The attorney strokes the white belly of an eight-foot-long reef shark. This is not a lawyer joke. I’m 70 feet (23 m) deep in the clear blue Caribbean water off Roatan Island with a half dozen scuba divers from Anthony’s Key Resort. We’re at a dive site called “Cara a cara,” which in Spanish means “face-to-face.”
Remoras attach and reattach themselves to the sharks. They’re not parasites — the remoras count on the sharks’ sloppy eating habits and dine on scraps of fish the sharks miss.
Sergio Tritto, our dive master and a former lawyer from Italy, is the one petting the animals. It’s a case of “Do as I say, not as I do,” as he warned us before the dive not to touch the sharks. He also said, “Don’t wave your hands.” The sharks might mistake a hand for a fish and bite it.
Shark to Shark Guide
Tritto said he had been unhappy in his job as a legale in Naples and was searching for a new career. A friend told him about the sharks that congregated at a spot off the windward coast of Roatan, an island in the western Caribbean popular with scuba divers. Tritto decided to make a business out of leading shark dives.
In the pre-dive briefing he told us to descend the anchor line and form up on at a sandy patch with our backs against a coral wall so the sharks can’t sneak up on us. Like Spitfire pilots in a school of Messerschmitts we protect our six o’clock. If everything is right we will get to swim with the sharks before the feeding frenzy said Tritto.
Tritto has brought a white plastic pail full of fish to feed the sharks. He’s wearing a pair of chain mail gloves as a shark did bite his hand once. So much for professional courtesy.
Tritto signals us that we can swim freely with the sharks. Seeing the reef sharks slowly circling around us is something none of us will soon forget.
We line up again in front of the coral wall. Tritto opens the fish bucket and the feeding frenzy is on. The sharks are especially aroused by the sound of jaws snapping on fish and there is a lot of snapping going on.
One shark gets his head stuck in the bucket.
Tritto grabs the shark and tries to turn it on it’s back to calm it, but the shark just shakes his head, bucket attached. The bucket comes off and the shark swims away.
We head back up the anchor line. On the boat everyone is talking at once about their amazing experience with the sharks.
Feeding sharks is somewhat controversial. Opponents say it can be dangerous and that it alters wild creature behavior. Those who defend it say that the shark encounters help educate people about sharks and create support for conservation programs.
Tritto says he’s careful and only feeds the sharks a small amount of food so they won’t become dependent on the handouts. His feeding spot is far from any beaches where swimmers might congregate.
Anthony’s Key Resort
The shark dive is one of the optional activities at Anthony’s Key Resort.
There is also a Monday night beach party with crab races and a limbo contest. I divide my time between eating, diving, riding, paddling and thinking about sharks while swaying in a hammock watching the sunset.