In the winter of 1997 three high school buddies, Shane Ziegler, Jose Hernandez, and Max Sparwasser, were roasting oysters over a cedar fire on Capers Island when the three of them came up with the idea of forming Barrier Island Eco Tours. The 23 year olds had spent much of their youth boating the tidal creeks of the Charleston area fishing, shrimping, crabbing, and exploring the undeveloped barrier islands. They felt that visitors to Charleston were missing out on the best part of the lowcountry, its undeveloped barrier islands and back creek salt marshes. They wanted to expose people to Capers Island and its surrounding salt marsh ecosystem, but in an informative way so guests left with a greater respect and appreciation of this remarkably unspoiled place.
In the summer of 1997, after receiving permission from the SCDNR to take visitors to Capers Island, Hernandez and Ziegler began business taking educational nature tours to Capers on a 6 passenger boat. In 1998 they bought the Callinectes, a Coast Guard Certified 40 passenger tour boat. Two years later they added a 23 ft. fishing boat for inshore fishing charters. Two years after that, a 16 passenger skiff outfitted for smaller customized eco-tours, kayaking, and fishing excursions was added to the fleet. In 2006, Ziegler bought out Hernandez’s share of the business and added a 22 passenger pontoon which he leases from his head naturalist, Robert Hopkins.