CLOSE ENCOUNTER: A kayaking group from Epic Ocean Adventures was joined by a docile leopard shark on Sunday.
CLOSE ENCOUNTER: A kayaking group from Epic Ocean Adventures was joined by a docile leopard shark on Sunday. Contributed

Curious leopard shark cruises with kayakers

A 1.5m zebra shark (commonly referred to as a "leopard" shark in Australia) became the unexpected eighth member of a kayaking tour at Double Island Point on the weekend.

The docile shark species normally cruises the bottom of the ocean, but stayed near the surface, swimming among the kayaking group from Epic Ocean Adventures at Rainbow Beach for about an hour on Sunday afternoon.

Co-owner of the business Tyson Van Santen captured the interaction on his Go Pro 4, which is able to be used under water, showing just how closely the shark swam to the kayaks in the group.

"Seven of us went out on our three-hour dolphin kayak tour at Double Island Point," Mr Van Santen said.

"We left Rainbow Beach about 12.30pm, so we were out on the water by 1pm.

"We were just paddling around the headland at what we call the Cove and we saw him."

The shark seemed not at all fazed by the group of kayakers, swimming in and around them for about an hour.

"He was coming along right up to the kayaks, checking us out," Mr Van Santen said.

It was a good day for spotting marine wildlife on Sunday.

Mr Van Santen's group also saw a big group of manta rays and a loggerhead turtle, but he said it is the local pods of dolphins that are most popular.

Fast facts

Docile and slow-moving, zebra sharks are not dangerous to humans and can be easily approached under water, but they have bitten divers who pull on their tails or attempt to ride them.

They feed primarily on shelled molluscs, crustaceans, small bony fish and possibly sea snakes.

During the day, zebra sharks are sluggish and usually found resting on the sea bottom.

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