Onlookers left stunned as dolphins are seen swimming past Welsh town

Bottlenose dolphins at Victoria Dock, Caernarfon
-Credit: (Image: Ceri and Cara Jarvis)

Dolphins are often seen leaping from the water or riding the bow waves of boats. It is a spectacular sight often seen in various locations off the Welsh coast, such as Aberporth or Mwnt in Cardigan Bay. However, until recently, they have rarely ventured into the treacherous Menai Strait between Anglesey and Gwynedd.

North Wales Live reports that this changed about five years ago, and a recent video shows just how bold these creatures have become. A group of bottlenose dolphins were spotted hanging around near Caernarfon's Victoria Dock at the southern end of the Menai Strait, much to the delight of onlookers.

Over the past few years, these dolphins have become an increasingly common sight. Emrys Jones, captain of the Queen of the Sea sightseeing boat, believes he knows why. "The dolphins have cottoned on to the sea trout that migrate up and down the Seiont," he said. "They're after a source of food."

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Caernarfon Castle overlooks the Seiont estuary, known for its salmon and especially sea trout. But what is a sport for anglers is a meal for others, and if Emrys is correct, Cardigan Bay's dolphins have cleverly identified an opportunity. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter.

They've been seen hunting sea trout at locations like New Quay Pier and Fishguard Harbour before. Despite becoming more common, Caernarfon's dolphins remain elusive enough to surprise most observers. Residents were amazed to see a video filmed from the Queen of the Sea showing the dolphins so close to the historic town.

"Wow, never seen them that close," one man commented on social media. Emrys, together with his wife Doreen, is marking their 40th anniversary at the helm of the Queen of the Sea, operating from Caernarfon Harbour. Emrys, who previously served as a pilot boat skipper guiding oil tankers through the Menai Strait and represents the sixth generation of ship pilots in his family, is renowned for his intimate knowledge of these challenging waters.

Doreen recalls the first time Emrys spotted dolphins in the Menai Strait back in 2019, just before the pandemic hit. "He first saw the dolphins there in 2019, just before Covid," she said. "You often saw them out in the bay but before then it was unheard of to see them in the Menai Strait."

This past Saturday marked the third consecutive day that dolphins were sighted near Victoria Dock, according to Doreen. She said: "On Saturday, it was the third day in a row we'd seen them by Victoria Dock. They're probably after food and seem to be becoming more adventurous."

Menai Strait Cruises, established in the 1940s and now steered by Emrys and Doreen, offers trips along the stunning coastlines of Gwynedd and Anglesey, with dolphin watching being a major draw for passengers. The couple operates three sailings daily during the season, and Emrys estimates that dolphins grace the Strait on 20-30 voyages each year, though he cautions: "Sightings are not guaranteed!"

Last year, Emrys was treated to an unexpected gathering of former Queen of the Sea crew members. More festivities are in store this year to commemorate the couple's four decades of navigating the waters aboard a vessel with a storied past.

Originally named Wayfarer II, she was constructed in 1937 to serve as a ferry between Long Island and Fire Island in New York. However, her role was short-lived - the following year, a hurricane destroyed approximately 400 houses on Fire Island, rendering the ferry service redundant.

In 1941, the British Government acquired the Wayfarer II, transporting her across the Atlantic on a freighter. By 1942, she had been relocated to Holyhead and rechristened HMS Macaw. After the conclusion of the Second World War, the vessel was decommissioned by the Admiralty and purchased by the Jones family.

Undergoing a transformation into a pleasure cruiser with a new moniker, she operated from Caernarfon Harbour until 1951, when ownership changed hands once more. She cruised around Britain, including departures from Rhyl, until 1984, when the Queen of the Sea returned to the Jones family's possession for a second time.

This season, she set sail a month behind schedule. Doreen explained: "The weather was just awful for us". She added: "We couldn't get gloss paint on the boat for her annual overhaul."

Doreen also noted that the inclement weather contributed to a slower start to the season, and with more people opting for holidays abroad post-pandemic, things have been quieter. Nonetheless, she remains optimistic about the upcoming Ynys Llanddwyn cruises, which are particularly favoured by locals over tourists.