Born in Italy, Cristina Zenato grew up in the rain forests of the African Congo and developed a passion for the outdoors. Coming from a family “of the sea” Cristina developed a love for the water at a very young age and she journeyed to the Bahamas to learn to dive. She made the Bahamas her home and diving her life.
From her humble beginnings as a Scuba Instructor, she has climbed the professional scuba diving ladder. She is a dive operation manager, while still teaching recreational, technical and shark courses. Her credentials include PADI Course Director, NSS-CDS Full Cave Instructor, and TDI Extended Range and Advanced Nitrox with Decompression Procedures Instructor.
Cristina speaks five languages, Italian, English, German, French and Spanish. She is quite a talented lady. When Cristina is not working, she can usually be found free-diving or exploring new cave systems. She is the first woman to have connected a fresh water inland cave with a salt-water ocean system.
Cristina is world renowned for her work with sharks in the wild. She is said to have a natural gift with sharks. Some people say she speaks a sixth language known as "Shark". Practicing a specialized technique, she is the first woman in the world to be have induced a state of relaxation (also labeled as Tonic Immobility by some) in Caribbean Reef Sharks through a gentle touch. To the observer, this looks like a shark falling asleep right in her lap.
Her ability to work with several types of shark in this manner has allowed her to study sharks up close with no stress for the animals. In fact the sharks at her home in the Bahamas almost seem to know her for her gentle spirit, and warm to her touch. On special dives, under her supervision, guests are encouraged to feel the shark’s skin while in this calm state. This in turn gives visiting divers the chance to dissolve any misconceptions or preconceptions they may have had about shark behavior. She also teaches interested divers how to connect with the local Caribbean Reef sharks, hoping to bring people closer to understanding the secret world of these creatures.
She has further developed her practice of inducing a relaxed state in the sharks, using it to remove hooks from sharks’ mouths and to remove parasites. She also helps scientists collect data to support research. Cristina has developed a Caribbean Reef Shark Awareness Distinctive Specialty and was the initiator of a campaign that resulted in the complete protection for all species of sharks in the entire Bahamas.
She first learned to feed sharks from her mentor, the legendary Ben Rose. From there Cristina went on to participate in shark research around the world. She traveled and met scientists, handlers and behaviorists in the Bahamas, South Africa, Fiji, Rhode Island, California, Florida, North Carolina, China and Mexico.
Naturally, all this talent sparked up the attention of filmmakers, documentary and TV producers worldwide. She has been featured on BBC, Discovery, Nat Geo, ABC and science and nature programs all over Europe, Asia and the United States.
She has been spotlighted in multiple diving and non-diving magazines across the globe.
Cristina loves to support the work of several non-profit organizations and projects.
She is an active member of the Bahamas National Trust, a host and sponsor of the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society, the Women Divers Hall of Fame scholarship program and a dedicated individual to the education of local students in the Bahamas.
Cristina is a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame, The Explorers Club, the Oceans Artists Society and a recipient of Platinum Pro Award 5000 from Scuba Schools International.
Look for her in the next shark program you watch, she might well be lurking next to the lens negotiating with the shark to not worry about these odd people staring at them. A sense of who Cristina Zenato is can only truly be felt underwater. There, she is more at home than she is on land, and an apt quote by Jacques Cousteau says it all:
"From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free."
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