Image: diver swimming with reef sharks

Hooked on Helping: The Diver Who Lets Sharks Nap in Her Lap!

Could you be persuaded to stick your hand in a shark’s mouth? We’re about to meet someone who has done it over 300 times! And truth be told, her motivation might just surprise you. Let’s dive in to see why Cristina Zenato is reaching deep into sharks’ jaws and pull out a new appreciation for these fiercely misunderstood predators.

We all have dreams of what we’d like to accomplish in life, and shark diver Cristina Zenato always dreamt of being able to pet a shark. But she, like you and I, knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy act. She knew from the very beginning that it would have to be on the shark’s terms.

So, how do you coordinate a friendly rendezvous with a creature that can swim at high speeds toward you with multiple rows of menacing teeth? The answer, dear friend, is something we can all apply to our own lives to better connect with others.

Image: diver swimming with reef sharks
Source: Vic DeLeon // Flickr

Just the right touch!

After Cristina honed her expertise in shark behavior by working with over a dozen species all around the globe, she decided to primarily work with Caribbean reef sharks in her home of The Bahamas.

It’s here that she discovered that she has a very special gift: Cristina is one of the first people in the world to be able to induce a state of relaxation in the Caribbean reef sharks through gentle, loving touch.

To an onlooker, this state of relaxation looks like a shark is napping in her lap! But this is more than just about cute shark-cuddling sessions. Through this gentle way of communicating with the sharks, she was able to form a very special bond with them. They keep coming back to her, seeking connection and contact. And because of this, Cristina has been able to help them in a way that not only improves their lives, but also offers us land-lovers a new perspective on these intimidating fish.

Just wait, the story gets even better! Watch this video by The Dodo to see how Cristina is putting her sleepy-shark skills to good use. I guarantee this heartwarming story will have you hooked.

Via: The Dodo 1

‌Shoutout to The Dodo for always sharing the most remarkable stories about human-animal connection! Click here to see more of their amazing videos.

Want the up-close experience of swimming with sharks, but still too chicken to take the plunge? (I’m with ya!) Follow Cristina on Instagram for an insider’s look at her cave exploration and extraordinary shark encounters.

Cristina and her shark companions are not only changing the way people perceive sharks, but have also become ambassadors for many other species of animals throughout the world.  By collecting data to support scientific research, Cristina initiated a movement that resulted in the full protection of sharks in the entire Bahamas. Learn more about her vast portfolio of work on her website.

Caring About Our Oceans!

Sink your teeth into these articles that explain why our oceans are so vital to our planet–and meet the people like Cristina who are protecting them!

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Do you remember the viral video of the sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose? It changed the way many people saw our ocean plastic problem. And now, the scientists behind that video are keeping the positive momentum going—this time turning to the turtles themselves for footage of how we can help make a difference!

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Learning Life’s Gentle Lessons with the Seahorse Whisperer!

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What can we learn from Cristina and her sharks?

Oftentimes, the stories we tell ourselves about the creatures in our world are much more harmful than the creatures themselves. But every once in a while, an amazing human comes along and refreshes our perspective on the beautiful beings with whom we share our planet.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we all go sticking our fingers in shark mouths to pull out hooks… maybe leave that to the experts… but learning to empathize with others by putting yourself in their shoes is a powerful tool to keep in your back pocket. Not just for educational purposes, but for healing, too. Because when we approach the “beasts” that terrify us with kindness in our hearts, it can result in the types of relationships that we can all appreciate and continue to learn from.

“Water flows through every aspect of our lives, following that flow makes us realize that everything is so vitally interconnected.”

— Cristina Zenato

Keep dreaming and notice the beauty around you!


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  1. The Dodo. “Woman Has Removed over 300 Hooks from Sharks’ Mouths | the Dodo Wild Hearts.” YouTube, 11 Aug. 2020, Accessed 9 Feb. 2021.
Published: February 22, 2021

Image: Renee Laroche-Rheaume

Renee Laroche-Rheaume

Outreach Coordinator

Renee is a graduate of FIDM, and has held jobs in several industries such as apparel manufacturing, retail, professional office work, and even hospitality. Her creative outlook, wide variety of experiences, and desire to notice the beauty around us make her a great addition to the EWC team.

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