WITH BEN RAINES
Nature so close it falls into the boat
CAPTAIN BEN RAINES
I've spent the last 20 years exploring Alabama's wild places and bringing them to you through my articles and films. Now, with America's Amazon Adventures, I'm taking you with me to see the most spectacular places I know. In addition to being a licensed charter captain, I'm also an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. I discovered the wreck of the Clotilda, the last ship to bring enslaved Africans to the United States, and Simon & Schuster recently published my book, The Last Slave Ship, the True Story of How Clotilda Was Found, Her Descendants, and an Extraordinary Reckoning. My writing and photographs have appeared in numerous national publications, and my underwater film work has appeared in documentaries on National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and PBS. Bring your camera on a trip with me, and I'll help you become a better photographer.
While it is almost unknown to most people, Alabama ranks among the most diverse places on Earth. Our forests and streams are home to twice as many species per square mile as any other state. Alabama ranks number 1 nationally for the number of fish species, turtle species, crawfish, mussels, snails, salamanders... the list goes on and on. The contest isn't even close. For instance, California has 9 species of crawfish. Alabama has 84.
But Alabama is also the leader in extinctions, with more than half of all U.S. extinctions since the 1850s. The goal of all my work, from the films and writings to these nature tours, is to make people appreciate this incredible landscape that surrounds us.
The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is truly America's Amazon. (I came up with the name as I wrote the script for the documentary America's Amazon. You can see the trailer for it below.) The Delta is one of the largest wetland complexes on the continent, covering hundreds of thousands of acres with a network of rivers and creeks that braid together and twist apart. My trips into this vast wilderness are true adventures. We venture far off the beaten path to places few people ever see. When we get back to the dock, I promise you will feel like you've been somewhere incredible.
LOWER DELTA TOUR
$1,000 for a party of up to six
I typically run lower Delta trips in the spring and summer, when things are blooming intensely and the alligators are out and about. The trip lasts six to seven hours. Most of the pictures on this site were taken in the lower Delta. The trip covers about 40 miles in all, with most of the time spent creeping around with a silent electric motor in remote nooks and crannies of the Delta. We commonly see bald eagles, gators, wild hogs, dozens of species of birds, from tiny warblers to owls to swallowtail kites. I specialize in catching various critters from the water or the swampy shores. We can visit a 5,000 year old Native American garden, see ancient pottery factories, eat plants we find growing everywhere. It's a really fun day. Kids of all ages are welcome. We'll put a net in their hands and see if they can catch one of Alabama's nearly 400 fish species. Interested in booking? Shoot me an email at email@example.com or text me at 251-377-7891.
UPPER DELTA TOUR
$1,000 for a party of up to six
I usually run upper Delta trips in the fall and winter, when the snakes are tucked away hibernating. Plus, the ladies' tress orchids are in full bloom all over the swamp once fall kicks in. The highlights of the trip include a visit to Mound Island, where Native Americans built a city atop 18 mounds, the tallest of which is 81 feet tall. The other showstopper in the upper Delta is the last of the giant cypress trees. It measures 32 feet around and escaped being chopped down a century ago when the Delta was logged because it was hollow. It is a massive, redwood-size tree, a testament to what Alabama used to look like. I promise the guy standing by the tree is a normal sized adult man, not an elf used to make the tree look bigger.
BARRIER ISLAND TRIP
$1,000 for a party of up to six
This trip is designed for beach lovers. We will spend the day cruising to uninhabited barrier islands along the Alabama coast. Some will be marshy, and some will feature white sand Gulf beaches and the chance to swim and snorkel in the Gulf. We will pull seines and throw cast nets to see what we catch. Plenty of time will be spent walking the beach looking for shells and coconuts, and whatever else we might find. We will also have a few rods on board and see what's biting. If you've always wanted to spend some time on an uninhabited island, this is your chance. Weather plays a role in when we can make this trip, so best to plan ahead. Excellent trip for families.
ONE FOOT OR LESS FISHING CLUB
$300 per person per trip
I don't offer many fishing trips, but I came up with a special idea for a sort of fishing club dedicated to my favorite kind of fishing. For me, that's being on the Gulf when it is so calm and clear you can see fish 15 to 20 feet underwater and sight cast to them. Preferably with a fly rod. (ever caught a cobia or an amberjack on a giant popping bug? It's a blast!)
The idea for the club is this: When the Gulf forecast calls for seas of 1 foot or less, meaning a slick calm day, we will go fishing for snapper, kings, bonito, Spanish, cobia, whatever we can find. While we will bring some fish home, that's not what the trip is about. The goal is to either sight cast to schools of fish busting on the surface, or chum fish up from the deep where we can sight cast to them behind the boat. This is a trip for folks who care more about the catching than the keeping.
If the idea appeals to you shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the club. When we get a slick forecast, I'll start contacting people in the club, working down the list until I've got three anglers ready to go on the day forecast to be calm.
I've explored the forests of Borneo and all over the world,
and it turns out the most fascinating place of all was right here
where I started out, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
GET IN TOUCH
If you would like to find out more information, I would be more than happy to help. Best bet is email or text. Numbers below. Or, you can fill out the form below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. It may take a day to respond as I'm probably on the water.