Close Encounter of a Rare Kind

Published on 27 August 2007 Categories: Senior School

Biology trip groupThe highlight of the recent S5 Biology Field Trip to Malaysia was undoubtedly the chance to snorkel with a shark ray. The shark ray is an endangered fish (much prized for its fins sadly) and it is also a species that lives on the sea bed so tends not be seen often.

When Geoff Morgan, Assistant Principal Teacher of Biology, spotted it, he was not sure if he had seen a ray or a shark. Even when the boats were brought closer the identity of the fish remained a mystery - it looked more like a sea monster than anything else! Then the marine biologists in the party recognised it as a shark ray, a harmless species they had only dreamed of seeing, let alone snorkel with.

Geoff Morgan takes it from here, “As soon as I was in the water and swimming toward it, the shark ray seemed to sense me and swept round in an arc to investigate. After a brief nuzzle it continued swimming in broad circles. It was not long before quite a number of our staff and youngsters were in the water having a unique close encounter with this fantastic fish. It was an amazing experience to see such a beautiful and rare animal so close”.

The shark ray was the talk of the diving community on the island of Pulau Tioman, Malaysia, for the next week or so as even those who had been diving there for over 20 years there had not seen one. It is listed officially by IUCN as an endangered species.

Click here to watch a video of this amazing encounter (7 MB - broadband recommended) taken by Karen Chen of EcoFieldTrips.

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