Unspoiled Little St. Simons Island is a wildlife haven

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Unspoiled Little St. Simons Island is a wildlife haven

If You Go

Little St. Simons Island

Part of the chain of barrier islands known as Georgia’s Golden Isles, Little St. Simons Island encompasses 10,000 acres of salt marsh, maritime forest, marsh hammocks and freshwater ponds and seven miles of sandy beach. The island teems with wildlife and natural beauty. An extensive trail system affords visitors hiking, bicycling, birdwatching, wildlife observation and other outdoor pursuits. Kayaks and canoes are available to explore the marsh and tidal creeks. A lodge and several cabins accommodate overnight guests. The island is owned by the relatives of Philip Berolzheimer, a wealthy New Yorker who acquired the island in 1908, and by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and his wife Wendy.

http://www.littlestsimonsisland.com

Accessible only by boat from the Hampton River Marina on neighboring St. Simons Island. Reservations are required.

Accommodations: The lodge and nearby cabins can accommodate 32 guests. Rates range throughout the year and for special occasions, but can be more than $650 for two persons per night. For current rates, call 912-638-7472 or email Lodge@LittleSSI.com. Rates include all meals, beverages, transportation, island tours, baggage handling, use of recreational equipment and naturalist-led walks.

Day Trips: Day trips that take visitors on guided nature walks on the island are offered, but not on a daily basis. For information on available day trips call 912-638-7472 or email Lodge@LittleSSI.com. Cost: $95 per person.

Little St. Simons Island (though not so little at 10,000 acres) lies only a 15-minute boat ride from its bigger, better-known sister, St. Simons Island. In terms of development, however, the two islands couldn’t be further apart.

Whereas St. Simons is top-heavy with condominiums, shopping centers, golf courses and mini-mansions, Little St. Simons is one of the least developed of Georgia’s barrier islands — a privately owned sanctuary devoted to preserving and protecting its teeming wildlife.

As we discovered during a recent visit, Little St. Simons’ rich natural beauty, serenity and wildness quickly made us forget the traffic and congestion on St. Simons, which lay on the distant horizon across an expansive salt marsh.

From the Little St. Simons Lodge near the edge of a wide tidal creek, we watched a pair of dolphins swim upstream, presumably in pursuit of mullet or other fish. A bald eagle flew low over the marsh. Boat-tailed grackles and flocks of red-winged blackbirds swooped after prey in the golden brown marsh grass.

While my wife, Laura, kayaked in the creek, I hiked with members of the Darien-based Coastal Wildscapes organization on a trail running through a lush maritime forest and along the edge of the marsh. (For more information about the organization, whose mission is to preserve and protect the biological diversity of Southeastern coastal ecosystems, visit: www.coastalwildscapes.org.)

Along the way, we encountered a flock of foraging wood storks, an endangered species. We also paused to look for newborn babies in a bulky bald eagle nest high in a pine tree. Later in the day, we explored one of the several marsh hammocks, or marsh islands, that dot the salt marsh and are ecologically linked to it. Laura opted to visit the island’s unsullied, 7-mile-long beach.

On another trek, we stopped at Norm’s Pond, a freshwater impoundment surrounded by wax myrtle shrubs and home to alligators, frogs and a variety of birds. Island naturalist Stacia Hendricks told us that the wax myrtles’ blue berries are prime winter food for many birds, including the numerous yellow-rumped warblers that we saw flitting about.

How uplifting it is to know that unspoiled private wildlife havens such as Little St. Simons still exist in Georgia.

IN THE SKY: The moon will be new Saturday night. On Monday, look for a thin crescent moon low in the west just after dark, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. Mercury and Mars are low in the west just after sunset and will appear close to the moon Saturday night. Venus is low in the east just before sunrise. Jupiter is high in the east just after dark. Saturn rises out of the east just before midnight.

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