Nature-Based Tourism in South Carolina’s Lowcountry
Renowned for its natural landscape, South Carolina’s Lowcountry boasts postcard-perfect scenery comprised of salt marshes, maritime forests, beach dunes and— of course — the vast Atlantic Ocean. Kiawah Island Golf Resort has always embraced the unspoiled coastal ands it blends into seamlessly and remains steadfast in its commitment to increase awareness of the island’s natural surroundings through comprehensive programming.
Considering its abundance of nature-based offerings and ongoing sustainable practices, there’s no surprise that the resort has earned recognition by respected environmental groups, including certification by Audubon International as a Cooperative Sanctuary and by the National Wildlife Federation as a Community Wildlife Habitat. One that note, let’s take a sneak peek at some of the interesting species that call Kiawah Island’s natural environs home:
Loggerhead Sea Turtles nest on beaches from mid-May to early August, where they lay an average of 120 eggs that incubate for approximately 60 days. This threatened species is helped along by Kiawah’s Turtle Patrol volunteers, who protect nests, and by South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital, which rehabilitates and releases injured turtles. You can feel the enthusiasm of the crowd in this video of a rehabilitated loggerhead being returned to the wild on Kiawah Island.
Alligators inhabit the brackish and freshwater ponds along the coast and are often observed basking on pond edges in the sun, even on the area’s many golf courses. A Gator Walk with a naturalist is a great way to learn more and better appreciate this fascinating species that has lived and nested in South Carolina since long before humans arrived.
The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncates) is the only species of dolphin found up and down the Atlantic East Coast. The pod (or group) that calls the Kiawah River home is part of a larger group of bottle nose dolphins that use a unique strategy for catching their meals, known as “strand feeding,” found predominately along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. During this feeding frenzy, the dolphins use the sandy banks to their advantage and herd the fish up onto the sand where they are temporarily “stranded”, making it much easier for the dolphins to grab them. To learn more or possibly observe this behavior, join the Resort Captain on a Dolphin Encounters motorboat trip. If you fall in love, you can even “adopt” one of these smiling aquatic mammals, thanks to the South Carolina Aquarium.
Bobcats resemble housecoats but are more muscular and about twice their size. The National Wildlife Federation has designated Kiawah Island as having one of the densest bobcat populations in the United States. Since 2007, biologists from the Town of Kiawah Island have outfitted 64 bobcats with GPS collars as part of a research study — see what this innovative program is discovering.
River Otters are found in both fresh and saltwater areas. Their streamlined bodies and long tails are perfectly designed for swimming so you may see these adorable little creatures while kayaking or paddle boarding in the salt marsh. Read this post from a naturalist,
which describes her fun first sighting of a river otter.
The Osprey is a large bird of prey that’s always found living near water because its diet is made up almost entirely of fish. Also called a sea hawk, fish eagle or fish hawk, the osprey is one of the many raptors found in coastal South Carolina. Check out this page for photos and information to help you identify osprey and other birds of prey. To learn more about Kiawah’s many feathered friends, you can join a resort naturalist on a Back Island Birding tour.
The Kiawah Conservancy is dedicated to preserving the habitats these reptiles, mammals and birds call home and Kiawah Island’s staff biologists have pledged an undying dedication to better understanding and managing the island’s wildlife species. When you visit this pristine barrier island, plan to take part in its nature programs and tours to immerse yourself in this breathtaking environment with its naturalists — and keep your eyes peeled for the animals that have comfortably taken up residence of Kiawah Island.