‘Exhilarating’ experience as dolphins surround kayakers off East Durham coast

Two friends were joined by unexpected companions while they were kayaking.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 5:15 pm

John Hughes and Les Dodds set off paddling from Blackhall Rocks on Saturday morning with no intention of looking for dolphins on their trip.

The pair were about half a mile off the coast and were about to turn into Crimdon Beach when Les, 49, spotted some fins in the distance.

John, 52, who had never seen dolphins in the wild before, managed to take photos of the “exhilarating” experience.

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John and Les spotted a pod of around five dolphins./Photo: John Hughes

The guitar maker, from Shotton, said: "We started to paddle out towards them. They disappeared, then reappeared about 30 feet in front of us.

"They went back under water. I started to paddle out to where they were.

"My friend shouted at me to say there was one behind me.

"It popped up about 10 feet way, went underneath the kayak, came up on my left handside, swam alongside for about 10 seconds, breached, rolled over, and swam away and the rest of the and followed it.”

The dolphins were spotted on Saturday morning./Photo: John Hughes

The pod of around five dolphins then headed north.

John added: "Those photographs don’t do the experience justice.

"It was unreal. It will live for me forever, that experience.”

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The dolphins joined John while he was kayaking./Photo: John Hughes

John and Les often go on kayaking trips together and plan to return to Crimdon after their recent experience.

John said: "We plan to go back out there.

"There aren’t words to describe it. It was a joy and very exhilarating. It was a rush.

"I’ve told everyone that I know.”

The Sea Watch Foundation says 30 whale and dolphin species have been recorded in UK waters.

Bottlenose dolphins account for the majority of sightings on the North East coast although white-beaked dolphins can also be seen in August.

Ivor Clark runs Newbiggin Dolphin Watch Association, which counts the number of sightings and dolphins made along the North East coastline.

He said: "In the last two years we’ve had 2,500 individual dolphins spotted along the coastline in 270 separate sightings.

"Over the course of a year we see them on average every other day.

"The numbers increase from April right through until mid summer. By mid summer we will be seeing dolphins three and four times per day.”

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