go on deck with a zookeeper during one of the daily demonstrations of their training exercises. By using positive reinforcement, the keepers are able to teach the animals to perform tasks needed to safely care for them. After the public demonstration, you'll return backstage and get a bucket of fish to toss to the sea lions. Riverbanks Backstage also includes interactive and educational one-hour encounters with elephants, penguins, grizzlies and giant tortoises.