Fujairah divers film friendly whale shark in shallow waters

Two different species of sharks were spotted during the weekend in UAE waters

A group of divers filmed a whale shark off the coast of Fujairah on Saturday.

The five-metre-long giant was captured on video by the divers who were surprised and delighted to see the whale shark near their boat.

“It was around 12.30pm when we first spotted the shark,” Khaled Al Abaidly, 33, an Emirati diver from Sharjah said.

“It was a very special moment, and we were so lucky to see the whale shark up close."

Mr Al Abaidly was diving with nine other people when they saw the shark approaching them.

“We were about to head back to the shores when it came close to our boat,” he said.

“I immediately picked up my phone and started taking videos of the once in a lifetime moment.

“We were all excited and lucky."

Natalie Banks, an Abu Dhabi based marine conservationist, said the giant creature is harmless to people.

“Whale sharks are the largest type of sharks, and surprisingly for their size are filter feeders and harmless to people,” she said.

“They open their mouths, let the water come in, and their bodies filter out food, releasing the water and any debris back into the ocean.”

Plankton is the whale shark’s main food source, but they also eat shrimp, algae and other marine plant material, sardines, anchovies, mackerels, squid, tuna, albacore and fish eggs.

“Whale sharks are found in tropical oceans of the world,” Ms Banks said.

“Their white spotted colouration makes them easy to distinguish, and popular with snorkelers and divers at sites where they aggregate off the coast."

Whale sharks are solitary creatures but don’t shy away from sharing feeding grounds.

“Like human fingerprints, whale sharks have a unique pattern of spots which allow individual sharks to be identified,” Ms Banks said.

The marine conservationist said the one that appears in the video is between five to six metres.

“[It’s] not a juvenile, not a full adult yet, under 25 years,” she said.

“It is common to occasionally see whale sharks in UAE waters during the winter months.”

The females produce eggs, but the young hatch inside the mother unlike other fish that lay in water.

Females give birth to about 300 young ones that may live 100 to 150 years.

Two other sharks were seen swimming along the breakwater in Ras Al Khaimah on March 6.

The sea creatures were recorded by Clare Stewart, who was enjoying the view from her balcony with her husband at Pacific Apartments in Al Marjan Island.

“It was 11am when we noticed the sharks,” Ms Stewart, 50, a resident from the UK said.

“The sharks must be some size as I live on the seventh floor. It's not often you get to see creatures like this close up [and] I feel blessed.”

Some people were probably kayaking when Ms Stewart spotted the sharks.

“I think the kayakers did notice as they had a phone or camera on sticks. The shark looked the size of the boat to me and it would be hard not to notice,” she said.

Ms Banks said that the sharks could be grey reef sharks.

Last year, a grey reef shark was caught on camera swimming in the same area.

The grey reef shark is one of the most common ones in the Indo-Pacific and is often found venturing as far east as Easter Island, a remote volcanic island in Polynesia, and as far west as South Africa.

The shark species is also a regular visitor to the UAE.