Folly Beach is a common tourist destination in the state of South Carolina.
With a shoreline that faces the Atlantic Ocean, and a sprawling network of waterways that reach far inland, the natural beauty of the city is typical of the east coastal United States, whilst also retaining a lot of its character.
Part of that natural charm comes from the fact that folly beach is technically an island, meaning that there is plenty of water in and surrounding the city, which is why the town is as much a go-to spot for surfers and beachgoers as it is for ecologists and lovers of nature.
And, of course, where there is sea and water, you’re almost certainly going to find a few species of fish swimming around. And where there are fishes, there are likely also fish-eaters.
Given that information, and the warm waters that surround the island, it is no wonder that there are so many species of shark here!
Alongside its surfing culture, folly beach is also known for its abundance of shark species that inhabit the waterways and ocean, which come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, from small dogfish species to larger, more famous specimens.
Fortunately, there is very rarely any danger of even minor shark attacks, if any at all, meaning that people are more likely to sit and watch with astonishment if they catch sight of a shark, as they are to leave the water.
And with good reason, the sheer variety on display in this small seaside town is incredible. And we are going to walk you through some of it!
In this guide, we are going to show you some of the many species that populate the water of Folly Beach, as well as explain why it is such as hotspot for sharks of all kinds.
Starting off our list, we have a species of shark that is often considered to be the most playful and is certainly one of the most spectacular to watch from above water: The spinner shark.
These species of shark are famous for the migratory path that takes them along the Florida coastline, but they are found very commonly across the coastline of South Carolina too, including in Folly Beach.
As lovers of warm water, it is no wonder they are spotted in this subtropical corner of America, although they are also spotted in tropical waters across the world.
The hunting strategy that these sharks apply when hunting for fish is to surprise their prey by swimming vertically through a shoal of fish with its mouth open and rotating its body on their axis.
If the shark breaches the water when doing this, they often go into a spinning motion as they crash back down under the waves, hence their iconic name.
Despite growing up to almost 10 feet log in some cases, attacks from spinner sharks are incredibly rare, partly due to the small prey size they tend to eat, as well as their small teeth size.
Observers are more likely to video a spinner shark than to panic when seeing it. If you do happen to see a spinner shark leap out of the water, then consider yourself lucky!
Up next on our list is another species of shark that is found along tropical and subtropical coasts of the world, the sandbar shark.
Being firmly in the subtropics, the sandbar shark is right at home in and around the warm waters of Folly Beach, as well as along the coast of South Carolina, Florida, and the rest of the Gulf of Mexico.
They tend to love the shallow, muddy waters that can be found in coastal waters.
Given that they love to swim in shallow waters that coastal towns such as Folly Beach are known for, there may be reasonable anxiety around swimming in waters with them in, especially with a shark that is over 8 feet long in some cases!
Fortunately, despite the large size of this species, and it is a relative of one of the more famously aggressive species, the bull shark, and sandbar shark attacks are almost non-existent.
Outside of the occasional minor altercation, there are next to no attacks that have been reported from this species.
Even then, they tend to leave areas when temperatures become too high for them, as well as avoided beaches in general.
So, if you happen to see an example of this species in Folly Beach, simply keep your distance, and observe that rare and endangered species of shark from afar.
With greater pressure placed on this species from American fishing associations, it is a rare sight to see these days.
Sand Tiger Shark
Up next is another similarly named sand shark, and one that is also under a lot of pressure from humans, the sand tiger shark.
This is a species of shark that is found along coastlines across the Eastern United States, as well as in shallow water across Eastern South America, and around Australia and Japan.
They tend to grow up to 10 and a half feet long, and are known as powerful swimmers, thanks to their long, muscular body, can chase down the prey that they eat at night, being nocturnal.
Despite its large size and intimidating appearance, there have been no reported cases of there being any attacks from this species.
This can be for several reasons, from the fact that they only tend to hunt at night, thereby avoiding humans, or the fact they only tend to hunt small to medium-sized fish.
However, because they tend to hunt and prey on many species that humans tend to catch, there is often a risk of them becoming stuck in fishing nets.
This may be one of the reasons that they are considered critically endangered by many conservation organizations.
Interestingly enough, their large size and ferocious appearance, coupled with their general docility, make them a very popular shark species to keep in aquariums around the world.
Up next, we have a shark that has a somewhat infamous reputation amongst beach goers, the bull shark.
These large sharks are a species that tends to like living in freshwater sources over deep seawater, preferring to live along rivers and creeks, as well as shallow coastal areas, rather than in open ocean and seas.
Bull sharks have been found as far inland as Alton in Illinois, up the Mississippi River. With inland reports like that, it is no wonder that they love the main creeks and river networks found on Folly Island!
This preference for living in rivers, coupled with their generally large size of around 8 feet, potentially growing up to 12 feet, as well as a lack of tolerance for benign provoked, mean that the bull shark is a species that is considered quite dangerous for humans to be around.
Add the fact that they can be quite territorial, and you have a recipe for many potential shark attacks.
Bull sharks, along with tiger sharks and great white sharks, are considered the most likely to attack people. If there are reports of a bull shark in the area, make sure to avoid the rivers and estuaries it is likely to inhabit,
Another species of shark that is known to attack humans more than most, the tiger shark, is another species that can be found across Folly Island and Folly Beach.
This is a species that loves to live along shallow coasts, making Folly Beach the perfect place for them.
These sharks can also grow very large, with a particularly astonishing example being found in South Carolina is over 13 feet long!
This large size and coastal area preference mean that they often share a lot of territory with beachgoers, surfers, and fishermen, which possibly explains why tiger sharks are one of the most reported species involved in shark attacks across the world.
However, they rarely cause attacks in South Carolina or Folly Beach, meaning that so long as the distance is kept, they are unlikely to threaten swimmers or surfers.
For a species of shark that is famously non-aggressive to humans, we have the lemon shark.
Lemons sharks are found off the coast of many places in the United States and West Africa and are often spotted across the shorelines of South Carolina and Florida.
The yellow coloration that has given these sharks their name allows them to better camouflage themselves among the seagrasses where their fish prey live.
Although they can grow fairly large, up to 10 feet in some cases, lemon sharks are not considered dangerous to people, partly because of their limited diet of small fish, although few non-lethal bites have been recorded over the years
Great White Sharks
Probably the most iconic shark on this list, both famously and infamously, the great white shark has a wide range that spans across the world, including the coasts of the United States.
Whilst it tends to prefer cooler water, it has been known to swim in and around the areas of Florida and South Caroline, including folly Beach.
They are best known for their large size, as well as having probably the most fatal shark attacks attributed to them.
However, generally speaking, the number of shark attacks globally from great whites tends to be low, and it is unlikely that you will be attacked by one whilst out swimming or surfing in South Carolina.
Sharks very rarely choose to feed on humans, possibly due to the high bone-to-meat ratio that we have, making us unsuitable for them.
Why Are They So Many Shark Species On Folly Beach?
These are just a few of the species that can be found in and around Folly Island and Folly Beach. So, why is it that there are so many different species that can be found in this particular corner of the state of South Carolina?
Well, this is mainly due to the geography and latitude of the area. Being located in the subtropics, Folly Beach has plenty of warm water that sharks around the tropics prefer to swim in.
However, there is just enough seasonal and temperature variation to allow sharks that prefer colder water to migrate to and through the area, at least when the temperature is optimal for them.
Not only that, but Folly Island is also home to a vast array of creeks and waterways that are also perfect for a variety of species, whether they prefer muddy and sandy embankments, continental coastal shelves, or shallow seas.
There are plenty of marine environments, which means that plenty of species don’t have to compete with each other for
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Shark Attacks Common In Folly Beach?
Yes, and no.
Technically speaking, the State of South Carolina has one of the highest rates of Shark attacks in the United States.
However, when you consider that this number amounts to around 4 to 5 annually on average, the chances of a person, whether swimming by the beach or out surfing, being attacked by a shark are incredibly low.
And, more often than not, these attacks are minor at worst, a case of mistaken identity. You’re probably more likely to sustain a worse injury from a surfing accident than you are from a shark on Folly Beach!
However, whilst they are always low, they are never quite zero, so do make sure to pay attention if there are reported shark sightings in your area.
When Are Great Whites Found In Folly Beach?
Great whites tend to only be found in and around Folly Beach in Colder times of the year, no earlier than October, and won’t be found any later than May.
As you can see, while there are plenty of sharks that can be found in and around folly beach, many of them are either very peaceful or unlikely to be a threat to people.
Simply listen to local advice and recommendations, as well as any warnings, and you’ll be fine!