the big day arrived, within moments after entering the waters
following our arrival at 'Shark Ray Alley' just outside the barrier
reef on the backside of Ambergris Caye, Alfonse had hundreds of
fish swimming around us. In the mist of all these air bubbles,
stingrays four feet wide approached from below, dragging in tow
about twenty nurse sharks, all ranging in size from between three
to seven feet each. I had never seen anything close to the natural
wonderment that surrounded me.
Ray off the Coast
of Ambergris Caye
with a Nurse Shark at
Alfonse had taken time to prepare me only by saying, "Definitely,
do not put your fingers in front of the sharks mouth".
Unfortunately, he did not say a word about what to do when the
brown colored sharks started surrounding me, swimming slowly
around and nudging up against my side. Shark eyes, I promise,
no more than inches away.
Floating about there off the barrier reef, my eyes stared wide
open from behind my foggy goggles as I worked that plastic breathing-tube-apparatus
referred to as the snorkel. I tried my best to not let on to
the sharks that I was scared, but with increasing numbers of
them, I started to feel more than just a bit uncomfortable.
At first I thought that I should be careful, not to react to
quickly. I was there in the water telling myself to just breath
slowly, thinking all the while about how the sharks might have
a sixth sense or something. I was convinced that if I let on
that I was scared they would somehow sense my fear and decide
to eat me alive. Of course, thinking about it I would have known
that nurse sharks do not eat humans, but right there and then,
I did the only thing I felt I could do, I completely freaked
A 'panic attack' we call it back home. Whatever you would like
to call it, I was consumed with unabated fear from head to toe
as I looked around my body at all these sharks encircling me.
Most certainly I started having flashbacks to what happened
to all those people swimming in the movie 'Jaws', part One and
the fear settled in, I decided to nonchalantly work my way back
towards the sanctuary and safety of Alfonse's boat, the Roxanne
II. My hopes were that all the sharks would not see me trying
to escape or maybe they would just simply decide on their own
to go away. But before I could make my move, Alfonse swam up
to me and handed me a six foot shark.
about your wild kingdom, this guy Alfonse might not be quite
right after all. For my own sanity, well there I was in water
way over my head about to pass out from the fear, and my guide
stops to hand me an extremely large nurse shark. He then instructed
me, for the lack of a better word, to 'hug' a very live shark.
All this as I frantically sucked air through my faithful snorkel's
then suddenly I caught my breath and slowed myself down. The
shark I was holding in my arms and I then paused briefly there
for not only a photo opportunity but for that moment of Zen.
You know, a moment of Zen, that speck of time where they say
the universe reveals itself ever so slightly. That moment in
time and space when man and beast absolutely bond. It was at
that exact instance when I realized that I could actually feel
that shark's heart beating in my hand.