Heading out on a salt marsh safari in the Skimmer with Ginny and Ed, I felt a little lost…in time. With the shoreline’s cacophony of electrical wires and buildings at my back, I was looking out at a shimmering, grassy carpet covering the shallow waters of Cape May Inlet. Other than the odd small boat, it felt like our group was totally alone, exploring the shores where the indigenous Kechemeche people use to gather shellfish.
“This is the ocean’s nursery, small crabs and shrimps provide a smorgasbord for migrating and resident birds. Look, there’s the osprey nest,” said Ed, the Skimmer’s captain. “And there’s an osprey,” chimed in Ginny, his partner, pointing to a dark, large-winged bird cruising the thermals above the marsh. Being fall, many of the migrating feathered residents had already departed for the south. Great herons, snowy egret, king fishers and cormorants were still there, though, providing plenty of fodder for our binoculars.
As Ginny took the wheel, Ed urged us to come and look at his touch tank. Gently he plucked out starfish, crabs, whelks, and sea urchins for us to admire. “These creatures are part of the chain of life. This whole area is full of nutrients and is rich with wildlife,” he explained.
“We love it out here. For eight months of the year, seven days a week, we’re on the water. That’s the houseboat we live in,” said Ginny pointing to another flat-bottomed boat tied to the dock. She and Ed told us they have been taking visitors out for eight years and their safaris are considered a top attraction. “We take out lots of school groups, but individual travelers are also a big part of our business. We just want to share the natural beauty of the area. That way people will be more inclined to appreciate it and protect it. In many places along the coast, the salt marshes have been filled in. That’s a shame. We need them, they are the area’s lungs,” explained Ginny.
Ed expertly swung the Skimmer around and we headed back to shore. The water sparkled as swallows flitted by looking for insects. Breathing in the clean air, I felt totally at peace, but also a tad jealous. What a wonderful place Ginny and Ed call home. www.skimmer.com, (609) 884-3100. For more information on New Jersey flora and fauna, go to www.njaudubon.org