National Dolphin Day; Celebrating the True Locals of the Lowcountry
April celebrated National Dolphin Day, and so did we! Today, we are going to talk about the bottlenose dolphin, a stunning and beautiful creature that calls coastal Carolina its home!
Welcome back to the blog, adventurers! Today, we are going to be talking about one of our most favorite local animals, and one so special that it has its own national day dedicated to it! April 14th was National Dolphin Day, and we hope many of our readers enjoyed and joined us in our Virtual Dolphin Watch and all of our National Dolphin Week activities! We joined Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network to learn about Charleston’s true “locals”, their behaviors, and their home ranges. We joined in along with Oceana and Business Alliance Protecting the Atlantic Coast to learn about the relationship between our coastal environment and the economy, and what we can do to protect both! If you were unable to join us for this exciting day, don’t worry! We will be spending this blog talking about the amazing bottlenose dolphin and all of our tours dedicated to seeing and being among these incredible mammals in their natural habitat! This year, and every year, dolphin week was very exciting! We went kayaking with Lowcountry Marine Mammals executive director, Lauren Rust, at sunset to see and learn more about the bottlenose dolphin with Lauren. We donated the proceeds of that special trip to help with their mission of protecting local dolphins and other marine mammals. What an amazing week it was!
Dolphin Tours with Coastal Expeditions
There are so many beautiful things about the Lowcountry, it’s hard to choose just one. If we could pick a few, seeing a dolphin swim right in the water next to you as you kayak through the Lowcountry or watching one leap out of the water at sunset, would have to be at the top of our list of beautiful things. These playful creatures are a very important staple in our ecosystem and a joy found right here in the Lowcountry. We know how many of you adore these amazing creatures, so we have created multiple tours all about them!
Captain Sam’s Spit Dolphin Kayak Tour
This tidal-dependent all-day sea kayak trip to see local wildlife, including the bottlenose dolphin, needs to be added to your to-do list! You begin your day at the Farmhouse at Kiawah River and head down to Bobcat Landing where you’ll be fitted with your gear and will participate in a short lesson in sea kayaking. You’ll glide through a maze of salt marsh and tidal flats, where you’ll be surrounded by extraordinary wildlife in abundance. Please expect to see pods of bottlenose dolphins and many native birds such as eagles, herons, and much more! You’ll land at Captain Sam’s spit for a break after a 4-5 mile paddle. Captain Sam’s Spit is vital to endangered species like the bottlenose dolphin. You’ll enjoy a picnic, bird watching, and have a chance to scavenge for seaside treasures. You will then relaunch and head back to where you began. The bottlenose dolphins that you will see in this area are known for strand-feeding behavior, which is amazing to see in person!
Almost all of our kayak tours from Awendaw to Bulls Island and beyond will give you an up-close experience and chance to see dolphins first hand. These tours include our Awendaw Creek Paddle and Hike, Bulls Island Paddle and Hike, Daily Kayaking Tour on Isle of Palms, our Family Kayak Tours in Isle of Palms and Shem Creek, Full Moon Kayak Tour on Isle of Palm, Paddle and Hike on Kiawah River, Shark Fossils & Facts Kayak tour, Shem Creek Daily Kayak Tour, and our Sunrise Kayak Tour on Shem Creek and Isle of Palms. It’s an added treat to enjoy these kayak tours for their unique attributes and to have the opportunity to see and experience dolphins right along with your whole expedition!
Family Kayak Tour
This family paddle is a simple and enjoyable two-hour trip for the whole family. You’ll be departing from our Isle of Palms outpost and into one of the largest continuous stretches of underdeveloped coastline on the Eastern Seaboard. Wildlife will be very abundant here, you’ll have the opportunity to see bottlenose dolphins, blue crabs, sea turtles, pelicans, oysters, and much more! It’s a chance to give the whole family a trip into a living and breathing classroom together!
You will also have the opportunity to see dolphins on both of our paddleboard tours on Isle of Palms and Shem Creek!
Paddleboard Tour On Shem Creek
You will glide down the historic creek between some of the most popular restaurants and iconic shrimp boats of the Shem Creek area, and move out into Charleston Harbor surrounded by the beauty of the Lowcountry. You will be able to view the Holy City skyline, explore the salt marsh estuary, and you might even be so lucky as to experience dolphins breaching so close to you that you’ll be able to hear them breathe!
You will also have the opportunity to see dolphins on almost all of our boat tours as well! These tours include our Beach Drop for Sea Turtles, Bulls Island Beach Drop, Bulls Island Ferry, Cape Romain Lighthouse Tour, Morris Island Shark Tooth Beach Drop, Santee Delta River Cruise and Beach Drop, St. Phillips Island Ferry, and our Hunting Island Dolphin Cruise!
Hunting Island Dolphin Cruise
This cruise is offered on Wednesdays and Sundays starting at 10 am! You will be joining us for a fun and educational eco-tour to explore the salt marsh estuary as we look for native bottlenose dolphins by Hunting Island State Park! It is very likely to see pods of bottlenose dolphins feeding in the estuary, Brown Pelicans diving for fish, bald eagles, osprey, egrets, herons, wood storks, and much more! Your on-board Coastal Expedition naturalist will share interesting facts with you about the local history of these waters from prehistoric habitation of the indigenous people to the arrival of the very first western European settlers that arrived in South Carolina in the mid 17th century. Also, keep in mind that we have seen dolphins every single time we’ve offered this trip! This is not one to miss! No matter what trip you find yourself on, no matter what tour you want to jump in to explore, you have so many chances to see and enjoy our South Carolina bottlenose dolphins with us at Coastal Expeditions!
What to Know About Bottlenose Dolphins!
Now that you know a little more about the tours we offer that you could potentially and very likely see bottlenose dolphins on, let’s talk a little bit more specifically about these glorious animals. Thanks to the fact that they are mammals, they need to resurface for air often, allowing all of us to spot them and enjoy their charm, personality, and grace. Commonly, you will see dolphins traveling together in pods of up to 25. Dolphins usually resurface every two to three minutes but can stay underwater without surfacing for up to 20 minutes. According to Charleston Magazine, half of a dolphin’s brain will stay active as they sleep, guiding their bodies up to the surface and down to keep breathing! Think that nine months is a long pregnancy? Dolphins are pregnant for a full twelve months before giving birth! Their calves will nurse for more than a year and will stay with their mothers for up to three to six years. Female dolphins might even return to their mothers for help with raising their calves. They speak and interact with one another using their own form of sonar; a series of clicks, moans, whistles, and squeaks. They can even communicate through body language. We mentioned that in some of our tours, you might see the bottlenose dolphins you come across participating in something called strand feeding. This is unique to South Carolina, Georgia, and the northern Atlantic coast of Florida. Strand Feeding means that a team of dolphins will corral a group of fish, rush towards the shore, and create a wave that will strand their prey on the shore. The bottlenose dolphins will strand themselves to feed on their prey before jumping back into the water.
It is imperative to leave these amazing creatures alone to help them thrive and survive in their natural element. Please enjoy watching them in the wild, but do not go up to them. It is just as important to help them survive by keeping all trash out of the ocean! The U.S Marine Mammal Protection Act makes it illegal to kill, capture, feed, or harass a dolphin. Please help us spread the word and keep these stunning creatures safe by leading by excellent example!
The bottlenose dolphin – or the Tursiops Truncatus – is the most common marine mammal that lives along the South Carolina coast, which we are very lucky for! As you’ve might have seen before, they are grey on both the top and bottoms of their bodies and can grow to be between six and twelve feet in length when they reach adulthood. Some can live right off the coast and some live many miles off land. While it might be very exciting to see these beautiful creatures up close, and they may even come up and try and play with you, this does not mean it’s okay to feed them! Feeding wild creatures will change their eating habits and they will expect to be fed from humans, resulting in no longer hunting on their own. If you give a dolphin bad or spoiled food, it can make them sick or even kill them. If you are tempting or teasing them with food, you are putting them at risk of getting struck by the propellers of a boat. Don’t forget, feeding dolphins is prohibited by law! If you are planning on boating or boat frequently here in the Lowcountry please check that any dolphins are clear of your boat before you start your engine. Once you’ve gotten your boat started, please continue to exercise caution. Please move slowly away from the area! Also, please note that while they are very playful and adorable they are still wild animals. Do not touch them, they can bite! It is best to watch and enjoy bottlenose dolphins from afar and take pictures!
Very amazingly, dolphins can dive deeper than 1000 feet below the surface of the ocean and they can jump higher than 20 feet out of the water. They are also incredibly fast swimmers, some can even reach speeds of up to 35mph! Dolphins can live for a very long time, some reaching 40 years of age. While they are indeed mammals, they have a very interesting quality similar to that of reptiles. They actually shed their outer layer of skin every two hours! They will always help another sick dolphin if they can, and each dolphin has its own unique whistle to make it stand out among others. What amazing creatures!
It’s no wonder that there is a national dolphin day, these creatures are amazing! What is your favorite fact about dolphins? Have you seen dolphins here in the Lowcountry? Share your stories with us below, we would love to hear from you! We would also love for you to come and enjoy all of our tours that you are very likely to see dolphins on! Don’t hesitate to make your plans now! Make this summer extra special by experiencing the true locals of the Lowcountry. Are you looking for nature tours, kayak rentals, paddleboard rentals, island tours, kid-friendly tours, and chances to explore all around you right here in the Lowcountry? We can help you with all of that and more! Until next time, get out there and explore! Adventure awaits!