A baby stingray was spotted by a family at Dubai's Kite Beach on Monday morning.
In a rare daytime sighting, the family from Venezuela were walking close to the water at 8am when they nearly stood on the fish.
Angel Roman Orama, 21, a college student, came from Amsterdam to visit his family who are Dubai residents.
He told The National that he was with his mother and brother when the baby stingray moved away from him as he walked.
“I didn't notice it at the beginning and almost was about to step on the stingray,” Mr Orama said.
“I was close to being stung. The stingray swam for 30 minutes in the shallow water in front of us. It was a beautiful thing to watch.”
His mother, Maria Angel Orama, took pictures and videos and posted them on Instagram.
“We noticed cans left in the water and we removed them but I guess that scared the stingray which swam away,” Mr Orama added.
A marine expert said stingrays are docile creatures that only sting to defend themselves.
Natalie Hore, founder of Dubai-based marine conservation organisation Azraq, told The National it was rare to see stingrays on beaches during daylight.
“While it may not be an everyday occurrence, it’s possible to encounter baby stingrays in UAE waters, particularly in shallow, sandy or muddy areas close to the coastline,” Ms Hore said.
“Stingrays usually are more active at night and they are often found buried in the sand during the day, partially camouflaging themselves, which is why we don’t always see them openly swimming during the day.”
She said that stingrays would sting if they felt threatened or were stepped on.
“It's important to exercise caution and avoid stepping on or disturbing them,” Ms Hore said. “If you come across a stingray, it's best to observe it from a safe distance.”
Stingrays visit shallow waters for food, reproduction, to give birth, warmth, higher oxygen and to avoid predators, Ms Hore said.
“Shallow areas may provide protection for stingrays against larger predatory fish, as larger predators might find it challenging to navigate in the shallow, confined spaces,” she said.
If stung by the stingray, it is advised not to try to remove the barb, as this can lead to further injury.
“Even if the stingray injury seems minor, it's still essential to seek medical attention as a stingray’s barbs are equipped with venom, and the wound can become infected,” Ms Hore said.
John Burt, associate professor of biology at New York University in Abu Dhabi, told The National the stingray might be a cowtail, known locally as “lukhma” in Arabic.
“This species and several others will commonly come into the shallow coastal waters to bask in the warmer water near shore at this time of year,” he said.
He said the species is classified as “near threatened” on the UAE's Red List.
“They are often caught as by-catch in nets targeting other fish species and as such their populations have been considered to be in decline,” Mr Burt added.
He advised people to “shuffle” rather than step if walking in the water at the beach at this time of year.
“If the rays feel the vibrations in the sand, they will swim away,” he said.