A Brit claims dolphins shielded him from a 6ft-long shark as he swam in open water in New Zealand.

Adam Walker praised a heroic pod of mammals who he believes rescued him from a potentially deadly attack.

Having been told sharks were nothing to worry about in New Zealand's Cook Strait, Adam from Nottingham was stunned to spot the predator beneath him.

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It was then that his dream came true of not only swimming with dolphins but experiencing them "guide him home" under their protection over the 16-mile distance.

Adam said on Facebook in 2014: "I’d like to think they were protecting me and guiding me home. This swim will stay with me forever."

On a day that was "like swimming in washing machine", Adam said his encounter with the dolphins was a "dream" and it was "more important".

He added: "Dream come true swimming with dolphins over an hour…open-water swimming doesn’t get any better than this!”

The appearance of the shark came as a surprise to Adam, who was told by New Zealand swimmer Philip Rush he did not need to worry about sharks.

Adam told the Marlborough Express he "had a go at him when I got out".

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Sharks target dolphins, particularly young calves or sick and injured ones, as prey and it is estimated that one-third of dolphins in Sarasota, Florida, have scars from a shark bite.

The intelligent creatures rely on their strength in numbers to warn off attacks and they use their snouts as a "powerful weapon" to ram into sharks and focus on attacking the soft underbelly and vulnerable gills.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) organisation said: "The main advantage dolphins have against shark attacks is safety in numbers; they stick together in pods and defend one another from a shark’s attack by chasing and ramming it. Dolphins are able to protect vulnerable members of their pods and extended families such as young dolphins and injured or sick dolphins."

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It is not the first recorded case of dolphins protecting humans and in 2004, lifeguard Rob Howes and his 15-year-old daughter were swimming with two of her friends off the New Zealand coast when they spotted the feared great white sharks.

Howes told the Northern Advocate: "The dolphins started to herd us up, they pushed all four of us together by doing tight circles around us.

"It was only about two metres away from me, the water was crystal clear, and it was as clear as the nose on my face… some of the people later on the beach tried to tell me it was just another dolphin – but I knew what I saw."

Shark attacks are common and the sea beasts are happy to attack humans left in a vulnerable position in the water, so spotting the shark in open waters can easily cause alarm for swimmers.

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