With October being Gullah Geechee Month, I figured I should take everyone back to when my wife and I visited probably one of the most calmest and peaceful islands off the eastern coast of the U.S., Sapelo Island. This trip that we took to celebrate our 8th year anniversary was definitely one we will never forget as the Sapelo Island is the last of many islands that is still owned today by the Gullah Geechee Nation.
Many do not realize that before reaching the mainland of America that many enslaved African were first taken to islands off the coast of the U.S. These islands extend from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida. Just for people to understand the beauties of these locations, many of the islands and coastal areas are some of the most visited tourist to this day. From Hilton Head, Jekyll Island, Myrtle Beach, St. Simon and many more all are great getaways that people love to visit for the holidays.
One that you don’t hear much about though is Sapelo Island. Located about an hour away from Savannah, Georgia, Sapelo Island is one of the last, if not the last island that hold control by the Gullah Geechee Nation. With a population of 35 people, many of the natives who are still there are of elderly age. Before going to the island we had a native tour guide by the name of J.R. who we met in Darien, Georgia. J.R. was probably within his late 30’s or 40’s and was one of the last children who was raised on the island. Proud of his roots, J.R. gave us a lot of information about the history of the island as well as why he hates the University of Georgia.
With being such an untouched, yet developed area, Sapelo Island is a gold mine for marine biologist and with that stated University of Georgia has been working hard to take over the island to honestly do their own studies. I mean while there, even though people moved comfortable throughout the island, we easily saw nature being nature. From a Bald Eagle happily letting it’s presents be known, a wild boar that could easily take out a mini coup with no effort, to even porpoises swimming off the coast of the island. This place quickly took you to a time where life was changing for many, but allowed you to see how life may have been before… life.
The thing about many of the coastal island is that a lot of these area were plantations at some point, but with being detached from the world, many was able to keep parts of their culture and due to were they were taken from, the Gullah Geechee nation was experts of farming in coastal regions. Most times people think slavery was only cotton, but cotton came later. The big money maker for most areas was sugar and rice. Still to this day, you can go to the Sapelo Island and see wild sugarcanes still growing on the land.
One thing that we can to find out that the Gullah Geechee nation is really known for is sweetgrass baskets. These baskets are weaved by hand and can range from a small bracelet to a cradle from a baby. We had a chance to witness these being made while in Charleston, South Carolina. One thing I feel that spoiled the mess out of us while at Sapelo is experience having an entire beach to ourselves. You knew a lot of people didn’t go there because you could walk up the shoreline and find seashells and sand dollars with no problem. It was truly something to take in.
But if you ever have a chance to visit Sapelo definitely make sure to take it. Just know you do have to take a ferry over to the island. Most times it leaves very early in the morning and comes back to the mainland a couple times in the afternoon and evenings.