Cristina Zenato is a course director, shark behaviourist, conservationist, public speaker, and founder of the nonprofit organisation – People of the Water – and a member of the explorers club. She has also been inducted into the women divers hall of fame, is a member of the ocean artists society and the recipient of the platinum pro 5,000 as well as being a writer and listed as an actor on IMDB. Also known as the shark dancer, the shark whisperer, and the mother of sharks; Cristina is well known for removing over 300 fishing hooks from “her girls” whilst they nestle on her lap as she crouches on the sea bed. One of Cristina’s more famous videos show her successfully removing a hook by putting her hand, and arm, inside a sharks mouth to retrieve the hook from its throat.
Join me as I discuss a range of topics with Cristina Zenato, including her exploration and mapping of the uncharted caves hidden beneath the Bahamas, shark conservation, life on an island, living with hurricanes, fitness and tuition of budding shark enthusiasts and that’s before we get onto the topic of hook removal!
Speakers: Matt Waters and Cristina Zenato
Matt Waters (00:00:04):
Hey there, dive buddies and welcome to the show. Let me tell you about my next guest. This wonderful lady is a course director, sharp behaviorist, conservationist, public speaker, and founder of the nonprofit organization. People at the water, a member of the explorers club. She has also been inducted into the women dive at hall of fame as a member of the ocean artists society and the recipients of the platinum pro 5,000 as well as being a writer and listed on as an actor on IMD B also known as the shark dancer, the shark whisperer, and the mother of sharks. I’m super excited to work in this absolute legend and wonderful woman to the show. Christina’s and natto, first question. How on earth do you have fit it all in
Cristina Zenato (00:00:49):
Waking up at 5:00 AM, as you can see it didn’t come all at once. It’s been different stages, different things through the life, but yes, it’s passion quite a lot of longer hours that I don’t feel because I really love what I do. And I’m living in a place that actually allows me to do them on a short notice.
Matt Waters (00:01:14):
Yeah. So it, and you’re in The Bahamas, right? I I’ve never visited The Bahamas, but it looks amazing as you would expect. But w we’re actually about saw you, cause I just had a quick look on the map there and there’s quite a few islands within the location.
Cristina Zenato (00:01:30):
We I am in grand Bahama Island. There’s over listed or 700 islands, but in total there’s over 3000 between islands, keys and apples in this country. So we’re, we’re definitely an Island nation, but on the grand Bahama Island.
Matt Waters (00:01:47):
Okay. well to, to kick it off where they all start, how did he get into the water?
Cristina Zenato (00:01:56):
It all starts with my family, my family is a family off the ocean. And so I was always grew up in Octo, was brought me to the ocean. My mom is from a part of Italy. The it’s the North West, but it’s the Northwest on the coastline. It’s called the Gouda. So J where genoise, it’s just like in this little corner and they’re fishermen and people of the sea. And then my dad was always a water person. Afraid actually went into the special forces of the military in Italy. What will be now the Greenbrae or of the frogman or the Marines in the United States. And I grew up with these pictures of him doing diving with pure oxygen rebreather, but he still had that passion for the water. So both of them always took me swimming to, to the ocean, to the sea.
Cristina Zenato (00:02:56):
My mom’s uncle had a sailboat and took cruise in around the Mediterranean for a living. And two, sometimes in a summer we’ll be on the sailboat when he was in port and he wasn’t working. And the water’s always been part of my upbringing. Yeah. The passion for scuba diving comes directly from the pictures and the stories of my dad and his background when he was a special forces, military combine all of that with the opportunity to always go in to the water and finding myself comfortable in the water that came with the childhood dream of one day become an a on the water scuba ranger who would have sharks for friends.
Matt Waters (00:03:33):
Yeah. I did see that yeah. Get rid of the ballet, but let’s do get in there with the sharks.
Cristina Zenato (00:03:39):
Yeah. The ballet didn’t really
Matt Waters (00:03:44):
Quite to hear it. Yeah. So how long did that do in the military then? Cause obviously
Cristina Zenato (00:03:52):
I actually never saw it in the military. He was in the military seven years and then he retired and started traveling the world doing a working for construction companies into like large projects. So a building, for example, roads, railways, bridges, as we were talking about your background in engineering, who was involved in this big projects. And so even before he met my mom, he actually worked back in Iran and Iraq, Northern Africa. And then he met my mom in one of the projects when it was working in that part of Italy. And then we moved to, to Africa and and so I grew up actually in central Africa. Oh, what about first we were in Colombia and Kikwete, which were in the center of what it’s called, it’s called now the democratic Republic of Congo back then it was a former Z a year.
Cristina Zenato (00:04:45):
And then we moved into the rain forest that my own before is of the current Republic of the Congo, which was back then known as Congo. So grabbed me like this very outdoorsy kind of like wildlife very out of the boundaries, although it was not always by the ocean. When we had a chance, we were always going to the water. It was this mix, I guess, of wildlife and water that kind of like created me and this desire to maybe one day have a similar lifestyle. I didn’t really fit with the regular day to day life. Once we moved back to Italy, it just, it just wasn’t me.
Matt Waters (00:05:31):
Yeah. Yeah. There’s no jungle. It’s just concrete.
Cristina Zenato (00:05:34):
It’s actually, it’s always beautiful. Don’t get me wrong. This is amazing. I come from Verona. That’s where we live. We were on guard the Lake. There’s so much history. Every cobblestone of this country has a, something to tell everybody every time I go to eat till I’m in love with the little details, but it was just a lifestyle that was not me. So as much as I love the, that I am from, and when I go back, I, I walk through it and I try to absorb every single part of it. The, the nine to five or the always a shoes on, or you’re always have to be dressed in a certain way. It just, it was just too tight for me.
Matt Waters (00:06:16):
Yeah. Do you, do you, do you find it a little bit weird when you visit somewhere like Australia or Italy and there’s just so many people around you? I kind of struggled with it when I first moved away from living a beach life and coming back to, you know, city life. And I felt fellow my eyes were just constantly moving because there was so much going on all the time.
Cristina Zenato (00:06:41):
Yes. I become overstimulated and it makes me exhausted at the end of the day. What, the thing that is still hard to adapt to is there’s, there’s two things and this is a little bit like brought on by it Island life. One is the distances in our Island life. You’re so used w everything is within a certain distance. And when you’re somewhere else, you know, you need to do something and it might take half a day to plan prepare, drive, go into, and then Jajuan is like the sometimes the amount of people. Yeah. Just the amount of people that you constantly walk by. So the constant chatter and noise that can be for me strange and just very, like I said, overstimulating, the third one is actually depending on the season, but I, I noticed is like my feet at the end of the day, after being old day in the shoes is just there. Like please stop. And my skin, you know, always covered in clothes is just, it takes a couple of weeks actually for the body to adapt to all that.
Matt Waters (00:07:55):
I before I came to Australia, I was out in Papua New Guinea and I’d been living the life in, in South East Asia and, and not worn shoes for six years. So I was very used to walking through the jungle over whatever ground in Papua, new Guinea, no problem barefoot. And then I come here and you’ve got to wear shoes. You can’t even, there’s some places you can’t even go into with flip-flops on. And you’ve got to have clothes shoes, you know? And within a year, my feet were, you know, soft as a baby’s bum. It was ridiculous. As soon as you walk over, walk over something, that’s, you know, relatively flat on like, Oh my God, what’s that, you know, painful
Cristina Zenato (00:08:32):
Life. I think it’s, it’s an amazing life, but also I’ve seen a lot of people come in here thinking that it would be an amazing life and running away screaming. Literally, you know, like this is not for me. So there’s a lot of people and I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced that probably into Guinea even more so than does Island. At least we’re only 40 miles from the United States. It’s one Island hall, literally. Yeah. Puddle hopper type of flight, but it’s the remoteness, as some people can take and they can take the confinement of the Island nor the difficulties that people don’t realize or living on an Island. So for as magical as it is for some of us, it’s very much a struggle for many others, unless they have quite a lot of comforts and they’re capable of, you know, of having this conference coming in. I don’t think is for everyone, like it’s not for everyone to live in a city to live in a citizen enough for me, and it’s not right or wrong. It’s just what fits with ourselves and what we’re capable of taking. Yeah.
Matt Waters (00:09:34):
Well, it’s what makes you feel comfortable? Isn’t it
Cristina Zenato (00:09:36):
Correct. And what, in a certain way, fulfills you and what, and when you wake up in the morning, what makes you go? I can’t wait for my day. If for me it’s very important. It’s one of the things I I try to have is yes, we’ll always looking forward to something it’s sexually cool. I can wait until, you know, travel can resume. I haven’t seen my mom in a year and a half. I would love to absolutely hugger. And you can say, I can’t wait for that, but for me, it’s more like when you wake up that morning is being happy for that morning for what is about to happen on that day, rather than say, Oh, I can’t wait for the weekend or I can’t wait for my vacation. And I think that is what in our choices is important. Yeah. That’s how I’ve decided to live my life.
Matt Waters (00:10:23):
So you’ve probably, you’ve probably got a pretty, pretty well nailed down by now. What is it? 25 years on the Island? 27 years, 27.
Cristina Zenato (00:10:33):
I have very much very nailed down both the day to day in you know, people ask like even the preparation for the hurricanes, how it’s organized, what I have in the apartment. What, how it is the process as the hurricane, for example, approaches how is my shopping scheduled? We have in cave diving, we have a saying, it says, you know, two is, one is, one is none. And it really works well for the Island life. So if something is now sold on the Island, chances are, there’s a one or two spares or somewhere in the closet of certain things. And could be, for example, my camera gear the headphones that I’m using right now the cable to charge the computer. If there are no stores on the Island to sell, it is two is one. And when I’m down to one, one is none. So I actually go ahead and on the next opportunity order a different one, cause it might take a couple of weeks for me to receive it.
Matt Waters (00:11:36):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. Well, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna tell my message that a two for one and one is one is zero because she’s already a hoarder. And when we get down to two, if anything, we get another 10 we’re running out of room in our place, hoarder.
Cristina Zenato (00:11:54):
I live in a very small apartment. Everything is organized, but I have to work with that mentality. So like now is April. So when we go shopping and we buy six cans of beans to eat with a salad, currently, we also buy six cans of beans to put off to the side. And we do that with each shopping. So when the, should the hurricane hit, I don’t have to rush to the supermarket to buy supplies, for example, cause this is going to be super overcrowded. So I have this system or I spend the little bit for several months in advance. And then when a hurricane season ends, I consume what I’ve been put in a way of these beans and vegetables and this chickpeas and all that in then start again, March and April for the next year.
Matt Waters (00:12:42):
So when is hurricane season then? Is that, is that March, April?
Cristina Zenato (00:12:46):
No, the official is a June 1st through end of November or 1st of November season is usually beginning of all goes, sorry. End of all, goes to September. And we’ve been having some, you know, really weird storms on the 25th of October, but I would say the peak season is really September. So like at the end of the summer, when it’s the hottest we’ve been having storms also June, July, but like usually the big ones, they start sickle ones that have demolish design and are open between September and October. Those that’s our peak season.
Matt Waters (00:13:25):
Yeah. And is it, is it regular occurrence that every year there’s a serious amount of damage done or are you all getting better and better each year at protecting yourself?
Cristina Zenato (00:13:37):
No, there’s not each year, but the store and stuff progressively becomes stronger and strong storms harvest storage, KOLs. I mean, if we look back at 1865, there were still strong storms, so they’re not a unique, the problem is right now, they’re more frequent. So we had a hurricane force five hurricane Matthew hit here in 2016. And then in 2019 we had hurricane Dorian, which basically ravaged between Abaco and grand Bahama. And we’re still recovering from Dorian. Dorian was one of those monster storms at 200 plasma miles per hour winds. And it literally sat on the Island for three days. So if a hurricane comes through, usually it takes about 12 hours. It’s a different kind of strength storm. So we hope not to have to relive Dorian for maybe a decade or more. So it’s all dependent on what’s happening with, you know, our oceans the climate change or whatever it’s happening with the heating up of the planet and the storms have differently change in frequency and increase in intensity. Yeah.
Matt Waters (00:14:48):
Yeah. Well it’s all a very fine balance.
Cristina Zenato (00:14:52):
Yes. Is not at every year. Last year. Like we were very lucky. We had one storm coming through hurricane force one and for us on the Island, hurricane force wind, it’s kind of like, Oh yeah, hurricane one. It’s okay. I’m gonna sit on the couch. Power goes off. And 12 hours later, the half the Island back on its feet is the hurricane force four and five and four and five. The then sits on the Island. Obviously it’s, it’s different. So the Island is very, the islands are very well-prepared. The way the manage power and water I think is a very, very good. They tend to shut off the water and the power on purpose when the winds goes above a certain speed. So should any damage occur? There’s no risk of electrocution of people. There’s no risk of water pollution or water contamination.
Cristina Zenato (00:15:44):
And I think the response after the hurricane is usually pretty, pretty good. So haven’t done pretty Dorian is something that can fault anyone for, for the, what happened in the aftermath. I mean, 70% of the item went underwater. So even the places, even the places that we’re supposed to send the help, like the firefighter, the police stations, the ambulances, everything went under water. So there was no hardware stores, no ambulance, no trucks, no fires. We had to wait ready for everyone from the outside to, to come in and help. So it’s it, it was beyond anybody’s control. So you can’t fault. You know, the delay in response for me was there’s a lot of like personal responses. So those that came on scattered out of the storm where the one that moved into gear right away, we were the two of us were two of the lucky ones and a 30% of the Island that didn’t flood.
Cristina Zenato (00:16:46):
And so within about a week, right, just trying to figure it out, what happened within a week we started doing support missions. So the first step came in to help where like the small planes, there was like this beautiful organization of like private plane flight, fight flight, fliers pilots with like little Sesnas that could carry 400, 600 pounds. And there was enough place for them to land on the tower mock of this demolish airport. And then anybody, everybody that had a vehicle opposite, their rotary club hope and all of that, we start carrying things everywhere where we could. And then the big boys came in, you know, the big organization, star common name. And there was like the bigger airplanes coming in, which obviously were needed, but it was really cool to see like individuals that had come out on scattered and had a vehicle everybody pitched in to help anybody they could.
Matt Waters (00:17:46):
Yeah. Yeah. Real community bonding. Yes. There’s a,
Cristina Zenato (00:17:50):
I always say if the end of the world comes, I’ll stay put here in The Bahamas because there’s a, something about the way the Bahamians are designed to withstand hardships, but also the way they’re designed to like pitch him. I know the world heard about the violence that actually came out of the Dorian hurricane, to be honest with you. I think that was the exception to the rule. We were driving through areas where people had none left, open pickup truck and everything, and people will just get themselves in line and say, Hey, can I please have that? Do you have this? We never, once I lived here 27 years and it’s a beautiful populations as a population to say, Hey, I have a generator. Would you like share a drop court? Give me five bucks for the fuel. These are the kinds of people. And these are the news that really didn’t come out as much. And these are where the Toronto was trying to share snow. Listen, I said, people here need help. And most of them are just like, what Bahamians are these wonderful population, very peaceful, very friendly, very kind. And that is the story I wish I’d gone out more rather than, you know, the occasion or shooting and robbery things happen. Of course.
Matt Waters (00:19:13):
Yeah. Let’s be fair. I mean, the media is going to focus on those things that are going to capture that story in a headline. Aren’t they?
Cristina Zenato (00:19:19):
It is. Yes. And it was unfortunate because there was a lot of people say, well, we’re not coming in because it’s so dangerous. And I’m like, it’s not, it’s not dangerous. Just please come. People need help. And people are very friendly and very thankful. Yeah.
Matt Waters (00:19:36):
Wow. That’s good to hear. Well, let’s hope that you don’t get many hurricanes for many years.
Cristina Zenato (00:19:41):
Thank you. Yes. Let’s hope not. Cause right now we actually we were slowly recovered. We’re doing good. And then, you know, COVID hit and I was was not a big blow because obviously this islands they’re, you know, they have a fishery industry, they have a banking industry. There’s some construction industry, but then primarily there’s a lot of tourism industry and that really, the country took a bloat with the tourism industry. So now we start having people coming back, you know, vaccinations are starting to move. We have some rules to come in, but they’re actually pretty affordable. You’d just have to have a negative test and purchase an insurance Liza which covers in case, you know, you’re discovered you’re positive that visa actually covers for your repatriation or for helping you out in a hospital. And then you can actually be around the islands. The islands are open. We actually have a pretty normal life within the islands.
Matt Waters (00:20:38):
That was good to hear. I’ll say I’m in a group. It’s Texas scuba divers on Facebook. There’s like nearly 3000 members in there now. And it’s, I’m getting pretty jealous about it as well because over that side of the world seem to have it, have it nailed down with getting across borders and going dive in, you know, so you’d see people popping down to Cozumel and Mexico and all sorts and
Cristina Zenato (00:20:59):
Just don’t even have rules like Mexico. But like for us, it’s negative tasks that purchase the visa. And then while you’re on the Island included in your visa after three, four days, you’ll have to have a quick test just to make sure you’re still not sick, but otherwise, you know, shops are open. Activities are open, your tells are open. People are out and about I think we still have an 11:00 PM curfew, but person, I don’t feel it. It doesn’t really affect my lifestyle.
Matt Waters (00:21:28):
Yeah. Well, I mean, when you get in up at this time in the morning, I’m not surprised that you’re well well into your bedtime by then.
Cristina Zenato (00:21:36):
Yeah. 11:00 PM. Israel. I’m already in my Ram. I’m pretty sure.
Matt Waters (00:21:43):
So we should talk about David really as well, but before I do what, w w what is it that you do fitness wise? Cause you’re obviously a very fit woman. And I noticed on, I was doing a bit of Facebook stalking yesterday. I think it was, I saw that you did some training for a half marathon and stuff like that. Is there other stuff that you do to maintain your fitness?
Cristina Zenato (00:22:07):
So my two I would say my three way of maintaining 50, the one that are designated as fitness is I do morning runs. And then usually either morning or evening, depending on my schedule, a yoga practice, pretty advanced yoga practice. Those are primarily my two ones, so is running and yoga, but then I have a physical job. So my job is a job where I walk him down the ramp. So walking up and down the boats carry tanks during COVID I had out of jobs that were as physical, even if we’re not dive in. So I have a very much a movement into my life. So on an average day and I did this just to calculate, you know, but like, for me, it’s very easy to put in on a day without running 10,000 steps on a day with running is going to be 20 to 25,000. So that’s what I do. It’s a mix of exercising and then having a very active lifestyle, it could be a walk on the beach with the pops or going swimming with them and do something physical in the garden or helping someone with some work or their home, you know, it just, I’m just a very active person.
Matt Waters (00:23:22):
Yeah. Yeah. I saw the little video snippet of you swimming with the dogs chasing after you,
Cristina Zenato (00:23:29):
Steve dive in itself. It’s a, it’s a Hy-Ko workout itself, you know, and Dave gave dive and he’s, we can hike sometimes for, by the time we carry all the gear to the cave entrance. Sometimes we’re down a kilometers with oldest gear on our cars. We did different trips from car to the cave entrance, and you started doing a three to four hour cave dive you swimming two, three kilometers, but by the time you go in and out, and then you carry everything back. So a day of cave diving, and on the next day, you can easily arrest
Matt Waters (00:24:00):
That’s loads of calories. I’m trying to find someone that’s a nutritionist, that’s a screwdriver that can actually quantify and discuss the calories burned while we’re diving, because it’s relatively common knowledge. You know, we’re looking at about 340 calories for every 30 minutes that were submerged. So if you’re doing it, yeah. So if you’re doing a three, four hour dive and then you’ve got all the equipment carrying before and after you don’t really need to do any other exercise,
Cristina Zenato (00:24:30):
No, that day we don’t do any other exercise. And maybe the next day we’ll also done exercise. Not that the next day we’d wake up and go for a run. We actually kind of like relax maybe at the end of the next day, I’ll do some, some yoga primarily obviously to also loosen up the muscle. So for me, flexibility is also very important. So all these activities are very good from a cardio point of view obviously meant maintaining the weight burning the calories, but then yo guys, I usually say yoga is the one that repairs, everything else that I do in my life. So carrying a rebreathers through the four is going cave diving for four hours in a certain position, has a strain on certain muscles on your back on your shoulder muscles on certain, you know, the, the lower back for example. And so then I do yoga. Then it could be either a very intense practice or sometimes what we’ll call it, restorative yoga, which where I focus on really stretching and moving those muscles, that in a certain way, Titan, one way I tried to stretch it the other way.
Matt Waters (00:25:32):
Yeah. Yeah. I should, I should do some yoga there. My sister keeps trying to get me to do it, but I’m more, much more into lifting heavy weights, but it’s,
Cristina Zenato (00:25:43):
You can do both.
Matt Waters (00:25:47):
Yeah. I should stretch more. I get many aches and pains and it’s because of lack of stretching. I’m sure. Anyway, let’s, let’s, let’s get on the dive in front of tangent man here. Okay. So since we mentioned that the caves and the cave dive in how did, how did you, was it just a transition or did you just get curious, going from open water, into cave, dive in and what was the attraction at first?
Cristina Zenato (00:26:17):
The attraction can very early on the Island, we have caves, but we also have this beautiful cabin called Benz cavern, which was a dive for the first time, by my original mentor, Ben Rose back in the sixties, early seventies. And so when I was here as an open water diver they were offering the cavern tour. So the cabin is the first room. You don’t go beyond the daylight is a little guided tour and I joined it and I actually lied because you needed to have 20 logged dives, but I actually had
Speaker 3 (00:26:46):
11 and that was my 11th
Cristina Zenato (00:26:49):
Died. So my instructor said, he says, you’re good, you’re good. It says, just go. And you know, you’ll be able to do with the dive. And I fell in love with the overhead environment. The day I did that cavern tour, the clarity of the water, the Stella Ty nostalgic mites for me, cave dive in is like opening these enormous, enormous book. I imagine going to one of those ancient libraries and I opened this giant books kind of like has a little bit of dust as you open and it goes, but as you open it, it has a huge page is a tells you everything about the history of the planet. And you can read it through the cave you can, as you swim through, you can hear the water dripping. You can feel the water flowing. You can like almost like at the ad and flowing off the ocean and you can say, Oh, I can see where the water Rose and then went back down and then this happened and then this layered.
Cristina Zenato (00:27:45):
And so you keep reading and it constantly has information for you. That’s what I fell in love with it. I have is marvelous discovery. That’s what cave diving was for me Sue within then I had to wait about two years. I went and became a cave diver. And then I came back on the Island and I started cave diving and I never stopped. And then slowly one, I dived all the lines that the previous Explorer had put in and I arrived at the end of the lines or along the lines. I started seeing patterns and I was like, huh, well, they didn’t go down this tunnel. And, and so I became what they call an Explorer, which comes as a consequence of diving, dive in, dive in the cave, starts having certain patterns that you are able to interpret. And then all of a sudden, it seems to, almost to me is almost like opens the doors, opens the door.
Cristina Zenato (00:28:36):
It’s like, okay, here, look, there is a little passage that nobody else assault. It could be a big passage. And then 2020 was, I would say the pinnacle of, of my cave diving career together with my buddy, Kevin Lorenson. We actually discovered two brand new cave systems like entrance from the entrance. So before I was laying line in previously explored caves, and I found out two kilometers of new tunnels in previous and explore caves, which is pretty cool, you know, that hundreds of people came through that cave and nobody noticed that, but like two brand new, a Virgin system, and we were able to lay over 15 kilometers of lines in these two systems,
Speaker 3 (00:29:21):
16 kilometers. How long did that take you?
Cristina Zenato (00:29:29):
And actually it didn’t take much because we were cave dive in an average of six to eight hours per week. We’re in rebreathers, just so I have a side Mount re-breather, which allows me to go in the smallest of tunnels and areas, and it’s perfect for this kind of caves. And so the kiss system kiss Sidewinder, and we were doing usually on a fresh read reader. We would do a four to a four and a half hour cave dive. And then within one or two days a knockoff, the next two and a half hour dive on a short ITER, picking up some strengths, maybe doing some, some photography, maybe doing some mapping at the time, too. And then break down the rebreather, pack it up again and start all over again. During the height of COVID, there was nothing else to do. And so we had a special permit to go cave, dive in from The Bahamas national trust and the police force. And they gave it to us. Cause obviously you go from, you know, your storage where the cave gear is to the cave. And obviously social distances is very much present and that kept our sanity. We would, I think it would have been in a regular work time. We will still be working on that project. Also the six to eight hours. We actually knocked off a couple of K a cave in about two and a half, three months.
Matt Waters (00:30:55):
Brilliant. So maybe COVID was a bit of a blessing that
Cristina Zenato (00:30:59):
COVID for me was not really old bed time. It was a interesting time. It actually brought up some changes. That for me were positive, especially mentally, physically. It was a little bit of a struggle in the beginning, especially with the limitations of a 200 meters from home exercise where you couldn’t go out on a boat, you couldn’t even go on the beach. Some of the stuff was tough, especially in the middle of the summer, but like psychologically and in the long-term 2020 for me was not actually a bad year. It was a unique year of reinvention of rediscovery. I, a new found freedom that I kind of lost in the last few years. If I have to say for me, 2019 was actually the worst year in 2019. I lost my dad on April 14th, six weeks later, I lost my mentor, Ben Rose and his wife and dogs in a house fire to basically they wiped them out in the middle of the night from carbon monoxide and then the fire and eight weeks later Dorian hit the Island. So when people go, Oh, 20, 20, I’m like 2020, it was a joke. 2020 is a break. 2020 for me was an interesting break. And it’s actually brought up a positive I’ll comes that I’m still benefiting from right now including those two amazing experiences and exploration.
Matt Waters (00:32:32):
Yeah, that sounds awesome. Now you’ve actually found you you’ve linked the caves with sharks.
Cristina Zenato (00:32:42):
I’ve linked it in my work with time. So before I add a passion, I have a passion for sharks and I think that’s what I’m known the most, but I have an equal passion for caves that people don’t really realize. I mean, lately I’ve been trying to share a little bit more. And then as I was working to protect both, I realized they’re very much linked, especially here in The Bahamas and is a very, in a certain way simple, but he took some time to really realize it is the caves that are on land, half water that travels to the ocean or through the terrain, even in a way where maybe I can’t fit and comes out into the mangroves, comes out into a lagoon, comes out into a Bay. And we don’t realize if I demolish the land over the cave that is on there, the ground that water with that pollution travels in all the outer aspects will sharks depend on mountain groves sharks.
Cristina Zenato (00:33:42):
Most of the species of sharks here in The Bahamas give birth in a mangroves. It’s very common to go into mongers and to find baby tigers, baby landmines, baby silkies manta stingrays, all this cartilage, efficient tenders, corals and all the other fish. And so if I pull you, I can’t put it five, six miles in land, but that pollution, we reached the ocean. And then we reached this nursery grounds. It will eventually affect the entire ecosystem from which the sharks and all the other animals depend. And that’s how I connected into my educational work and to the exploration work, but also physically connected a land cave to an ocean blue hole. In 2012, I spoke from a landscape into an ocean blue hole where we have some caves that come out in the mangroves. I actually literally swim from land into like off the beach, like 500 feet off the beach into an ocean blue hole. And that was the first time that it was like literally done. So if I can fit with all the gear through that, it mentioned particles of pollution. Yeah. And that was the scope of that connection.
Matt Waters (00:34:53):
It’s impressive. You’ve got a lot more work to do on that or is it an ever what’s the word evolving?
Cristina Zenato (00:35:04):
The, I wanna revisit this cave that I connected from the land to the ocean. One, because it is extremely polluted and is connected to some areas and might have origins from those areas. We just need to verify that. So we’re in a process right now to apply for actually a research permits. There’s a new law that just came out to run out. We’ll kind of like a whole to trying to get the permits before we continue our exploration. So I want to resume that, but we still have quite a lot of entrances. So one of the things that we’ve done is we basically identified all possible entrances and just what we do. We go on a hike literally through them, you know, with boots, machete, long pants and everything. And then when we arrived to the area, we do like a little scouting.
Cristina Zenato (00:35:53):
And so what we’re trying to do is just really give a very, very detailed map of every possible entrance. Even if it doesn’t have a lead and say, Hey, look here, we found fresh water. I can’t fake through cause the cave entrance collapsed, but we saw signs of stereotype, static mice. And at least there’s a comprehensive map for now of this Island and some of the keys. And then hopefully with time and if we ever be able to connect finances, do that on different islands and have more of these kind of like comprehensive understanding of what rungs below our feet, because it’s very true out of sight out of mind. And it’s very unfortunate cause it’s what it’s out of sight is very, still important for our health.
Matt Waters (00:36:39):
Oh, for sure. Yeah. Did you watch see Spirasi yet?
Cristina Zenato (00:36:44):
Not yet. I heard I heard about it. I actually heard the good in the bed apparently of us spiritually. So, but I can give my complete opinion. I can only base on two factions. I have people that work totally. Yes. Assist bureaucracy. And I also heard a lot of people, scientists primarily saying careful with [inaudible], so I’m going to reserve my opinion for when I watch it.
Matt Waters (00:37:16):
Yeah, for sure. It’s only gone. Oh, I was just going to say with that. You’re saying that outside our mind and one of the things that stood out to me on that show was you know, that, that you can see the damage that troll and net in that kind of thing does from space or from, you know, overhead as it were. But you can’t necessarily see it in day-to-day life now aside I don’t mind.
Cristina Zenato (00:37:44):
Yes. Correct. So there are some things that I heard as the spirits actually are brought up to the attention. There are others that have some concerns with, I heard, you know, that they say, Oh, everybody starts, she stopped eating fish. And the concern that I have with that, and it’s in an opinion that goes around quite a lot, B having lived on an Island nation for 27 years, but also having trouble through Fiji and stayed in the village and lived with the local people, as well as growing up in Africa. I do believe that a statement like that is good for those that have choices. So let’s call it the Western world or the more, you know, a civilized world. I still do believe that there are places where people can not afford not to into when it comes to that is maybe people that have the opportunity should make more mindful choices.
Cristina Zenato (00:38:43):
So for example, I have the opportunity. So I have, I am making more mindful choices. However, I know there’s also people out there. If you come to The Bahamas and look where the people live in the keys and how they live is the mindful choice might not be available during COVID. It was not financially available for some people, but to go out and provision for themselves. Yeah. So maybe we should talk about more, how of fishing has to change. And our expectations is the change. And when I say our expectations, I do believe that people that go to the restaurant expecting always to find always a list of the fish available that has to change that has to disappear. Yeah. But to me, the local guy, the swims yesterday, I was out on the boat, there’s a guy carrying a cutoff, you know, plastic drum behind themselves, free diving with fins mask, you know, like a little bit of duct tape around the master strap, trying to catch some lobster and fish and put in an, a bucket behind them. He’s not creating a dent into the population and that just practical provisioning. I will never allow myself to go after him and say, Hey, sorry, but you know, you should stop fishing and Eden finishes burning more calories than he actually.
Matt Waters (00:40:06):
Yeah. That’s just a, a ridiculous notion, isn’t it? Yeah.
Cristina Zenato (00:40:10):
I think these generalized notions that they needs to be applied a little bit differently. I am totally against long lining trawling of the industrial fishing, the freezer boats. I am totally against that. But if we go back to a more traditional kind of provisioning, I think there is a still room for people to make a living for fish to make a comeback. So the pressure needs to stop from the big places from the big cities, to be honest with you from theirs in the United States, some chain restaurants, specialize only in fish. And I tried to imagine what it takes to supply chain restaurants, a whole chain of just a seafood. Those have to go if you’re a woman, if you want my opinion, not the little Fujian, the sits on the side of the road with three facial thread through a line that he fished with maybe a spear.
Matt Waters (00:41:05):
Well, that’s it. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s the bulk, the bulk troll is, and you know, the demand in the, in the modern Western world that’s causing it all, isn’t it? So
Cristina Zenato (00:41:13):
Right. It’s just like go to the supermarket and expect not to find fish and do not complain about it. That is the party you want to do. Your part is that stop being so picky and demanded.
Matt Waters (00:41:25):
Yeah. Yeah. Western world. You’ve got many animals that you can eat. You can eat a lot of, you know, non-meat as well. Places like farmers alternatives.
Cristina Zenato (00:41:34):
There’s a lot of non-meat known the protein, no meat alternatives that goes up from the farmed animals all the way to the farm fish or the industrial fishing that the Western world has options. I’ve seen that also, like I was traveling through India. They also don’t have no meat options, but their diets are very, very, also in a certain way, poor. So there’s very much alternatives that people can take. Like I said, to transfer that to certain places, for example, The Bahamas, our agriculture is almost an existent and it’s not for lack of trying it’s for lack of terrain,
Matt Waters (00:42:16):
It’s similar in P and G they D there is no well, I can’t say none in all of the country, but particularly where I was living that you don’t see capital, you don’t see hands and, and you know, anything that you would take as, as, as farm food or farm animals is just non-existent, it’s vegetables stuff from the jungle and fish, that’s it, that’s all that’s available. So it’s got, gotta be used.
Cristina Zenato (00:42:45):
And here there’s no farming, no Kathleen, nothing like that either. So it’s I, I, there there’s a lot of opinions that is just, I I’m not what I would call myself an extremist. And I think sometimes a blanket statements like that can be harmful because then they’re directed towards the wrong people. And we can go as far as we can condemn some of these people doing something, but then I would like to go back and say, Hey, how’s your feminist situation at home? How many children do you have? So we need to go from there, back into the root of the problem. Why are these people, for example, a finan sharks, right? Are we going out fishing shark? Well, it’s because of someone, somebody outside comes in and say, Hey, if you catch a shark, I’ll give you a hundred bucks.
Cristina Zenato (00:43:41):
Maybe some of these people, I watch some of these documentaries and I’m sorry, I’m against the behavior that I have against. It is like maybe it lives in a hut back at home with five kids to feed. So we need to go further back and actually start saying, okay, let me help you. And your kids get out of this whole day. You’re in through education. One of the programs that we had here that I was participated in here on the Island, where the company called the underwater Explorer society was specifically that we train behavior ENS in scuba diving so that they can actually have an alternative career. Yeah. And the scuba diving is the first step from there. Then a lot of them go, Oh, wow, I really love this. And it become actually science teachers, or they actually went the defense force, or they actually look into a career of tourism and none of them with a changed focus into protecting their environment.
Cristina Zenato (00:44:40):
And I’ve done this for like 20 years. This kids that come out from a local high school, they do 10th, 11th, and 12th grade open-water advanced rescue. And then I come under my wing and I do their dive master instructor. And some of them stay and then most of them go, and then you check back on them years later, and they have all this different careers that has nothing to do with fishing, but it has a lot to do with education or protection. The defense force, a couple of those guys are very the defense sources. That one actually controls the ports. They’re very adamant about checking containers for illegal shark. And that I think is a primary solution is I need to go the route. How do you help this family so that this guys doesn’t have to go on the boat to fish the sharks out, for example. And I think that is how we solved. And that’s what I’ve been at for over 20 years of my career.
Matt Waters (00:45:40):
Good on you. I was, I was again, referring to P and G. I was doing a little bit out there with visiting schools and doing presentations and shown videos to the kids. And, you know, they’re asking, you know, when, when can I be old enough to come and learn to dive? And you know, it would be nice to see it progress. I think it’s probably a little bit too remote to be able to do it. But at least we’ve, you know, put a little bit of thoughts into their minds about how important the sharks are in the waters there. So it was, it was rather nice, but that’s just,
Cristina Zenato (00:46:14):
There’s a lot of non-profit here that do a lot of like, Oh, even take them snorkeling, put a glass in a face and take them snarky name to the mind. I think that is the eye-opener, there’s a lot of like work down here in The Bahamas to take the children to the water, because those are the ones that you need to foster obviously into like new ideas and you open-mindedness, and the best way is the exposure. So I think sometimes it’s suddenly in a wagon, your fingers at night and do a big giant Lanka statement is like, it would be nice to actually go at the root and say, okay, let me help it from the ground up.
Matt Waters (00:46:52):
Yeah. Yeah. I think, yeah. I mean, the only problem I see is, again, thinking back to that, but, you know, there are some locations on, on the earth, just so remote that, you know, the well, let’s say the Chinese guy that rocks up with a hundred dollars to say, there you go, go and get me some sharp pins. And how can you prevent that person taken a hundred dollars? Cause it’s a small fortune in many places in the world and trying to prevent it is just so bloody difficult. It’s a shame.
Cristina Zenato (00:47:24):
Correct. So that’s where for example, shark tourism comes in and as well, like I applaud The Bahamas as well as for example, Palau Fiji as well in which they are, it’s really interesting in some of the smallest nations, right? They recognize the value of their alive sharks and they go, no, no, no, wait a minute. A dead sharks makes a thousand dollars and alive sharks makes $400,000. If it’s a female in our lives, 10 span. And they all the sudden say, no, we actually appreciate shark tourism and we’ll support shark, tourism we’re self-regulated. And so we have a very healthy industry of people that come to The Bahamas to dive with our Caribbean resharpen, the bull sharks, the tigers, the oceanic whitetip the great AMR heads. And they’re like literally 15 minutes from shore on a boat, sometimes 10 minutes from shore on a boat.
Cristina Zenato (00:48:23):
And that fuels hotels, flights or do you demand on the restaurant? So it fuels all sorts of industries. How do you change that person from saying, I’ll give you a hundred dollars for a dead charts, or I’ll give you a hundred dollars. And let’s say a hundred dollars a week for you to actually constantly taking people to see the live shark. So it’s a hundred dollars at once or is it repeat at hundred dollar? Or it could be even a repeat of $50, right? But then it’s repeated. And so in the longterm, the repeat of $50 as more volunteer than a time hundred dollars. And I think that is the leverage that we need to look into is give value to live sharks. And there’s a lot of people, you know, like, Oh, shark tourism, you change the sharks, you touch the sharks, you feed the sharks, whatever it is, and like anything there’s good, sharp diver operators. There’s absolutely awful shark dive operators. I have no regard for the sharks, no regard for their guests, no regard for their stuff. But in the end, there is a positive outcome from that, which is the understanding that in the same location, there is a positive income for the people. And I’ve seen it here on this Island. There used to be a boat. They used to do shark fishing for visitors. Obviously the law change, the sharks are protected The Bahamas since 2011. So now the do glass bottom boat.
Matt Waters (00:49:49):
Yeah. So they can watch you taking all the hooks out of that. They put in over the last 10 years,
Cristina Zenato (00:49:58):
I did like easy, fishy, you know, tiny little hook and fishing, but it went from doing this silly in our shark fishing, which they never caught them because, you know, they will use a too small of a hoax in line. So yes, a lot of the lines inside of the sharks to actually glass bottom boat. And it became like, wow, this makes sense. I can’t come out here five times a day with the same group of sharks and it’s renewable, it’s a renewable income source.
Matt Waters (00:50:25):
You don’t have those. You don’t have to deal with tourists that are off because they’ve not caught a shark that they’ve seen what you’ve said. They’ll see sharks through the glass in the bottom of the boat easy,
Cristina Zenato (00:50:37):
And it’s even more fascinating for them. And then sometimes the glass bottom boat comes over as well. We’re dive in and people are even more impressed. There were down there, you know, swimming along on the reef, not even just doing interaction, it’s just swimming along in the reef with divers and the arts, you know, swim around us. It’s like how mind opening is that? Sure. There are ways to change the even in their remote error or yes, it’s say I’ll give you a hundred dollars to take the tourists out, to see the shark routed that to, for you to fish. The sharks is also guarantee is less dangerous.
Matt Waters (00:51:13):
Yeah, for sure. You you know, one of the, one of the courses that you do that I noticed is entitled it was it shark yourself
Cristina Zenato (00:51:26):
Is a shorter selfie. The expression I use with my students, I tell them at the end of my presentation is that you are here to shark yourself. It’s called the shark handling course. And it’s a course that I teach one-on-one with. Whoever is interested. And what they do is they come in and actually stand side by side with me in full chainmail and they’re really learn to connect with the sharks. So it’s about understanding my group of sharks, but in general, a little bit shark’s behavior. The fact that it’s their ocean, not ours. A little bit understanding that when we go and interact with them, interact on their terms, according to their day, rather than our terms is that often is guarantee, but it’s more just a shark yourself experience is like one of the, I say, say maybe one or the two or three places in the world where somebody will say yes, please go ahead and reach out and try to touch the sharks and welcome the sharks, seem to your body and just surround yourself and is very rewarding to teach.
Cristina Zenato (00:52:33):
I’m actually this morning, as soon as I’m done with this, I’m going, I have a student here an 18 year old girl. And yes, she’s absolutely excited. We just started yesterday. She did the observation dive, and today we’re doing two training dives, and it’s about really this, a different outlook at sharks, hopefully creating a new interest and they become ambassadors. I’ve taught people that came from all parts of the world. And then they go back to these parts of the world of which I do not speak the language and the do their posts in their language. So, you know, like if somebody’s going back to Russia and is like, Oh, I just did this thing with Christina. And in Russia, they tell their friends about how amazing sharks are or Czech Republic or Malaysia. I’m trying to think of, you know, Georgia from the former USSR. So oldest languages that I will never be able to speak and thanks to the person kind see, or they become the ambassador, this bridge
Matt Waters (00:53:38):
Between the sharks.
Cristina Zenato (00:53:41):
Yeah. They get the message across to other people. So as far as Kuwait and India, and I’m trying to think where, you know, like where I’ve not reached, where even there’s no. And then with, through my language, you know, French, Italian, German, I’ve reached obviously different countries, but it’s really, really cool because they come here for a person and experience and all of a sudden they become ambassadors and they become translators for those in their country that don’t speak English. Can’t follow my account, for example.
Matt Waters (00:54:13):
Well, there’s, there’s a fair few people that have followed some of the things that you’ve done. I can think of one video. That’s what, it’s nearly 9 million views. Now I think I think it was one of the the shots of you putting your hand inside the mouth of a shark to get the hook.
Cristina Zenato (00:54:29):
That was a foggy I, yes, as one of the most famous one, cause that went down like half the length of my arm to just remove her hope.
Matt Waters (00:54:36):
Yeah. Oh yeah. Just, just remember hook me. I’m just gonna put my hand in here.
Cristina Zenato (00:54:40):
It took about 40 minutes. It was not something that, you know, decided to do with any took 40 minutes, opening her mouth to see what her dispositions was a sect actually physically see the hook. And I was just like, okay, then seeing how she was with me, allowed me when I opened just to go in and, you know, push and pull, it was just slightly embedded. So there’s the other day, there was a, not a sharks with a hook down or my throat and I could see the line, but when I opened her mouth, I couldn’t see the hook. Right. So it was so far down that I couldn’t see it as like, I can’t go in, I can’t try to remove that. The hooks are done on a choice to choice spaces.
Matt Waters (00:55:19):
Yeah. So is there a bit of an old wives tale that I can remember? My old man and my granddad used to say to me that if, you know, if a lion snaps, when the fish in that the hook will just rot out of the fish’s mouth eventually
Cristina Zenato (00:55:34):
Eventually, sometimes not really dependent on the hooks that people are using. There’s a lot of galvanized stainless steel hooks are nowadays, but even if it was rolled out for me is a concept of like, would you leave a nail on the bottom of your heel because eventually we’ll run out. And so I also observed the pain that these sharks go through. So people are like, well, eventually we’ll roll it out. It doesn’t make any sense because you know, you can save all the sharks in the world is like, no, I can, but I can save these sharks. What is also happening is that when I start helping these sharks, people reach out to me and they have kind of like an epiphany and they’re like, Oh, I didn’t know. Sharks could actually hurt. And Oh, I want to help sharks. And I want to come and remove the hooks with you.
Cristina Zenato (00:56:17):
And I’m like, no, listen, you don’t have to come and remove the hooks with me to help sharks. Here’s the list of things you can do. And we go through, you know, you can change your dietary habits. You can actually reduce your plastic pollution. You can become more of an eco tourist rather than always expecting the super clean beach with a super perfect resort. You can go and do more natural tours with local people that emphasizes the tourism income of using someone local rather than using like a big, you know, like cruise environment or anything like that. There’s a lot of things that we can do. And so the simple act of removing the hook, which for me, is I want to help that shark, that shark is my baby. I’m going to help her as much as I can. Yeah. Right. It’s silly. It’s not silly. It’s my prerogative. These are my sharks. I don’t want to see them suffer. Then it becomes like, Oh wow. I want to help sharks too. And then it becomes this bigger call to action. So I think there is a value in that.
Matt Waters (00:57:19):
Yeah. What you do with removing her does infinitely more than what most documentaries could ever do. People to see sharks effectively looking like they’re sleeping on your lap and you’re removing sharp hooks from their mouse. It just goes completely against the grain of, well, the past two generations or so of looking at sharks and seeing the horror that’s been portrayed on the TV.
Cristina Zenato (00:57:49):
That’s correct. There is, I think a lot of misinformation, it’s very hard to skirt out of it. Like I’m part of, you know, sometimes I do TV programs and the sometimes always start with this kind of like heightened state. And I’m like, why do you always have to start with a heightened state when you know that the end result is we’re going swimming with sharks and it’s so okay to go swimming with sharks and see for whatever reason, you know, there’s a, still a little bit of this attitude. And I think it does have the serves a disservice to the sharks. I’ve tried to skirt out of it is not always possible, but lack it also empowered or program where they really understood my nature and just portrayed that kind of part of who I am and what I do. Riddick thing, the amount of messages that I receive from all my platforms, it’s very rewarding and very supportive of what I do.
Cristina Zenato (00:58:43):
And primarily is messages from people that are like, I was so terrified of sharks, but just watching your interactions and reading your posts and your small explanations just gives me a further new outlook. And they’re like, I want to work on my fear with that is tremendous. That when somebody emails me and says, I want to work on my fear, how cool is that? And two theories positive outcome from the imagery on the work that I do. I feel that every day I received dozens of messages combined from all platforms. So I’m not surprised,
Matt Waters (00:59:22):
Not surprised in the slightest
Cristina Zenato (00:59:24):
And a lot of women, which is really common, a lot of young people and a log of parents, parents. This is cool. My nine year old daughter, once you do what you do my 10 year old son is so cool is so interested now in sharks, they didn’t even know and then says, that is, I think the change that is very, very important. So I receive a lot of those and it, it, it makes it worth it for me.
Matt Waters (00:59:51):
Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s truly marvelous. I really do. And I’m very grateful that you’ve come onto my little show that’s for sure. Just to you’ve probably answered it a million times now, but for those people that are only just learning about you and they probably Googled you already the chain mail, where did the chain mail come in? How did that start?
Cristina Zenato (01:00:17):
So Chamberlain was created as a collaborative effect from yours, very own Ron and Valerie Taylor and a gentleman called Jeremiah Sullivan back in the days. So Ron and Valerie Taylor, if you are Australians and you don’t know about them, shame on you, they were, they were Ron pass away. Valerie is still alive. So, but as a couple, they were pioneers of on the water filming and on the water filled with sharks. And they filmed in circumstances in which there was a lot of activity, let’s say like a bait balls or sharks darts and in and out dolphins, starting in and out. And it was not about the sharks, the per se attacking them, but was the risk of being in a trajectory of the sharks. And so they wanted to wear something that was safe for them to stick their arms out while holding the camera and not having to worry about if a shark bumped into their arm or bumped into their leg. And that is where the chain rule comes from. The regional chain model is actually from the butcher, the butcher gloves studies used on the no cutting hand, not okay.
Matt Waters (01:01:25):
Yeah. I was going to ask where the, you know, the origins of that,
Cristina Zenato (01:01:29):
That is where it came from is a chair mil glove, the butchers put on an old cotton hand when they use a sharp blade so that if the blade slips, they don’t cut their hand. And so then it was made into this, a full suit when he came in, he was supposed to actually to be worn by Ron, but it can be too small. So Valerie and wearing the suits are the first a human to ever taste. The suit was this tiny as solutely beauty of adult woman, Valerie Taylor. And basically literally when she would put the fish on our arm and invite the sharks, you know at the time blue sharks to bite her arms. So that’s where he was born. It was actually born from Iran and Valerie Taylor and that cooperation D then Jeremiah created this called nip tunic.
Cristina Zenato (01:02:21):
And the Neptune has an Alaska few years of changed ownership and is now based out of Florida. And so that’s where I still get my suits from is from the original Nick to an ache. But the suits are actually created in Canada by two, apparently very passionate chainmail creators who were very matching everything chainmail including, you know, game on game of Thrones, for example, create all sorts of different chainmail. And they’re very fascinated with the functionality and the chain mail is what I call the barrier that drops the barrier between me and the sharks. It’s the seatbelt that you wear when you go car drive in a car is a helmet that you wear when you go climbing.
Matt Waters (01:03:11):
Well, that’s a, it’s not, yeah, it’s not there. Cause you’re going to get bitten. It’s in case there’s accidental damage.
Cristina Zenato (01:03:18):
Exactly. And the people are like, you know, people are like, well, if the sharks are so nice, why you wear a suit and it’s just going to like, what if you can drive so well, you know, while you’re wearing a seatbelt, it’s like, you’re, don’t go driving every time thinking you’re going to go in a ditch in case you make a mistake. So they’re still animals. They’re still animals with two, two 15 rows of teeth. And because of what I’m doing, they’re handling or the removing of the hooks such in close proximity with my hands to their jobs. I wear that. But if you look at the video, you’ll see the sharks are swimming around me. I know time trying to bite my arms or my legs. So that’s what it’s there for by protecting myself, I protect the sharks and not doing that. I protect the activity that we do demonstrating that I can self-regulate and I can self protect.
Cristina Zenato (01:04:08):
I make shark dive in a safe activity and the government doesn’t turn around and is like, wow, every time you guys go shark diving, one of you was hurt. I have to intervene. I have to stop this. This is not really going well, but I haven’t conscious operators of which have a ton in The Bahamas that are really doing things with their head on their shoulders and procedures and practices and all of that. The government looks at us and says, yeah, you guys have an excellent track record. Behaving operators have very, very, very, very minimal small oxidants. So we’ll continue with this activity. This is actually functioning then that’s is I think just a responsible person.
Matt Waters (01:04:54):
Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s, it’s like anything, isn’t it. As long as you go into it and do it with knowledge and a respect for safety, then there’s no reason why it can’t be done.
Cristina Zenato (01:05:06):
Correct. You have to have respect and y’all have to be you can go in, as you know, as rumble as a gang, ho is like sharks ever high, high tolerance of our presence. I think it’s one of the most forgiven wild animals out there. You could not go strolling in the Savannah the same way we go strong and through the ocean swimming side by side with tigers, just screw it. I’ve been side-by-side with great whites. Let’s face it. I mean, there’s places where you can do that. You could not go walking outside. When I grew up in the Congo, we have limitations. You don’t not go down to the river. There’s crocodiles will look like logs and you will not approach the water. And it’s just like really interesting, right? Even when I was in the non, the board desert is like, you are careful going outside of the compound because they are still wild dingoes.
Cristina Zenato (01:06:00):
And they’re capable of taking down a congruent, nevermind a congruent himself. It’s not like the safest of the animals to encounter. So we do understand that. We appreciate that. You go walk and in Canada you have to be careful about black Brown and greasley bears in the ocean. We can go with a freedom that is now guaranteed on land. And still we have these much heightened fear, Oh, I’m going to go in the water. And the sharks will eat me. And it’s kind of like this very much tolerant of our prison. Way, way more than any other wild animal.
Matt Waters (01:06:37):
I’ve always explained to especially new divers that, you know, when there’s a little bit of apprehension that when we get in the water as divers it’s as though the wildlife down there, all the fish down there see you as a bigger fish and the sharks also see you as a bigger fish. You’re just putting out a lot more bubbles than that. But they, they may be inquisitive, but they’re not going to attack you just because you look different.
Cristina Zenato (01:07:04):
No, actually they’ll run away. I mean, you’re making bubbles, you make a lot of noise. If you’re a new diver, you’re kind of like swimming a little bit like a frog and a blender. So a lot of water, there’s a lot of movement and they’re actually more kind of like intimidated by that. And they’re just like, Oh, what is all this commotion? Not sharks are used to divers, older going to do is inquisitive and say, Hey, are you the tires that were coming here for the dive? Like my sharks. And then they go, huh? You’re not here for the dive boring and sitting away.
Matt Waters (01:07:36):
So you say your sharks, you have, you got the, the, the regular same sharks that, that rock up. You recognize them as individuals.
Cristina Zenato (01:07:46):
Yes. I actually can physically recognize. I can actually recognize some of them from the way they swim, but I recognize each and every one of them. Yes. I’ve been in a water with some of them for 15, 17 years. There’s a couple of girls syrup in there. 15 and one girl has been 17 years here. That’s a long time. So I even have my friend Dan eMoney that has been there 17 years, but that’s a different story. But I basically, that is one of the things I to do. And one of the reasons I stay here, both for the caves of sharks is what I call dive site fidelity, which is that continuous repetition and exposure to the same place and the same individuals, and allows me really to collect this log of, you know, presence and behaviors and differences in behaviors, depending, even for example, on the weather or human activity, I can tell, like there are different dispositions depending on the different external factors.
Cristina Zenato (01:08:46):
And that comes from like spending countless hours in the water. It’s I tell people it’s like building a relationship. You don’t build a relationship on speed dating. You don’t even build on relationship on your 10th date. You can say you’re in a, you can start a relationship, but you can really say maybe you’re in a relationship six months, a year into really connect in a knowing that person that there’s still more to know and to connect with. And so it’s the same thing with sharks. I’m trying to build a relationship. It doesn’t count just because I had a copter in, you know, once every once a month or twice a year or anything like that is this constant presence.
Matt Waters (01:09:28):
And they, they know it’s you and you’re getting in the water of thing.
Cristina Zenato (01:09:32):
A lot of people say they do. I’ve noticed even when I teach the course, I can have the students several feet away from me and they have, you know, the fish and everything, but some of my girls will preferably come to me rather than going to the student to the new person. They’re very keen. I had a shark, a foggy. I used to follow me no matter if I was doing the dive or I was just down there guiding someone, she will just follow me. The entire dive, always had a group that did the same. I had a secret agent and peanut that no matter if I was down for the shark dive, but I was down there diving or even free diving, they will just basically be with me the entire dive stand next to me. It’s just going to, again, are you all stick with you?
Matt Waters (01:10:17):
There was, I was listening to a podcast last month and I’m trying to think of his name. And he’s a doctor, a Queensland, Callum, I think Columbus or something. I’ll have to look it up again, but he actually studies the cognitive functions of fish and I’ll find the podcast. I’ll send that over to you. Cause it’s, it’s so interesting the way that, you know, the testing of fish to see how they communicate and what they do in some scenarios. And then they repeat it exactly the same scenario to see if they react the same way. And it’s, it’s just mind blowing. And from everything that you’re saying right now, it’s just amplifying what he’s saying in his theories or, or research fact,
Cristina Zenato (01:11:07):
There’s, there’s a lot of research and that’s the other thing, right? I peoples I had people writing, you know, Twitters or texts like, ah, sharp, cause don’t think with our brains that think with their jaws and it’s kinda like, well actually, no, they have a brain and they use it. But I mean, we’re going back to 1957 Dr. Eugenie Clark, the shark lady not your shark lady, the shark lady here. She actually did tests on memory retention of sharks with Hayden, at target ringing the bell and almost like what you do with the dogs. So they had a target, they got a fish, she rang the bell. And then she she got to the point where she a bell, there was a sound on the water. She ran the sound on the water and the shark will show up, say, Hey, I’m here for my reward.
Cristina Zenato (01:11:52):
So a full cognitive connection and a memory retention. She demonstrated that in 1957, he’d seen her book, the lady and the shark. There’s another book that is really cool, like that from Jonathan Balcombe skull, what a fish knows. And it’s about like the thinking and like the behavior of the fish, but also how they communicate and the hormonal and all that. And it goes beyond, you know, this is a fish, this is how it swims. This is where you find it is more about the behavior and of psychologists. So much research in that book and kind of like cute, funny, informative. It’s going, what a fish knows. It’s like really read a cool,
Matt Waters (01:12:35):
I’ll have to have a look at that one. I like stuff like that. I did there was, there was one question I’ve got to ask you. There’s a a guy over in Sydney and he’s part of a, a buddy forum online on Facebook and a F Philip camo. He’s asked me to ask if you have ever been in a situation where you felt really threatened by sharks, and if, if so, how did you ever come in?
Cristina Zenato (01:13:01):
I never have felt threatened in that kind of situation. And I’ve done quite like what would say, you know, like fairly dangerous activities, including spear in lionfish, which is an invasive species here surrounded by a lot of sharks, but in their behavior, I also know how they behave. And so like a set up a structure to feel comfortable in what was happening. So personally, luckily, no, I never felt into that kind of like I made it out of the water kind of situation. There are instances in peop where people have come to that. I think the fear of sharks in general can be a thought through one basic thing. The first one is really understanding how many species of sharks that are out there. And then being a little bit informed on what kind of species are going to be in the water, where I’m going to do, and then pair that with the activity I’m going to do.
Cristina Zenato (01:14:05):
So are there areas where our behavior is going to be risk? Yes, absolutely. If I go, for example, and most of the dangerous situations are on the surface, but I don’t want people to think that every time you’re on a surface, you’re in danger. Because if you’re in a surface here in The Bahamas, you’re swimming over nurse sharks. Yeah. So you’re a danger, even if you’re on the surface, your new swim over the Caribbean reef sharks, you’re in zero danger. So you need, again, you need to know, we share in what sharks are there, what are their predatory characteristics? So for example, Australia has a high rate of incidents because you have two things that go hand in hand, you have the surfers that go into the predatory area of great whites and surface behave like seals, their seals of surf, the waves. And it brings into that isolation of the surfer, the sits on the board for awhile waits for the wave, maybe drifts away from the group and increases the chances.
Cristina Zenato (01:15:07):
But if you really look at the numbers in general, very low. So yes, there is a risk it’s okay to be afraid of sharks. Like it’s okay to put your hand in the oven, trying to get your, you know, your tray out without a mic. It’s okay. Fear helps into our survival is when fear blocks us in our steps from doing anything that it’s unhealthy. And it’s when I’m gonna say, well, I had, you know, a kid. Yes. It is like, Oh, I don’t want to go swimming here in The Bahamas because there are sharks. And I’m like, there’s clear water. There’s calm, water the sharks and see you. We have plenty swimmers. The conditions are for shark to go. Yeah, you’re, you’re actually totally in stranger. First one, sir, it’s understanding the sharks, their behavior and the activity I’m going to do. The last one goes into sometimes, sometimes we might have to say not today. And that I think is the biggest thing the humans have to learn is not today now because sharks are issues. Not because they’re there to get us, but not today. But because when I tick the boxes today, the conditions are not healthy today. The conditions are now safe. It doesn’t make the sharks vicious. It just makes the sharks who they are in their ocean. And we have the option to go in or the option to stay in out.
Matt Waters (01:16:35):
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And I suppose I’m just thinking, because when you say that, you know, you make a decision not today. I instantly thought of another one of your videos from my Facebook stalking the other day was when you you’d hiked into do a cave, dive, a couple of hours got all set up and all that kind of stuff. And then any, any, any, any, any came into your head and your thumb, the dive, and I didn’t even submerge, I
Cristina Zenato (01:17:10):
Didn’t even submerge just, just basically told my buddy, you go into, he had some other things to do. I said, you’re going do your dive. We just, we adjusted the bottom time and I basically hauled all my stuff back out of the cave and back to the truck.
Matt Waters (01:17:25):
Well that watching that bit of the video as well, it, it gave me flashbacks to talk into Gareth Lock a few episodes ago. Who’s doing the human factors in diving,
Cristina Zenato (01:17:36):
Matt Waters (01:17:38):
Is a space for that in the professional tri training. I’m going to literally ask every course director that I saw. So on this on this podcast, the thoughts on human factors and where it would sit in.
Cristina Zenato (01:17:52):
Yeah, I am very fond of Gareth Lock and the concept of human factor. I’m very fond of the sharing of the near misses rather than just the misses and say, well, this happened and that’s you. So I, for example, in my training, I always tell my diverse, you’ll have to go dive in for yourself. So things might happen. And if you do them within the parameter of your training, you also have the tools to get yourself out of the situation. Then you go a little bit further within the parameter of your training, then something else happened. And she, a lot of suggestions that I give people is go diving, gain experience. It’s okay to make mistakes, right? If you do the mistake within your parameters, all you’re going to do is fix the mistake and go, Ooh, I learned that that was this issues and that issues and discussed them to try not to do the zero to here, for example.
Cristina Zenato (01:18:50):
And but yes, jury’s room for me, the Reis room. And luckily I have a position here in which I had, I trained someone to dive master and the wanted to go immediately to instructor. And I had the power in a certain way in the position to say, no you’re going to wait one year. Yeah. So why don’t you sit a dive master for your dog? We’re about teaching. Don’t worry about, try to take someone you in the water, just go out and guide the certified divers. And then a year later when I put her through her instructor course, and I asked her, I said, was it worth she glided through the instructor course, absolutely glided through the instructor course. And I said, was he worth waiting? And she said, absolutely. I said, there’s nothing like a year of doing the dive master, which has less liability because you’re dealing with certified divers and then me preparing her for instructors for her to go. They really made a difference.
Matt Waters (01:19:47):
Yeah. Well, that’s the thing. I mean, you can’t teach experience. Can, you can only gain it. You can talk about it, but to get experience, you’ve got to actually physically do the job.
Cristina Zenato (01:19:57):
You can’t teach experience, you have to gain experience. One of the things I mentioned, Kevin, the guy that we did, the exploration of the scapes together, right? When he started a cave dive was a three years ago. And, and I told them, I said, you’ll have worked to put in some days you will come dive in with me and we’ll just go a little bit further into your training. But before we do that, I said, you need to swim the lines within your parameters of your training some days where there will be you some days, not because, you know, cave diving was also my activity. And so he swam all this lines and then we went a little bit further into the train, and then he did a little bit more into that level of training. And so it was a progressive, slow review, you know, and sometimes we might be diving together and I will catch us something and w we will come out and we will discuss it.
Cristina Zenato (01:20:50):
But sometimes I will dive and I would catch something on myself and I will come out and voice it and say, ah, during that dive, this happened, or this feeling surface, or I have this, I need to change that it did not work well. And we actually have an open discussion on some of these actions, you know? And, and that I think is what Gareth is trying to say is, let’s talk about these things instead of pointing fingers has not. It would never happen to me. It’s like, yes, because there is one common denominator in all of us is we’re human and we make mistakes.
Matt Waters (01:21:33):
Yeah. And you CA you kicked on a, a key factor there as well. He’s been, he’s been able to discuss it afterwards. It’s very rare that that happens with, with, with recreational divers. You know,
Cristina Zenato (01:21:47):
It is, they, I actually have this thing, I do it on the boat. When I come out with my recreational divers, obviously in a, in a soft manner that I actually say, Hey, you know, I was watching you your obesity was I super inflated. You might want to try, you know, how did you feel as a, did you inflate and deflate a lot? It’s like, Oh yeah, I did. You might want to try to pounds less. Right. And it’s just so you kind of like do an approach, but yeah, it should be talked about. And it’s really funny. It’s like for example, I’ve been bent twice, right?
Matt Waters (01:22:21):
In my early character in 95,
Cristina Zenato (01:22:23):
95 bent. Yes. Yeah. The DCS in 95 and 96, Beck, B E N T. And every time I say, I’d be in bed, the first question that I received from a recreation that’s Oh, what did you do wrong? And I’m like, okay.
Matt Waters (01:22:37):
I went diving and I decided to come up.
Cristina Zenato (01:22:43):
It’s if we actually had an open conversation that because having the bends, it is an inherent risk of submerging, absorbing nitrogen and ascending. Yeah. There’s a joke, but is not a joke as a truth. If you never want to get bent, they say, don’t go diving. Or if you go dive in, don’t come up. Because as soon as you increase, you have a difference in a partial pressure and a gas exchange where the turn on an external, there’s a bubble production. Obviously we need to gauge that I got banned on a series of issues. And it was just like little, tiny ASCA, late in issues, dehydration being cold, a dive in 21 days in a row doing too many dimes. But if you looked at my profiles within the limits, all within perfect on the table. And so being able to eradicate that out, why did you do wrong?
Cristina Zenato (01:23:36):
I would never do that. And it’s kinda like, you don’t know all the psychological leading factors to that moment. And that is the issue. That’s what Gareth is trying to explain. It’s not just what I will never do this. I will never go in the water without checking my oxygen on the rebreathers. Like you don’t know what were the district. We need to understand the destructive factors up to the moment we need to understand upside psychological pressure up to that moment. We need to understand what actually happened at home. Sometimes we may be the loved ones that actually triggered something and being able to confront all of that and say, well, if that kind of emotional response is present, again is something I need to be aware of. And I need to open a box and deal with before I go on the dive, because last time at I actually did this.
Matt Waters (01:24:34):
Yeah. I think we’ve got another podcast out of that one. You know, we should, we should talk about training in depth with maybe another CD and Gareth and just smash it out. Awesome.
Cristina Zenato (01:24:55):
Love to, I’m a kind of like a little bit people would say like an old school, but it is, I’m a firm believer that underwater, we have zero instinct, zero. Anything that is a human is built in me from my ancestors is going to kill me on the water. And so what I do with my training, I try to instill what I call trained instincts. So things are repeated and practice and down to the point that I think, well, that’s an extinct. We say, well, it’s not, it’s actually, you learned it is a trained instinct because the instinct of someone that is not trained, if they were to run out of order, sorry out of air on the water is to shoot to the surface. Yeah. The train instinct is to either switch, like in some cases on a redundant system or to go to a buddy, right? So that is the train instinct instinctually. I will never go to the surface instinctually I’ll turn into either my redundant system, a bailout system, or my buddy, but that is not the response that natural is an animal I would have. So for me, it’s very important in training to do this trained instinct is like, it becomes so natural that you think that is the only option.
Matt Waters (01:26:14):
Sure. I’ve, I’ve been a massive believer, repetition, repetition, repetition, and it’s gotta be done that way. It’s, it’s gotta be second nature.
Cristina Zenato (01:26:22):
Dive in, dive in. You’ll have to go dive in. Just don’t keep doing that. The premise is a lot of people that do courses choices, course there’s courses, courses. That’s okay. But you need to go dive in because when you do all this courses, you’re always under a protective wing. You always have a little bit of a like extra, you know, like a supervision from somebody that is hired and you go dive in.
Matt Waters (01:26:45):
Yeah. Get out there and make your mistakes and have fun. Yes, Christina, I th I think we should wrap it up. I think we’ve been going for about an hour and a half now, and I feel like we’re only just getting going as well. You’re not going to get in the water if we keep going.
Cristina Zenato (01:27:03):
Matt Waters (01:27:04):
Well, we can wrap the podcast up and we’ll, we’ll definitely come back and do the training bit as well.
That would be an awesome idea.
Okay. Well, thank you very much for being on the show and thanks everybody.