Bay of Islands jet skiers shocked by visit from rare whale shark

A rare marine visitor has given some Northland tourists a fright as well as delight. 

The jet skiers were resting in the Bay of Islands when they noticed a huge creature underneath them.

The whale shark has a huge wide mouth, but it's not dangerous to humans. 

It's normally found in tropical waters, but experts say this one was probably here because the unseasonably warm waters of Northland are full of the plankton and baitfish it likes to eat.

There have been four sightings reported in the past couple of weeks - but no-one's sure if this is the same whale shark, or different ones.

Clinton Duffy, a Department of Conservation shark expert, told Newshub not much is known about the whale shark - however he's sure this six-metre one is only a juvenile.

Fully grown they're three times that size, averaging around 18 metres in length.

Every whale shark has different spots and markings, and there's an international data base of photographs which is the only way of tracking their movements at the moment.

The world's whale shark population has been dwindling in recent years and the animal was officially considered an endangered species in 2016.