A local man known for his tours to see the purple martins around Lake Murray and a film on the famed local birds has turned his hobby into a business.
Zach Steinhauser, a wildlife specialist at Wingard’s Market in Lexington who premiered “Purple Haze: A Conservation Film” in 2022, launched The Carolina Safari Co. last summer, though his tours have been a side hustle since 2017.
Steinhauser goes around the Carolinas photographing nature while taking a small group along for the ride. He talks about the scenery and wildlife with people who may also take their own pictures or videos.
The purple martin tours are included in his safari business, but Steinhauser travels around the state from the Lowcountry to the Upstate. Over the next year, he has 16 individual safaris planned (including a bird watching trip on Edisto Island) along with the purple martin trips during their season on the lake (which lasts from late June through August), adding up to more than 50 trips in total.
“I realized how well things were catching on so I decided to experiment,” Steinhauser said. “I had a good following and ... decided … let’s make an actual business.”
These trips “are for anyone who loves the outdoors,” he added.
He keeps the trip sizes small, between six and 10, to keep the trip more intimate, and the cost of the trips varies depending on distance, but people can expect an average of $50 per person. In most cases, no equipment is needed, but Steinhauser says people may want to bring a camera or walking stick.
His safaris are day trips, but he hopes to expand to weekend trips in the future. He would also love to take his safaris across the Southeast to states such as North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee.
Steinhauser noted that trips will differ depending on the wildlife and scenery.
For instance, he has a stranding dolphin tour at Kiawah Island coming up, which entails a leisurely stroll to the beach inlet to one of the few public locations where dolphins hunt. He explains what’s happening while standing at a safe distance as guests watch the learned behavior exhibited by the dolphins.
The trips do tend to include a lot of walking, though an upcoming bison trip in York will allow guests to ride in a buggy being towed around.
For those wanting something closer to the Midlands, there’s always the purple martin safaris as well as a birdwatching tour of the Mississippi kite bird migration in West Columbia. They tend to hang out near downtown Columbia roosting on chimneys.
There are also several fossil hunts along different beaches.
You can sign up on Steinhauser’s website at carolinasafarico.com.