What images come to mind when you think about taking a safari-style tour in search of Corolla’s wild horses? Perhaps you almost feel the wind against your face as your open-air truck cruises through the sand. Or maybe you start anticipating the thrill of spotting these horses in their wild, natural habitats. But how often do you picture other humans in this daydream? With Back Beach Wild Horse Tours in Corolla, the people – as in the guides – make up just as much of the attraction.
It’s not easy competing against the sensational experience of riding through the sand in a 15-passenger safari truck. And when people finally catch sight of the wild horses roaming and playing, anyone else vying for their attention might not even try. But that doesn’t keep these tour guides from going foot to hoof against the popular equines. They keep funny quips and observations at the ready, continuously nudging their way back to center stage. So what is it about the tour guides of Back Beach Horse Tours that sets them apart in customers’ memories, reviews and future reasons for returning?
Bob White, the owner of Back Beach Wild Horse Tours, likes to say that, “the road ends just minutes from where the fun begins.” But in the hands of the 10 or so guides working with Bob each summer, passengers’ fun actually begins the minute they climb into the truck in the Monteray Plaza parking lot. Like most jobs, Back Beach Horse Tours requires a bit of training for their tour guides. That training focuses on the history of the Outer Banks Colonial Spanish Mustangs. Any additional information about the current herd, the area and the wilderness is up to the guide’s own self education. By the end of their formal and self-directed training these guides know their facts. But they don’t use them to be “just the facts, ma’am”-type of guides. Their ad libbing and joking are extras that each one brings to the tour, putting their signature style on every outing.
Each guide’s personal relationship with the area has built a company roster that boasts experts in a variety of fields. The guides research the area’s history, flora and fauna, and they work in tandem with the Corolla Wild Horse Fund staff to deepen people’s appreciation for the herd and ways that the public can sustainably interact with the horses. They use their own knowledge, anecdotes and various interests to give every tour they lead a personal touch.
Their individual styles captivate tour goers of all ages, starting the moment they take their seat in the safari trucks to the first glimpses of the horses on the beach. It lasts right until the vehicle slows to a stop back at parking lot. Bob likes to joke, “Our tours get kids to actually look up from their phones.” He says it with a chuckle, though you can tell he means it in earnest.
The guides are just as playful and personable as they are experienced. Families and all ages of customers delight in their way of making the tours equal parts entertaining and educational. For instance, guides may enlist the help of younger customers to track the number of horses they spot and for a headcount at the end of each tour. Other guides fashion tours based around their own passions and areas of expertise. For the nature lovers, some guides put a focus on Outer Banks ecosystems and species of plants and animals. Other guides swap bits of history and local lore with the history buffs.
During the tours, customers attempt to balance their attention between their captivating guides and the mesmerizing view surrounding them. I say “attempt” because those in the know can agree that it’s no easy feat. “I think the views are my favorite part of the tours,” Bob mused and added, “that’s if I have to pick just one thing.”
While Back Beach Wild Horse Tours markets itself as horse tours, they are, at their core, sightseeing tours. Their trucks offer views unlike any other vehicle on the northern beaches. The elevated seats sit passengers above the cabs. And as the only company with vehicles boasting forward-facing seats, tour customers travel around the panoramic setting and drink in completely unobstructed views of the ocean, four-wheel-drive beaches, dunes and maritime forest.
Cruising around the northern beaches, customers not only learn about and see the wild horses, but they also encounter waterfowl, dolphins, the occasional whale and perhaps even a seal relaxing on the damp sand. While each creature causes plenty of excitement amongst the passengers on the tours, the stars of the show are, nevertheless, the horses.
The tours themselves wrap three extraordinary opportunities into a singular adventure. For starters, seeing the wild horses in their natural habitats is a coveted affair on the Outer Banks that people can wax poetic about for years to come. Another venture that people often dream of trying is exploring the four-wheel drive beaches, and on the tours they do this in the comfort of the safari trucks, which makes the fear of getting their own vehicle stuck in the sand a needless concern. Finally, these tours let customers discover the northern beaches in a way that cannot be matched by just a drive on N.C. Highway 12 or simply walking on the beach.
When customers take pictures posed next to their guides at the end of the tour or receive a thank you email from Bob upon returning home, they reflect on these one-of-a-kind memories and the fun, creative and entertaining people who made them possible – and it’s those familiar elements that customers find in the form of a new experience, no matter how many times they return.
817B Ocean Trail | Corolla