Why try geocaching? Well, kids are always up for an island treasure hunt. Mention pirates and booty and they're raring to go!
It's the perfectly safe way to enjoy an actual treasure hunt with your kids (without the danger of actual lurking pirates).
Geocaching (pronounced "geo-cashing") is the art of finding hidden "geocaches" using a hand-held GPS unit. There are around 16 geocaches on Jekyll Island - the fun is in the finding. Some folks "hide" the geocaches, so others can then "seek" them, using their GPS.
What Are We Looking For, Anyway?
Well, geocaches, of course.
Geocaches are waterproof containers (could be any kind, from ammo boxes to coffee cans to Tupperware) secreted away in a somewhat hard to get to spot, somewhere on the island. Geocache hunters find them by entering the waypoint information of the geocache into their handheld GPS units.
Waypoints for Jekyll Island geocaches can be found at the official gecocaching website - just enter the zip code for Jekyll Island (31527).
The Jekyll Island Authority used to rent GPS units, but they no longer provide that service, so you'll need to bring your own.
Units like the Garmin dTrex Venture HC start for as little as $125.00. You can get GPS units from any outdoor or boating shop.
Geocache Treasure -
What's inside a geocache? Why, treasure! Actually, the "treasure" isn't worth much - mostly trinkets, shells, toys, and things like that.
Etiquette says that a treasure hunter should take something from the geocache and leave something in its place, so have a supply of small items on hand to leave as your "offering" to fellow geocachers who will come after you.
Most geocaches have a notebook and writing utensil inside so you can leave a note to tell about your adventure (like the notebooks in the trail shelters along the Appalachian Trail).
And some include a disposable camera. Take a picture of your family enjoying the treasure hunting experience and put the camera back in the cache. The pirate (I mean, geocache owner) who hid the geocache in the first place may eventually publish those photos on the geocache website.
Booty Hunting -
Geocaching is deceptively simple. I mean, what's easier than following coordinates to a given point? Better than a treasure map!
Well, obstacles come into play. You might find yourself trekking through a maritime forest, off the beaten path, dodging pesky palmetto spines. Or suddenly find a creek blocking your path.
Most geocaches on Jekyll Island are easy to find, though you might have to hunt a bit. Depending on their quality, GPS units can put you anywhere from 5' to 20' from your prize. Another factor is the accuracy of the waypoint the original geocache provider plotted.
But that's part of the adventure. You find you're closing in on a cache, you know the prize is near - you just need to zero in on it. That's when kids really get into the hunt. The geocache could be anywhere - behind or in a tree (but low enough to spot), next to a building, under a bridge - anywhere!
Geocache rules state that geocaches can't be buried, though, so you don't have to lug a shovel around with you.
Make It a Competition -
Geocaching is the perfect activity for spending quality time with your kids. Using a GPS is right up there with video games, with the added advantage of happening in the real world. And when you find your geocaches, you can post your adventures on the official geocaching website.
It's also a great way to see Jekyll Island, whether you hunt your treasure from a car, a bike or on foot.
Have a family-wide contest. Parents verses kids, or girls against guys, however way you want to team up, and see who can find the most geocaches in a day's time. Or stick together and hunt them all down as a group. Either way, geocaching is a fantastic way to explore Jekyll Island, interact with the kids, become closer as a family, and get exercise to boot.
Who knew that being a pirate could be so much fun?