April 14th is National Dolphin day, and the best place to see the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in Europe is along the spectacular coast here in Ceredigion.

There are estimated to be some 200 resident dolphins off the Ceredigion coast with many migratory dolphins joining up temporarily with local groups during the spring and early summer. Over the past few years they have become a huge tourist attraction and people flock over from all over the UK and further afield to catch a glimpse of these friendly creatures.

Local boatman Steve Hartley takes people out regularly to view the dolphins and he says the interest has grown rapidly in the past few years,

“The dolphins have been here for many years but I would say that during the past few years the interest has really grown. People enjoy being able to see these iconic creatures in their own environment; watching from a boat provides visitors with the perfect opportunity for a close encounter with these animals, who often choose to come close to the boat. We are very fortunate here in Ceredigion to have such an abundance of wildlife – it’s no wonder people want to visit.”

You don’t have to leave dry land to see the dolphins – they often feed very close inshore, and the Ceredigion section of the Wales Coast Path gives great access to this wonderful coastline with headlands like Mwnt and New Quay particularly good places to watch from.

According to Ann Eleri Jones of Ceredigion Tourism Services the dolphins have become synonymous with Cardigan Bay,

“Over the past few years the Ceredigion - Cardigan Bay area has grown in popularity with visitors taking advantage of the breathtaking scenery and the outdoor activity opportunities of cycling and walking, surfing and sailing. On top of that we have one of the most wondrous examples of natural wildlife with our dolphin population. There isn’t a much better site than watching these beautiful creatures leaping and frolicking in the sea in Cardigan Bay.”

Dolphins aren’t the only wildlife you might see when visiting Ceredigion; grey seals, porpoises and seabirds can all be seen from the cliffs, and if you are really lucky, there is even the chance of spotting a whale - killer whales, minke whales and even humpbacks have all been seen in recent years.

If you do head to sea, however, be sure to follow the Ceredigion Marine Code to avoid causing any problems for the fantastic wildlife that you encounter.

Dolphin watching is only one of many tourism attractions in Ceredigion and more information can be found on www.discoverceredigion.co.uk