Australian Fisherman Swims With Whale Shark In Dangerous Waters

A friendly whale shark gave a group of Australian fishermen a rare opportunity recently, when it lingered around their boat for five hours, even allowing one of the men to swim with it and catch a ride on its back.

The encounter took place north of Bonaparte Gulf, located south-west of Darwin, according to the ABC. A fishing charter had anchored in the area, and the passengers were surprised to see the five-meter-long whale shark surface and then linger around their vessel. According to fishing guide Benny Sambrooks, the novelty of encountering the whale shark wore off quickly among his guests, despite the fact that it remained in the area for hours.

"He was just coming up to the top of the water with his mouth open, cruising around, doing laps," he recalled.

After his clients had retired to bed, having had ample time to record the whale shark on their mobile phones, Sambrooks entered the water to swim with the massive fish. Although whale sharks are docile and pose no threat to humans, Sambrooks noted that swimming with it was a dicey proposition, as a tiger shark had been spotted in the same area earlier that day. Considered one of the "big three" species that will attack humans, tiger sharks are capable of inflicting lethal wounds.

Describing his swim with the whale shark as "fairly awesome," Sambrooks recalled that the animal was "placid" in the water.

"We always have a good experience, but we've never seen anything like that, you don't expect a whale shark," he related.

The whale shark that visited Sambrooks' boat, the MV Cannon, was accompanied by four cobias, according to Perth Now, two of which were caught by the anglers. While whale sharks are known to inhabit the waters of the Northern Territory, they are infrequently sighted. One of the best known whale shark populations in the region is centered around the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, however, and the massive fish are known to congregate there. Reaching lengths of 20 meters, it is estimated that whale sharks can potentially live as long as a century.

Last month, a whale shark washed ashore in Ecuador, prompting a six-hour-long rescue attempt on the part of locals. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the whale shark proved to be too heavy to move, and died as a result of its stranding, despite the efforts of dozens of people using heavy machinery.

[Image: Allan Bevan via ABC]