A girl who grew up idolising Ariel the Disney sea princess has achieved her dream - and now makes her living as a real life mermaid.

Flame-haired Melanie Long, 25, grew up surrounded by murals of Ariel in her bedroom and told anyone who would ask that she wanted to be The Little Mermaid.

But unlike most childhood dreams and ambitions, hers has come resoundingly true after she moved to Phuket, Thailand, five years ago to travel and work as a diver.

Initially, Melanie, from Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, worked as a scuba diving instructor.

The job brought her into contact with a Thai children's charity that were looking for models to dress as mermaids at a gala ball.

She then made a mermaid outfit from scratch, worked on her breathing technique and now makes a living from her dream job.

She said: "When I was a kid, whenever people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say The Little Mermaid.

"Being a ginger kid you're open to ridicule and the only hero or princess that we, the ginger people, had to look up to was Ariel.

"It wasn't something I had ever actively pursued because I never thought it would be a possibility.

"So I got into scuba diving thinking that would be as close as I could get to become The Little Mermaid."

Melanie spent a year designing and constructing her very own silicone tail similar to those used in films such as 'Splash' and Australian mermaid soap opera 'H2O'.

The handmade four-foot long swimmable tail allowed her to enhance the illusion of a real life mermaid whipping its tail underwater.

She has since found herself in high demand in Thailand for appearances on television, film and music videos as well as at children's parties and weddings.

She added: "After a bit of research I realised that there is an entire community of mer-people and looked into making this into something I could make money out of.

"Working as a diver you could earn anything between £20 and £80 for a full day of work but being a mermaid was much better paid. It's a dream job.

"I eventually started a mermaid pod where I would train other girls to swim like a mermaid and hold their breath underwater.

"It got quite lucrative. I suppose you could say that I've been a pretty busy mermaid."

Melanie is able to swim up to 85 metres under water without coming to the surface for air.

And the longest amount of time she has been able to hold her breath underwater without a mask is an impressive three minutes and 33 seconds.

Video credit: SWNS