Bottlenose dolphins have been spotted off the Dubai shoreline for what is believed to be the first time since 2013.
Sailors were treated to a surprise when they were accompanied by a large pod of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins near Burj Al Arab late on Sunday afternoon.
Tom Lynch, 55, was on board his friend’s sailing boat when about 20 dolphins surfaced nearby.
"We were preparing to come back into port as it was close to sunset when all these beautiful dolphins surfaced very close to us," said Mr Lynch, who was on the Dreams boat, skippered by Marie Byrne.
“I got my phone out and started to shoot some video, they were fantastic.
“It was very quiet, just a couple of boats a kilometre or so away.
“Maybe that was why they were in so close. It was very unusual and the first time I have seen dolphins in Dubai.
“Some were swimming very fast and having great fun alongside us. It was an amazing thing to see.”
The pod was seen off the south-western tip of The World Islands.
The dolphins have a shark-like dorsal fin and are dark grey, with a slender body.
Mr Lynch reported the sighting to the UAE Dolphin Project, which monitors marine wildlife along the country's coasts.
The project recorded 229 occasional sightings of dolphins close to the Dubai shore between 2012 and 2013.
Since then, all other reports have been made further out to sea.
The project’s conservationists said a lack of human activity and noise would have encouraged marine life to approach the shore.
“Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are familiar to the UAE waters but the interesting point of this sighting is that they have been reported so close to shore,” said project founder Ada Natoli.
“No noise, no boats and no construction work has allowed these beautiful creatures to visit the shores and enjoy the quietness.”
Dolphins are more commonly seen in waters off Fujairah.
This month, a pod of about 2,000 Risso’s dolphins were spotted about 35 kilometres off the Fujairah coast.
The find included a rare albino dolphin. Only two other sightings have been recorded since 2014, both in Japan.
Dr Natoli said that, based on occasional records, at least three species of dolphins were reported to frequent Dubai coastal waters – the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and the rare finless porpoise.
The pod of bottlenose dolphins was also spotted on Saturday morning by Loic Cordelle, who took several photographs.
“I usually spot dolphins offshore while sailing but this is the first time I’ve seen dolphins so close to the shore,” said Mr Cordelle, 50, a French-Canadian project director at a transportation company.
“There were so many big fish in the water and then we spotted the dolphins.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin to be nearly threatened due to over-fishing, noise, chemical pollution and coastal development.
The species is usually found in the tropical Indo-Pacific waters and can grow to a length of 2.6 metres.
Dr Natoli encouraged the public to report further sightings to email@example.com.