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As family watches, Dubai resident swims with whale shark

Kelly Clarke /Dubai
kelly@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 18, 2016 | Last updated on September 18, 2016 at 07.04 am
As family watches, Dubai resident swims with whale shark


(Supplied photos)




Dubai resident Nick Watson could well be called the desert's very own David Attenborough after getting up close and personal with a six-metre-long whale shark earlier this week


Dubai resident Nick Watson could well be called the desert's very own David Attenborough after getting up close and personal with a six-metre-long whale shark earlier this week.

Videos have been circulating online over the past few months of curious whale sharks checking out Dubai Marina. But early on Wednesday morning, Watson met the most curious one yet - and ended up going for a swim with it.

"People keep asking me if I was scared at any point, but I was far from scared," he told Khaleej Times on Saturday.

Just after 8am on Wednesday, Watson and his family headed down to the open beach across from Mercato Mall in Jumeirah.

Expecting to take an early morning dip before heading home again, Watson got more than he bargained for when the "quick dip" ended up being a mini documentary film straight off of the Discovery Channel.

"My wife started signaling to me so I swam back on to the shore. When I looked back out into the water, I could see a fin. All I thought was 'this is something I have to go and explore'."

Initially thinking it was a dolphin, Watson soon realised the curious fish was in fact a whale shark - a six-metre-long one at that.

"It was completely relaxed and so placid. It was coming as close as five metres to shore," he said.

As one onlooker threw him his GoPro camera, Watson snapped and filmed the whole encounter.

After taking some time to get close to it, the father of two eventually gained the mammal's trust and ended up swimming around with it for about an hour.

"I held its fin and swam down under the water with it. I know experts discourage touching these animals but I showed it my full respect, letting it lead the way."

Calling the experience "thrilling", he said there is nothing better than seeing the creature in its own natural environment.

Despite its vast size, the whale shark does not pose significant danger to humans.

A very docile fish, it is known as one of only three filter feeding shark species in the world.

Earlier this year, videos of whale sharks swimming around the Dubai Marina went viral across social media.

With many questioning whether the whole thing was just an advertising stunt to attract tourism, Watson can most definitely agree, Wednesday's surreal interaction was no optical illusion.

Know the whale shark

> Whale sharks are the largest living fish on the planet, belonging to the group called Chondryichtyes.

> These fish have skeletons made entirely of cartilage while other fishes have skeletons made of bone

> The whale shark is found in open waters of the tropical oceans and is rarely found in water below 22 C

> The only known predator of the whale shark is humans.

> The mouth of the whale shark is massive, reaching a width of approximately one metre

kelly@khaleejtimes.com

author

Kelly Clarke

Originally from the UK, Kelly Clarke joined Khaleej Times in November 2012. She has a keen interest in humanitarian issues and took over as the dedicated Education Reporter in August 2016. In her spare time she loves to travel off the beaten track, and often write about her quirky experiences of pastures new. Kelly received her BA Honours in Journalism from Middlesex University, UK in 2008. Before joining Khaleej Times she worked as a Supervising Editor for three Healthcare titles in London. @KellyAnn_Clarke





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