Watch: Clifton beachgoers treated to rare whale shark sighting

A whale shark was seen swimming extremely close to the shoreline in Cape Town yesterday, much to the excitement of bystanders.

It was not a normal beach day at Clifton’s 4th Beach yesterday, when one of the ocean’s biggest creatures graced the shoreline.

In videos of the event, a whale shark can be seen swimming near the beach, with people flocking closer to get in on the action.

The Clifton Surf Lifesaving Club (CSLC) said in a Facebook post that the shark was seen as close as 20m to the shore.

Soon after local lifesavers blew their whistles to warn people to stay clear of the animal, it beached itself.

The lifeguards, with the help of some beachgoers, pushed the animal back into the water. It stayed close to the beach for a while, and soon afterwards swam back into the ocean.

“Once-in-a-lifetime moment for many beachgoers and the lifeguards today,” read the CSLC’s Facebook post.

According to the CSLC, the whale shark was likely injured or separated from its mother. The club urged people not to approach, touch, feed or swim near coastal wildlife in distress.

The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town’s website says the first specimen of whale shark described scientifically was found in Table Bay.

“The whale sharks in South Africa migrate between Cape Agulhas, the Azores and Maine on the US coastline. These movements are seasonal, as the whale sharks pursue the largest abundance of food.”

According to the aquarium, whale sharks are the largest shark and fish species in the world and, contrary to their name, are not related to whales. However, they do feed primarily on plankton.

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