Da–dum. With just two notes, Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams turned sharks into Hollywood’s most terrifying villains. Forty-three years after Jaws hit theaters, moviegoers (and sharks’ reputation) have yet to completely recover. But the conservation-minded team at the Little Saint Simons Island resort—occupying 11,000 largely undeveloped acres amid Georgia’s famed Golden Isles—is doing damage control with their third annual Shark Days summit (July 24–29).
“We hope to dispel any instinctual reservations or misconceptions and create a better understanding of sharks’ importance in global marine ecosystems,” says Little Saint Simons naturalist Cohen Carpenter. “We want to instill a fear of oceans without sharks.” They appear to be succeeding. Last year, the six-day hands-on experience, which takes guests out of the classroom and onto the water, sold out. Inshore and surf fishing trips, led by Captain Brooks Good and a trio of the field’s top scientists, teach attendees how to identify, tag, and release the bonnethead, blacktip, finetooth, lemon, and bull sharks that glide through these waters. Shark pups are particularly prevalent here, Carpenter says: “The shallow waters and estuaries provide them with protection from larger predators as well as ample feeding opportunities.” Attendees also have plenty of time to take advantage of the barrier island’s wealth of hiking, biking, boating, birding, and beach-walking. And if all that face time with the local sharks has you just a tiny bit anxious about a dip in the ocean—frightening reputations aren’t rehabbed in a day—make your way to the resort’s saltwater pool instead.