Whale shark spotted in Dubai hotel harbour

Harmless two-metre juvenile shark swims among yachts at Dubai hotel marina

A whale shark was spotted in the shallow waters of the Bulgari Hotel marina in Jumeirah on Thursday morning. Courtesy Janaka Nuwan
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It is that time of year again when the curious but gentle giants of the deep take a closer look at the shallows of the UAE coastline.

A two-metre juvenile whale shark was seen in the harbour of the luxury Bulgari Hotel in Jumeirah on Thursday morning, to the delight of visitors.

A short video of the harmless fish was posted on social media, showing it swimming gracefully around the small marina.

Janaka Nuwan, a captain for Arabian Gulf Yacht Services, saw the whale shark as it circled the harbour.

“It was swimming around in the marina for about an hour. It looked like it was searching for food," Mr Nuwan said.

He has seen whale sharks in Dubai Marina and the Palm Jumeirah over the past two years, the Sri Lankan said.

“This one had white spots on it. It was very exciting to see it,” Mr Nuwan said.

After an hour of circling the Bulgari marina, the whale shark dived low and out of sight.

Martin Erasmus, founder of the yacht company, said they often saw whale sharks, dolphins and turtles when sailing off the coast of the UAE.

“This whale shark is a juvenile and is obviously lost,” said Mr Erasmus, who is from South Africa.

“At two metres, it’s very young. Most of the whale sharks you see inshore are juveniles.

"The males grow up to 14 metres and the females to 12 metres. It is an awesome experience when you spot one when they are swimming close to the surface like this.”

Whale sharks inhabit tropical and warm waters. In June, a five-metre whale shark was reported by fishermen off the Ras Al Khaimah coast.

The filter-feeding fish was seen 10 kilometres off Al Jazeera Port in Jazirat Al Hamra at mid-morning, a similar time to the one seen at the Bulgari Hotel.

Adult whale sharks grow to an average length of almost 10 metres and live more than 70 years.

The largest recorded was almost twice that size, at 18.8 metres.

Although rarely seen, they can be identified by their distinctive markings with white flecks against a brownish, grey skin.

A whale shark was also seen in October in Abu Dhabi, forcing the temporary closure of Al Bahar Beach to protect the animal on its journey out to sea.

Although whale sharks are harmless to humans, anyone who sees one is advised to keep their distance and allow the fish to swim back out to the deep.

The species is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature because of fisheries and being struck by vessel, combined with its long lifespan and late maturation.