Dolphin Watching

Captain Jack's Sailing & Dolphin Watching


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In 1991 Captain Jack began taking charter guests aboard his sailboat, Palmetto Tide, on personalized dolphin eco tours. The dolphin watching eco tour starts at Bohicket Marina, which is located between Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island just south of Charleston, South Carolina. This is probably the best place on the East Coast to see dolphin, and is home to the largest, northern, permanent population of Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. In addition, hordes of migratory "biker dolphin" seasonally cruise through the area, upsetting the local pod's pecking order. If you enjoy nature, there is much to see here, and Captain Jack knows where to find the action. Sometimes it's a veritable dolphin free-for-all! Captain Jack has spent the last 12 years observing and studying dolphin, and loves to talk to his charter guests about every aspect related to them. They truly have ingenious ways of doing everything, from feeding and socializing--and even to mating! Make your reservation early for your private group of up to six people to set sail aboard the Palmetto Tide.

Dolphin will lift and suspend most of their bodies out of the water while looking around for something of interest. They may be fishing and looking for Atlantic Brown Pelican who may be feeding on a tasty school of fish off in the distance. It is not uncommon for them to swim alongside the eco tour sailing group to manifest this behavior in an attempt to do a little "people watching"!

These dolphin are doing something that may look a bit odd to the uninitiated. However, if you're fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, and a little luck breaks your way, you could witness a powerful dramatic act of the dolphin world. This behavior is call strand feeding and strand mating--a learned behavior only documented along a 100 mile stretch of coastline in this part of South Carolina. The technique of strand feeding is quite ingenious. A pod of dolphin finds a school of fish out in the deeper water of the North Edisto River and begins to swim around them in smaller and smaller concentric circles, compressing them into a tight, controllable mass. They herd the fish into shallow water, penning them against the beach--standing guard in a semi-circle to corral the fish against the shore. Next, they take turns swimming into the school and eating their fill. Then, as if for sport, a large dolphin will come from behind the group, moving with amazing speed into the shallow water where the school of fish is trapped. Turning his body parallel to the beach, he creates a wave filled with the small fish that comes crashing onto the shore, stranding the fish and the dolphin out of the water and onto the bank; the dolphin is then completely exposed on the beach. He grabs one of the fish, flip-flops back into the water, enjoying his catch and showing off for his buddies. In the photo above, the two dolphin are doing a variation of strand feeding. However, rather than beaching themselves for feeding purposes, they perform this behavior during mating. Their bright red blood-engorged bellies are a tell tale of sexual excitement, as they are seen here strand mating.
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