Coastal South Carolina — Where the Wild Things Are!

Your Field Guide to Amazing Creatures

Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and vast salt marshes, coastal South Carolina is a mix of lush maritime forests and picturesque dunes. This is home to an array of fascinating wildlife that thrives in areas where its natural habitat is protected. Fortunately for nature lovers, there are environmentally friendly resorts, like Kiawah Island, where you can enjoy a great vacation and meet the fascinating local creatures. Plan some time to explore this beautiful barrier island by biking, paddling or walking — and be on the lookout for these critters:

loggerhead-turtleLoggerhead 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 endangered 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. Cheer along to this video as rehabilitated loggerheads return to the wild on Kiawah Island.

alligator-with-eggAlligators 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 Bottlenoise Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) 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 bottlenose dolphins that use a unique strategy for watching-dolphinsfeeding, known as “strand feeding,” found predominately along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. 

During this feeding frenzy, the dolphins use the sandy steep 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 see this behavior, join the Resort Captain on a Dolphin Encounters motorboat trip. Want to adopt one of these appealing mammals? Visit the South Carolina Aquarium.


Bobcats resemble housecats but are more muscular and about twice their size. Sharp vision and hearing make bobcats excellent hunters, and while they are no threat to humans, they play a vital role in controlling populations of rodents and deer.

On Kiawah Island, bobcats have been fitted with GPS collars as part of a research study — see what this program is discovering.

river-otterRiver Otters
are found in both fresh and saltwater areas and have a streamlined body with a long tail that’s used like a rudder while swimming. You may see this cute little creature while kayaking or paddle boarding in the salt marsh.

Read this post from a naturalist, which describes her exciting first sighting of a river otter.

the-ospreyThe 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 bird life, join a resort naturalist on a Back Island Birding tour.

These reptiles, mammals and birds inhabit an environment that is becoming increasingly rare along the South Carolina coast. One of the groups that help maintain their habitat is the Kiawah Conservancy, an organization dedicated to preserving coastal maritime forests and wildlife. In addition, Kiawah Island has wildlife biologists on staff to better understand and manage the island’s wildlife species. When you visit this pristine barrier island, plan to take part in its nature programs and tours to see this beautiful environment with its naturalists — they’ll open your eyes to the amazing variety of flora and fauna on Kiawah Island.

And what better way to know that Kiawah feeling than with a FREE getaway? You could win a weekend with villa accommodations and golf when you sign up for Kiawah’s e-club, the best way to be in the know about island happenings and special offers. Enter to win today at