This is the heartwarming moment a friendly whale shark floated over to greet fishermen on a boat in Thailand.
Footage shows the endangered marine mammal lurking around the boat while delighted men watch over it off the coast of Pattaya, Chonburi province on May 5.
The sociable animal stayed in front of the men with one of them excitedly dipping his hand onto the water hoping to interact with the whale. It floated in the area for around three more minutes while the men took selfies with it before it headed to a different direction from the boat.
One of the fishermen who had the close whale encounter, Na Kluea, said the animal was very calm and not aggressive at all.
He said: ‘It was huge, maybe around 500kg, but it did not hurt us. It was very calm and looked like it was just saying ‘hello’ while sailed through its home.
‘I have been sailing my boat for ten years and this was the first time I have seen a real whale shark. It was such a special experience.’
Koh Larn island where the whale shark was found near used to be buzzing with tourists until it was closed down to visitors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Several animal species have since then been spotted returning to the islands and swimming around the then-tourist destinations, which have been quiet during the ongoing domestic and international travel restrictions.
Despite its size, the whale shark does not pose any danger to humans. They are docile and sometimes allow swimmers to catch a ride although the practice is discouraged by conservationists as it disturbs the species.
Whale sharks are classed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species due to the impacts of fisheries, by-catch losses, and vessel strikes.