Hampton-based business recognized statewide as ecotourism becomes more common
By Barrett Baker
Ecotourism is the practice of responsibly traveling for pleasure, visiting scenic or remote natural areas, learning about the local environment and how to conserve it, while minimizing any impact on that environment or its inhabitants.
There are several tours available around Virginia Beach, but one particular ecotour company in Hampton has been formally noted for their efforts to keep their carbon footprint small.
Virginia Green Travel recently presented Shored Up in Hampton with the Green Tour of the Year award. According to a press release, the award is the highest honor given to Virginia tourism operators from across the state.
“We were really excited about winning the award,” says Claire Neubert, who is co-founder and co-owner of Shored Up with Linda Hamm. “It’s what we do anyway, but to be recognized for it is fantastic! When we’re out on a paddle, we’re always really conscientious about not disturbing what we’re looking at to the point where we’re causing harm.”
Shored Up takes people on environmental adventures around the Hampton River and surrounding areas. They offer tours by both land and by sea.
“We both became certified ecotour guides and felt that our business would be another way to reach out to people to share our passion about oysters and the environment, and to connect people to waterways and the importance of clean water,” says Hamm. “We do mostly kayak tours during the warmer months, but we also offer shoreline walking tours, knowing that not everybody has a boat or feels comfortable out on the water.”
The company offers both public and private tours. Some upcoming public events include:
• Saturday, Oct. 23: Walk, Talk, Taste: Hampton’s Nature, History, Flavor
• Saturday, Nov. 20: The BIG Little Oyster Tour
For those who like local craft beers, the kayak tours end at the doorstep of Bull Island Brewery and a frosty mug of beer is often included in the tour price.
“We have tours that introduce our guests to an eagle’s nest here on the Hampton River,” says Neubert. “We have heron and egret rookeries, we have an oyster reef at the top of the Hampton River, and we have all kinds of things—we call them ‘pearls’—that we like nothing better than introducing to our guests. We’re always saying these things are our pearls we string together as a necklace based on what people want. Some of our tours are public, but otherwise we really enjoy catering to smaller private groups.”
Neubert and Hamm believe what they are offering is truly unique. “We don’t know of any other tours that try to blend the different things together,” says Hamm. “You can go rent a kayak and look at nature, but we’re really trying to narrate it more, provide a personal touch, and combine it with history, education, and a little bit of food and fun.”