Offbeat Valentine’s Day: Fall in love with nature in Mississippi

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GAUTIER, Miss. (WGNO) - We've found the perfect way to escape the rat race for a while and spend time with other wildlife. It's an overnight eco-tour adventure on the Pascagoula River and Swamp.

The romance here is falling in love with nature, getting back to the basics and hitting the 'pause' button on life, if only for a weekend.

"We love this river and there are so many reasons to conserve it and protect it," says Captain Kathy Wilkinson, who has been sharing her passion for the Pascagoula region with travelers from around the world for more than a decade.

As part of their business, Eco-Tours of South Mississippi treats guests to an environmental lesson, introducing them to white pelicans, blue herons and an occasional alligator. For the truly adventurous, $500 buys a night in an old hunting camp-turned-guesthouse, including meals and activities. The rustic accommodations sleep up to six guests.

"It's not luxurious," says Kathy, "but it's comfortable."

Kathy and her husband stay in a side room at the camp, and they do all the dirty work. Guests decide how much they want to be involved in food preparation -- and Kathy says they are fine with accommodating special dietary needs, as long as they know ahead of time.

"If people want to taste South Mississippi then we make some gumbo or boil some shrimp or something like that," says Kathy -- adding that they work out the menu ahead of time, since everything has to be brought in by boat.

Their most popular tour is a two-hour motorboat tour that leaves from the dock in Gautier City Park.