The Art of Relaxation


Drifting with the ebbing tide between two banks lush with swaying marsh grass, you hear the distant whoosh of waves before you see them. Ensconced in a kayak inches above the surface provides you a heron’s-eye perspective.

Suddenly, the mouth of the Kiawah River, romantically named Captain Sams Inlet after a local 18th-century skipper, flows expansively into the Atlantic. The naturalist guiding your tour, employed by Kiawah Island Golf Resort where you are vacationing, indicates a ripple on the port side of your kayak.

Shadowy figures jet towards the bank. Before them, hundreds of small baitfish — mullet, the guide informs — hurtle onto the shore, closely pursued by a pod of bottlenose dolphins that dash themselves onto the sand to feed.

You just witnessed “strand feeding,” a learned behavior whereby dolphins herd baitfish onto the shore and then momentarily beach themselves to feast. Kiawah Island is one of only a handful of places where the behavior has been documented.

That evening, famished from your excursion, you eagerly peruse the menu at The Atlantic Room in The Ocean Course clubhouse, although momentarily distracted by the fading streak of vermillion as the sun sets over the ocean (yes, on the East Coast!) and views of the back nine. After your day immersed in nature, surveying the dishes created by Chef John Ondo makes you appreciative of the bounty reflected there — shellfish from an oyster farmer on neighboring Edisto Island, shrimp from a trawler that in the morning plied the waters you dine beside and an heirloom variety of rice that once reigned supreme in the Lowcountry.

Kiawah Island lies less than 30 miles from Charleston, an easy jaunt from the Ballantyne campus. You can make the journey in less than four hours but will feel a million miles away. Cloistered within a gated community, the resort shares the 10,000-acre island with 2,000 homeowners and myriad wilder residents — white-tail deer, bobcats and alligators among them.

Environmental stewardship remains inextricably woven into the island’s ethos. Its entities preserve swaths of open land — 10 miles of pristine beach, undisturbed tidal marshes and creeks and a perfusion of maritime forest.