There are lots of people who love South Carolina and the Charleston-area islands, particularly given the opportunity to see Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. This is a beautiful marine mammal that is commonly sighted at low tide and is aggressively protected by the local Beach Patrol and local wildlife laws.
There are numerous educational programs that focus on studying the dolphin population in South Carolina, and you might have the opportunity to explore the feeding behavior of a group of dolphins on the Kiawah River. This includes strand feeding dolphins around the town of Kiawah Island. What do you need to know about this unique behavior, and where might you be able to observe this behavior along a sandbar or the water’s edge?
What Is Strand Feeding?
Dolphins are among the smartest animals in the world, and this certainly shines through with their feeding behaviors. Dolphins like to feed on a school of fish, and one of the ways they collect their food is through strand feeding.
This takes place when they work in small groups. Then, using the power of their bodies, they lunge quickly at the fish toward a sandbar. This creates a powerful wave that gradually moves the fish toward the shore. Then, they lift their bodies out of the water and beach themselves on the sand (temporarily).
Eventually, the waves begin to recede as the tide washes back in. During this time, the school of fish is going to swim away from the sandbar back toward the water. That is where the dolphins lay on the sand and wait for the fish to swim right into their mouths.
This is a unique feeding habit that a lot of our guests love to observe. At the same time, it is important for people to give dolphins plenty of space to practice their feeding habits in peace. That is why some of the top organizations, such as the Low Country Marine Mammal Network (LMMN) and the NOAA encourage people to follow the rules of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The Top Tips for Watching Dolphins Practice Strand Feeding
If you are interested in watching the dolphins practice strand feeding, there are a few important tips you need to follow. These include:
- Always try to stand at least 15 yards away from the waterline. That way, you give the dolphins plenty of space.
- It is a good idea for you to remain quiet so you do not disturb them. Ideally, the dolphins should not even know you are there.
- Never try to throw anything at the dolphins when they are eating. It is important to let them reside in their natural habitats without being disturbed.
- Even though you might want to watch the dolphins eat, you should not feed them anything. This is harmful to their species because you might be teaching them to rely on people for food. Furthermore, this is illegal.
- There are lots of people who like to swim with the dolphins, but strand feeding is not the time to do so. Leave them alone, and never try to chase them or touch them.
If you are trying to watch the dolphins from the comfort of a boat, kayak, or other watercraft, there are several additional tips you need to follow. These include:
- You should try to stay about 50 yards away from the dolphins. This is approximately the length of one Olympic swimming pool.
- When you are getting close to the area, make sure you turn down the speed of your boat. If you are using something that has a motor, keep in mind that this is a no-wake area.
- Again, you should not try to swim with or chase the dolphins. This will be harmful to their strand feeding behaviors.
- Do not encourage the dolphins to swim closer to you. You should allow them to go about their routines without being distracted.
- If the dolphins come closer to you, do not get scared. They are not going to harm you, and you should not try to harm them.
- If you notice there is a mother dolphin taking care of her child, you will not do anything to separate the pair.
If you keep these tips in mind, you should be able to watch the dolphin’s strand feed.
Where on Kiawah Island Can You Spot Strand Feeding?
If you are interested in watching the dolphins engage in strand feeding on Kiawah Island, the good news is that you have plenty of options available. One of the best locations you should go to if you want to watch strand feeding is in between Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island. In particular, you should head to Captain Sam’s Inlet, also called Captain Sam’s Spit. This is one of the most popular locations in the world to watch this type of unique behavior. Captain Sam’s Inlet is located on the western edge of Kiawah’s beach – just walk or bike to the end of the island.
Keep in mind that this is only something that happens for a few seconds on the shore: so you’ve got to have a quick eye to catch it! Because this is so fast, it is important for you to plan your time around this activity. In particular, this type of feeding behavior is most likely to occur two hours before and two hours after low tide. Therefore, it is a good idea to take a look at the newspaper or use your phone to figure out when low tide is going to take place.
This type of activity is most commonly seen during the spring and fall, but it is possible to catch this behavior during summer as well.
Protect the Dolphin Population
Even though it is a lot of fun to observe this behavior, it is critical to protect the dolphin population. Unfortunately, there are a lot of threats to the dolphins, and many people love watching strand feeding behavior. If people disturb the dolphins when they are practicing this activity, they are going to have a difficult time getting the nutrition they need. Furthermore, if this marine mammal learns to rely on people for food, they are going to forget how to hunt in the wild. This is going to further threaten the population. That is why it is important for everyone to follow the tips listed above, allowing the dolphins to engage in feeding peacefully.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about this type of feeding practice should take a look at some of the education programs that are in the area. Furthermore, anyone who believes the population is being threatened should also reach out to Beach Patrol or the law enforcement division of the NOAA to make sure the dolphins receive the protection they deserve.
Watch Dolphins Strand Feed Throughout the Year with Prime Real Estate on Kiawah Island!
If you are someone who is interested in spending as much time with this beautiful creature as possible, then you may be thinking about visiting Kiawah Island.
Kiawah Island is a gorgeous location to learn more about marine life, including dolphins! But, there’s a lot more to do here. Explore our vacation rentals, explore fun outdoor activities like golfing, bike paths and maybe even take a day away from the beach and go shopping. Ready to start planning your visit? Get in touch with us today!