A man swimming in the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt was saved when a group of bottlenose dolphins scared off a shark that had bitten him five times.

Martin Richardson, 29, was attacked by a mako shark while swimming near a diving boat. He first felt a bite on his side before the shark came back and bit him repeatedly.

"There was no reason for the shark to stop.

"I had lost approximately 5 pints (2.8L) of blood. You only have 8 to 9 [pints] (4.5-5L) in your body," Richardson told National Geographic on the 'Saved from a Shark' program. “I was waiting for a feeding frenzy… I knew it was circling me… I turned away and looked at the mountains. I gave up."

Richardson was surprised when the shark broke off its attack. A group of five dolphins had appeared behind him, flapping their fins and tails to drive the shark away. The behavior is common among dolphins which are protecting their calves from predators.

"I firmly believe the dolphins saved my life,” the shark attack survivor said.

When the shark pulled away, Richardson's friends were able to reach him and pull him into the boat. He was taken to the hospital as fast as possible, where he required 300 stitches.

Mike Heithaus, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University, told the program that the dolphins were likely protecting their young when they realized a shark was in the area and were not attempting to save Richardson specifically. Even so, his life was saved.

Mako sharks are open-water sharks whose slender bodies make them the fastest sharks in the ocean. While they can grow to large sizes of between 12-15 feet in length and bear a resemblance to their more famous relative, the great white shark, they are less dangerous to humans than other sharks of similar sizes such as the bull and tiger sharks. Mako sharks have been implicated in 10 unprovoked attacks against humans, including one fatal attack.