A LARGE pod of playful dolphins put on a show as they swam through the water.

Clare Maher Loughnan and her friends were off the Sussex Coast near Eastbourne when they spotted the fins in the water on Friday.

But, rather than swim away, the sometimes elusive creatures came in for a closer look.

The dolphins followed their boat all the way from Beachy Head to an area off Cuckmere Haven, a distance of about seven miles.

But the spectacular sighting was not finished there.

Clare and her friends brought the boat to a halt so they could go for a swim in the sea, and the inquisitive dolphins again decided to see what was going on.

A fortunate few group members climbed into the water and were able to come within just feet of the animals as they paid the boat a visit.

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Claire submitted a video of the incredible experience to the Brighton Dolphin Project, an organisation which aims to “inspire and engage the local community to learn about the incredible marine wildlife off the Sussex coast”.

The group shared the video with their followers on social media.

A spokesman said: “What an experience. Clare Maher Loughnan and her friends encountered a pod of 20 dolphins just 500 metres off shore.

“Clare said the pod followed them from Beachy Head and then joined in when they stopped to swim.”

Brighton Dolphin project keeps a record of the number of dolphins spotted off the Sussex coast as part of its research into the county’s marine mammal sightings.

Anyone who does see any pods or lone animals is urged to report this to the project.

This most recent sighting is one of several recorded this summer.

Last month, Mike Smith was paddleboarding with his friends (who are affectionately nicknamed “The Sea Monsters” due to their love of the sea) when the group spotted a pod of dolphins.

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They were about a kilometre off Shoreham beach when they saw the serene creatures.

And this was not the only amazing creature they saw on their trip.

Mike said: “”We had just finished admiring a very large jellyfish when Danny (one of the group) spotted a pod of dolphins just ahead of us. They circled us, breaching regularly for about 30 minutes before starting to head west.”

A month or so before this, on June 17, a group of excited fishermen saw a series of fins appear above the water’s surface off Brighton beach. One exclaimed it was “the coolest thing I’ve ever seen” as the animals swam past. This was one of nine sightings reported to the Brighton Dolphin Project that day.

CLICK HERE>>>To visit the Brighton Dolphin Project website

Compiling the sightings, the project is aiming to “establish a formal sightings network for marine mammals in Sussex that may be utilised to implement marine protected areas”.

The Brighton Dolphin Project is the World Cetacean Alliance’s regional initiative “set up to celebrate the cultural heritage that Brighton has with Dolphins, while trying to inspire and excite the local community about conservation issues along the Sussex coast”.