BY HENRY MILLER
Before all the shouts of “Look!” and “Over there!” could reach the front of the boat, the majority of the onlookers had run to the one side, making the boat tilt with the sudden additional weight. With camera phones ready to fire off photos or video, eyes peered along the water for another sneak peek.
The dolphins had finally showed at Dolphin Cove and people of all ages on the Osprey Cruise transporter went into a mild frenzy — each wanting to be the first to alert everyone else where the next appearance was.
“Make sure you make some sounds because dolphins are very curious animals,” said the voice over the boat’s loudspeakers. “The more noise and sounds you make, the more they will put on a show.”
That resulted in a show probably enjoyed as much by the dolphins watching the humans as the humans watching the dolphins.
Summer is still rolling along but the days are getting short.
On South Padre Island, Osprey Cruises is one of many places where visitors can create an adventure of all level of activity. The island is home to many water sport activities, with personal water craft rentals, kiteboarding and dolphin watches being among the most popular. Other favorites are horseback riding adventures on the beach and ecological tours that explore Padre Island National Seashore.
Fishing is also immensely popular, from the bay, the gulf and deep sea.
The Texas International Fishing Tournament is underway, held annually, with winnings totaling almost a quarter-million dollars.
Other fishing tournaments include the Ladies Kingfish Tournament, the Hooters Tournament and the Redfish Rodeo, just to name a few. All of these are open to the public.
Known obviously for being a spring break destination for college students from around the world, SPI is also a resort destination rapidly growing in popularity year round.
Keith Arnold, director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said that last year was a huge year for the island, with close to a 20-percent increase in visitors.
“Clearly there are the best of adventures here in two areas — wind and water sports, and nature and tourism,” Arnold said. “Then there’s Schlitterbahn and that’s an amazing adventure all on its own.”
He’s not kidding when he talks about the world-known Schlitterbahn Water Park, which is divided into two sections — the outdoor and indoor park. Featuring a unique transportation by river system, almost all of the attractions are connected by a single river. Better yet, if you just want to relax, you can float your day away in your “tube” on its lazy river. The indoor park is open year round.
When it comes to wind and watersports, not only are they available in quantity, but those who are interested can take lessons provided by a number of outfitters. If kite surfing seems a little too extreme, there are numerous other options such as parasailing, paddleboarding, windsurfing or kayaking. Of course, there are jet skis for rent as well. South Padre was also ranked as the No. 11 place in the world when it comes to kiteboarding, Arnold said.
Many people are at first surprised to hear about the high quality of surfing the beautiful beach and nearby jetties provide.
Arnold remembers when he lived in Corpus Christi and groups of people would trek to two-plus hours to South Padre to surf.
“Obviously there’s also wakeboarding and body surfing and surfing itself,” he said. “Surfing down by the jetties is really good. We would come down here from Corpus because of how good it was. There were better beaches and better waves — those were the key.”
The list of things to do, and the combination — especially if one includes some nature and tourism, or nightlife and dining — or maybe even the beach, which has yet to be mentioned, is like the number of sand granules on the beach and too overwhelming to count. But one thing is certain — there’s the full spectrum of activities, from challenging to relaxing, on South Padre Island.
“One thing is for certain,” Arnold said. “We go from thrill to chill on South Padre Island.”