National Geographic Films Kiawah Island Dolphins

strand feeding

The Kiawah River is always a special place with an abundance of life, but the fall season is something magical — Kiawah Island Dolphins. The temperatures are starting to cool off and our summer crowds are starting to fade. The cooling air and water temperatures ignite the fall bait run in the river. Large schools of mullet fish (family Mugilidae) start to move in unison throughout the creeks and river. Most of our saltwater fish and dolphins start to gorge themselves to build up a much needed fat supply for the winter when the bait thins out. This is a great time to fish for redfish, trout, or flounder, and for watching our dolphins perform their specialized local fishing techniques. For the past two years, National Geographic videographers have been visiting Kiawah to film strand feeding in the Kiawah River as part of their new series, Secret Life of Predators.  For this amazing program, National Geographic film crews traveled across the globe to Africa’s savanna, Indonesia’s tropical reefs, Central America’s rainforest, India’s dry forest, and to Kiawah Island. The footage is spectacular.

The Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) needs to consume around 10-15 pounds of food per day, which includes mostly small fish and crustaceans. As the mullet congregate in large numbers in a condensed area at low tide, our dolphins put on an amazing show while strand feeding. Strand feeding is a learned technique that Southern South Carolina and Northern Georgia dolphins have learned and taught to each generation for the last 50 years. Now is the time to come out and enjoy the river and the dolphins showing off during their daily routines. The frequency of strand feeding will slow down as the majority of the mullet head south for warmer waters, but they can still be seen on occasion. During the winter, our pod of resident dolphins in the river will target the schooling redfish and sea trout, just like our local inshore fishermen.