Patience is the key word. There is no specific time or state of the tide when it is guaranteed to see marine mammals but a calm sea with the sun behind you makes it easier to spot anything that is there. Look out for seabirds, particularly gannets, circling or diving into a patch of water. They are looking for fish and often dolphins or porpoises can be seen joining in the hunt.
With the naked eye, scan the sea slowly looking for the dark blips of a dorsal fin, sun glinting off a surfacing wet body, or the splash of white water as behaviour becomes boisterous. If you spot one of these tell-tale signs, train your binoculars in that area so you are ready when the animal surfaces to breathe again.
Harbour porpoises (above) grow to less than half the size of bottle-nosed dolphins. Their dorsal fins are small and triangular rather than high and crescent-shaped and they are less active at the surface.
The Coast Path offers many opportunities to enjoy Ceredigion’s ‘wild’ coast. Here are just some suggestions:
The inshore coastal waters and headland at Mwnt are ideal for seeing dolphins, porpoises, and seals. Mwnt is also a good spot for choughs.
Aberporth Bay and its headland is another excellent area for dolphins. They are seen here in a wide arc off the headland and often come close to the start of the coastal footpath to Tresaith. This is the location of the Inclusive Access Cliff-top Trail where there are several benches with views out to sea. Although none of these offer good views toward the headland they are still good observation points. However it may be better still to find a spot from were you can see the waters below the MOD base.
Dolphins and porpoises are frequent visitors to the end of promontory. This is also a good spot to see choughs and peregrines. The coastline between here and Cwmtydu is important for seals.
The most important seabird breeding area in the county. Guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes, cormorants, shags, lesser black gulls, and herring gulls can all be seen. We have restored an old coastguard hut here, now the Cardigan Bay Lookout, and it is a good place to spend some time watching seabirds, seals, dolphins and porpoise. Choughs and peregrines are also regularly seen.
Dolphins often come within metres of the harbour wall here. There can’t be many places in the UK where that happens! You can find our information centre, the Cardigan Bay Boat Place, on the harbour. We are open from May to September and visitors can use our binoculars and spotting scope, and also operate the live camera link to Birds Rock.
Local Nature Reserve managed by the County Council. Diverse habitats including meadows, scrub covered slopes and a shingle ridge, dominated by the Iron Age hill-fort of Pendinas.
Recent studies have indicated that dolphins are frequent visitors to the area around the mouth of the harbour, particularly early in the morning.
National Nature Reserve on the Dyfi Estuary with trails leading through flower-rich sand dunes. Visitor Centre.
You can find out more about coastal wildlife and Cardigan Bay SAC at the ‘Boat Place’ in New Quay.