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Bottlenose surfacing off the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales

Intelligent and charismatic, Britain’s bottlenose dolphins’ friendly disposition and ‘smiling’ faces captivate a human audience

O Above: marine mammal expert Dylan Walker, who is based in Hove, East Sussex. Below: Chesil Beach at Portland, Dorset, where a dolphin named Georges is a visitor

ne encounter with a bottlenose dolphin off the coast of Dorset is unrivalled in the memory of one of the most experienced marine mammal observers in Europe, Dylan Walker. Dylan’s all-consuming passion for whales and dolphins has led him to a career as a field naturalist, conservationist and tour guide. He never passes up a chance to watch cetaceans, around the UK and all over the world. “I arrived just after dawn at the eastern end of Chesil Beach,” he says. “Its name is derived from the Old English ceosel or cisel, meaning gravel or shingle, and it’s a magnificent 18 mile long, 660ft wide and 50ft high barrier beach. It was a glorious day and I couldn’t resist the urge to take off my shoes and socks and walk across the smooth pebbles to the shore. I was hoping to meet Georges.” Georges is a bottlenose dolphin who arrived off the Dorset coast in 2002 after he followed a trawler across the Channel from France. Since then he has become something of a celebrity, regularly visiting the coastline around Weymouth. Dolphins like Georges are described by scientists as solitary sociable dolphins – individuals that live in isolation, rather than in a pod with other dolphins. Often they actively seek the company of humans. Although this behaviour is not clearly understood, there have been several examples in the UK in recent years. “On Chesil Beach that morning, in the few seconds it took me to stand in two feet of water,” says Dylan, “Georges appeared from around the headland and raced towards me at full speed. He carved a beautiful arc at the water’s surface as he came to a halt in front of me and our eyes met. That brief moment remains one of my most treasured memories of all the times I have spent with whales and dolphins. “To this day I have no idea how Georges was able ›