North Wales beach ranked best for spotting sharks and whales - but locals are baffled

Angel Bay on the Little Orme
-Credit: (Image: David Powell/North Wales Live)


In a burst of publicity, a small pebbled beach on the Conwy coast was singled out as the best place in Wales to see marine life such as sharks, dolphins and killer whales. Angel Bay (Porth Dyniewaid), a nature reserve on the Little Orme between Llandudno and Penrhyn Bay, was revealed as a particularly good place to spot blue sharks.

The study was compiled by travel agency Planet Cruise with input from wildlife charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation. This placed Angel Bay as the best place in Wales - and the second only in the UK to Land’s End, Cornwall - for spotting charismatic sea creatures.

Angel Bay is renowned for its grey seals, which often haul up ashore in large numbers, making the site particularly sensitive to human interference. Planet Cruise acknowledges this but added: “While seals are the most common residents of the bay, blue sharks are the most popular creatures people go looking for, with just over 2,800 people scouring the web (each month) for tips on where to spot them.”

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The claim met widespread local bewilderment. Blue Sharks usually congregate around the southwest coast of England while, as far as anyone knows, the nearest confirmed sighting of an Orca (killer whale) was off South Stack, Anglesey, in 2018.

“Been going there (Angel Bay) for over 40 years and never seen killer whales,” said one local. “Have seen the odd dolphins/porpoise but would love to see more.”

Another agreed. “I’ve seen dolphins there once and I’ve spent quite a bit of time there over the years,” he said. “Never a killer whale though. That would be bad news for the seals. Perhaps only a matter of time!”

A new report published by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) on Friday, June 7, mapped the distribution of 12 cetaceans and 28 seabird species off the Welsh coast. Experts from the Sea Watch Foundation and Bangor University excluded killer whales as sightings are too rare. Sign up now for the latest news on the North Wales Live Whatsapp community

According to Google analysis by Planet Cruise, Brits hope to see Orcas at Angel Bay - but they'd like to spot blue sharks even more. Neither species has ever been reported there
According to Google analysis by Planet Cruise, Brits hope to see Orcas at Angel Bay - but they'd like to spot blue sharks even more. Neither species has ever been reported there -Credit:Getty Images/National Geographic

The NRW study confirmed that Harbour Porpoise numbers are highest around north Anglesey, the outer part of Cardigan Bay and west Pembrokeshire. Bottlenose Dolphins are focused on Cardigan Bay but are more widespread, appearing along the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula, around Anglesey and along the North Wales coast to Liverpool Bay.

Common dolphins also occur off the North Wales coast but are more commonly found in deeper waters (more than 50 metres) in the Irish Sea. In these areas, pod numbers can sometimes run into the hundreds.

The Planet Cruise research was based on monthly Google searches, which opens up the possibility of skewed data due to human ignorance. According to its study, online searches for marine life in Angel Bay are averaging 6,660 per month.

This confirms only that people are interested in spotting marine life in the area – but may be confused about the animals they hope to see. “People are searching the most for grey seals, blue sharks and killer whales in Angel Bay, suggesting there may be a chance of spotting these species during their trips,” insisted Planet Cruise.

“Known for its amazing seal-spotting locations, Angel Bay is a great place to visit for marine lovers.” Sign up for the North Wales Live newsletter sent twice daily to your inbox

Rankings of UK coastal spots for spotting marine wildlife. They're based on monthly Google searches to determine the level of interest in the sites, and the species people hope to see there
Rankings of UK coastal spots for spotting marine wildlife. They're based on monthly Google searches to determine the level of interest in the sites, and the species people hope to see there -Credit:Planet Cruise

Other Welsh locations in the top 10 UK sites for spotting marine life included Skomer Island (5th), which is famed for its puffins. The whole of Cardigan Bay was ranked seventh, primarily for its Bottlenose Dolphins.

Danny Groves, of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said any attempts to observe marine wildlife should be done respectfully. He said: “As more people are visiting the coast and enjoying taking to the water, the potential of harm to whales and dolphins is growing, especially at peak holiday times.

"People should be aware that it is illegal to disturb whales and dolphins in the UK and some other countries, and could result in a hefty fine.”

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