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A Guide to Dolphin Watching on Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is a natural haven for majestic Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins. Our warm South Carolina coastal waters boast a thriving and diverse ecosystem of wildlife-rich wetlands, waterways, and creeks teeming with beautiful birdlife, wildlife along the banks, and pods of playful, intelligent, and highly sociable Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins. Interacting with these magnificent mammals in their natural habitat is the best thing to do on Kiawah Island – and it’s a year-round treat! 

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins are a familiar site on Kiawah Island year-round. The South Carolina coastline is home to a population of several hundred dolphins with a pod of around 25 dolphins playing in the ocean and waterways of Kiawah Island all year long. The dolphin population on Kiawah Island swells seasonally as migrating bottlenose dolphins seek warmer waters to hunt for food.

TOP SPOTS TO DOLPHIN WATCH ON KIAWAH ISLAND


Dolphin sightings are easy on Kiawah Island. Our resident dolphins can be spotted right from the beach swimming in the warm Atlantic waters, gracefully meandering the rivers and creeks, or strand-feeding along the muddy banks at Captain Sam’s Inlet on the Kiawah River. Rent a beach cruiser or take an early morning sunrise stroll along the shoreline for the most fascinating dolphin-watching experience in the Lowcountry – strand feeding at Captain Sam’s Inlet. 

Kiawah Island is one of only a few destinations in the world you can experience the rare phenomenon of dolphins strand feeding. Strand feeding is a unique feeding behavior where dolphins collectively force fish to the shoreline and launch their bodies out of the water to gather their prey. Many of our guests have even had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of experiencing a mother teaching her baby to strand feed. 

The best time to witness strand feeding on Kiawah Island is early in the morning at low tide. Please note that it is illegal to touch dolphins, you are required to keep a distance of at least 500 yards by boat or 15 yards from the beach, and please keep your pets leashed.

DOLPHIN WATCH FROM HOME


You’ll find the perfect perch to dolphin watch from home with Kiawah Exclusives! Whether you’re lured by the sound of the ocean waves, the quiet of nature in the wetlands, or your own private dock on the Kiawah River, our exclusive collection of Kiawah Island vacation rentals includes a dream home for every dolphin lover. Browse and book online, or give our team a call so we can match you with the perfect home-away-from-home on Kiawah Island.

DOLPHIN WATCHING TOURS ON KIAWAH ISLAND


The best way to encounter Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins in their natural habitat is with a naturalist guide. Our local Kiawah Island guides have an intimate knowledge of the diverse habitats and behaviors of wild Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins – and know the best secret spots on Kiawah Island for dolphin viewing! However your choose to adventure, you’ll find a dolphin-watching tour on Kiawah Island to suit your style.

Night Heron Park

Kiawah Island

The Night Heron Park Nature Center is the Kiawah Island basecamp for guided eco-tours and a variety of boat charters and rentals. Cruise the rivers and creeks with a naturalist guide or pick up a rental for a self-guided tour from Mingo Point on the Kiawah River. Guided dolphin encounters are offered year-round.

Tidal Trails

Kiawah Island

Tidal Trails specialize in custom adventures to encounter the majestic natural inhabitants of Kiawah Island up close and personal. Experiences range from tranquil paddle adventures and cruises to powerboat rentals, wakeboarding, and water skiing instruction. Tidal Trails have on-island locations at Eagle Point, Rhett’s Bluff, Cinder Creek Boathouse, and Sandcastle Beach with daily or weekly rentals available.

Charleston Paddle Company

Kiawah River Bridge

The Charleston Paddle Company launch their signature Kiawah Island paddle board & kayak tours from the Kiawah River Bridge. Choose from nature-guided wildlife, full moon, and sunset tours through the Lowcountry marshlands, SUP Yoga, or learn-to-surf lessons for all ages. If you need a kayak, SUP, or surfboard rental, they’ll deliver to your rental, and pick up for free.

Water Dog Paddle Co.

Bohicket Marina

The Water Dog Paddle Co. at Bohicket Marina offers interactive eco-adventure kayak and SUP tours on the saltwater marshes of Kiawah and Seabrook Island, rentals to explore at your own pace, and on-water yoga on Trophy Lake on Johns Island. Paddle tours launch from the Kiawah Island Bridge, a half-mile before the entrance to the island.

Sonny Boy Charters

Bohicket Marina

Captain Brad of Sonny Boy Charters is a certified United States Coastguard Captain and Realtor who has been sailing the coastal waters of South Carolina since a young boy. With 30+ years of experience on our local waters, Sonny Boy Charters are top-rated for Kiawah Island nearshore and inshore fishing charters, scenic sunset tours, and guided dolphin eco-tours from Bohicket Marina.

Captain Jack’s Sailing & Dolphin Watching

Bohicket Marina

Climb aboard Palmetto Tide for sailing adventures with Captain Jack. Locally owned and operated since 1991, Captain Jack’s Sailing offer half-day and full-day eco-tours from Bohicket Marina, customized your way! Sail the pristine Edisto River or the Atlantic Ocean, ride a rubber dingy to picnic and beachcomb on Shell Island, fish with the family, or set sail into the sunset. However you choose to experience Palmetto Tide, dolphin encounters are almost guaranteed along the way.

Lil Darlin’ Charters

St. Johns Marina

Captain Lindsay of Lil Darlin’ Charters is a lifelong resident of Charleston with an in-depth knowledge of the Lowcountry waterways and a passion for fishing! Head out from St. Johns Marina on the Stono River for an inshore fishing charter or shark fishing trip, or cruise the creeks or harbor searching for Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins. Family memories you’ll never forget!  

Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network

There are many ways to support the protection of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins along the South Carolina coastline. Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network is a local nonprofit focused on protecting the marine mammals in the Greater Charleston Area and has volunteer programs to get involved, local events, and outreaches to educate visitors on our local dolphins. You can even adopt a local dolphin


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