Oatland Island Wildlife Center in Savannah is preparing for a busy season at the wildlife preserve as winter melts into spring and summer.
On Saturday, March 7, the center offers Spring Fest: Sheep to Shawl to welcome the upcoming season.
“It’s about spring, the growth of new plants, and about a diversity of things. It’s a family-focused festival happening at our heritage homesite, our 1800s cabins,” said Michelle Kelly, resident naturalist at Oatland Island. “We house the Fiber Guild of Savannah who helps us out with this festival, because they will set up their spinning, weaving, carding of the hair and everything, and will also provide crafts and activities for our guests. We’ll also have live music, games, etc.”
The festival is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children.
The festivities add to the array of activities available at Oatland Island. Visitors usually spend some time inside the nature center viewing reptiles and amphibians, then they explore the outdoor trails spotted with deer, birds and other wildlife. The wolf exhibit grabs the attention of nature lovers of all ages.
Another spring event is the Fairy and Gnome Festival, which highlights the wonders of nature. The April 25 festival is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Friends of Oatland Island members are admitted free. All other attendees will be charged a regular admission fee, with some crafts to be offered as free activities. Children will have the opportunity to create their own fairy house and fairy door as well as other crafts.
“It’s all about exploring nature, seeing the beauty becoming creative, using nature and natural objects and getting outside and playing, and the magical, whimsical world of fairies and gnomes,” Kelly said.
The center also looks forward to its summer camp program, which takes place Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 1-July 17 (no camp June 29-July 3). The program is led by a certified public-school teacher.
Campers will discover science through hands-on activities, creative crafts and wildlife investigations, according to the Oatland Island website.
“We were voted by South Magazine as having (the) best summer camp in 2019. It was a lifetime achievement award for our camp coordinator,” said Kelly, who has been working at Oatland Island since 2012.
Savannah resident Neesha Michael holds a membership to Oatland Island Wildlife Center for her family of five. She says they visit there at least once a week to see the animals.
“We’ve been to lots of their programs over the years, as well, and have always really enjoyed and learned and gotten a lot out of every one of them,” she said. “Our kids love going even without any formal programming, so I expect that given the environment and education aspects they provide regularly, their camps are going to be just as wonderful and memorable experiences for my girls.”
Michael’s oldest children are 5 and 9 years old.
“They’re particularly interested in science and engineering (building, specifically) activities and Oatland is offering options for both. It’s hard to find options that accommodate both ages in one week,” she said. “Oatland does that, which is another bonus for us. One drop off and pickup, both children’s interests accommodated.”
Oatland also offers its Toddler Tuesdays program, which is for pre-school aged children and their guardians. The twice-a-day program lasts about 30 to 45 minutes and centers around an animal, including a story and a craft time. The programs, which begin at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., are a fundraiser for the center.
“Oatland is very focused on families with young children, though we are trying to offer more all-ages programming during the summer and holidays. During the summer, we have animal encounters where visitors can come for an extra $2 added to the regular admission price to attend an hour-long animal encounter experience. We present four of our teaching animals that people are permitted to interact with,” Kelly said.
For more information, visit www.oatlandisland.org.
Danielle Birzer is a senior at Savannah State University pursuing a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication.