Fast becoming celebrity cetaceans are the bottlenose dolphins of Cardigan Bay.
These highly intelligent and exuberant creatures, which seem to celebrate their very existence by displays of sheer joie de vivre in all corners of the Bay and around the coast of Pembrokeshire, are attracting hundreds of visitors each year.
Increasing numbers of tourists are taking boat trips out into the bay and round the coast of Pembrokeshire to watch these spectacular exhibitions of swimming skill and agility, performed by marine mammals with which man has established a unique relationship down the centuries. If they are lucky, passengers aboard the ferryboats between Fishguard and Rosslare and also those from Pembroke Dock often catch a glimpse of dolphins keeping pace with the ship or romping and leaping (known as breaching) nearby. They can breach up to a height of 16-feet above the surface.
Dolphins and their relationships with humans have been recorded since ancient times. Pliny the Elder, Aristotle and Oppian all referred to them in their writings. Although they usually live in groups of 10 to 30, a dolphin can also go solo and one lone Dolphin, who was given the name Donald, frequented the Pembrokeshire coast and estuaries, and later the Isle of Man, for several years before disappearing, He allowed people to swim with him and used to frolic around moored boats in Milford Haven Waterway, Ramsey Sound, Martin’s Haven and other places. They are well-known as the stars of spectacular Aqua-Shows and of books and TV series. During the Cold War both the USA and Russia trained them for a military role in the detection of seamines and enemy divers and frogmen.
Between 10 and 14-feet long and weighing up to 1,100 lbs, they can travel at up to 18mph and remain submerged for up to 20 minutes, although they normally surface for breath two or three times a minute. They communicate with their own complex language of squeaks, whistles and clicks and can detect prey or enemies by echolocation, which man has copied in his sonar devices. They bounce up to 1,000 clicks per second off distant objects, which enables them to determine its exact location, size and shape. Bottle-nosed dolphins can live for 45 to 50 years. There are a number of local boat trips available to see them, details from Tourist Information Centres.
The National Park Tourist Information Centres are: Oriel y Parc at St Davids, telephone 01437-720392 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.orielyparc.co.uk. Newport TIC in Long Street, telephone 01239-820912 or newportTIC@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk and Tenby TIC at South Parade, telephone 01834-845040 or email@example.com.
Visitors are also recommended to pick up a copy of the National Park’s informative free-sheet newspaper Coast to Coast, which is available at all Tourist Information Centres and also in libraries, shops and supermarkets. It is a mine of information about the activities and facilities available in the National Park.