Anyone have irrational fears that they can’t explain? I have three fears in life: bears, heights, and… seeing a shark snorkeling. Bears are killing machines that can run up to 30 mph per hour. Although I don’t like heights, I have gone to the top of the CN Tower in Toronto and hung over the edge. As for sharks, it’s completely irrational. It doesn’t make sense. I love to swim! Put me near an ocean and you can bet I’m jumping into it. If I see a fin off in the distance, I’ll still be soaking. Ask me to snorkel in an area with sharks? Can’t do it. I know for a fact sharks very rarely attack or kill anyone. But in my head, the fear part of my brain is like, “If you put on goggles and look underwater, you’re gonna see a shark and it’s going to eat you.”
However, I’ve recently embarked on a farewell tour of things that will no longer be around due to climate change, for example, while in Iceland, I went inside of a glacier. Oceans are also heating up and becoming more acidic by the year so I knew I had to get to the second largest coral reef in the world. In order to truly appreciate a coral reef, everyone knows you have to snorkel…. which means sharks. I purchased my full face snorkel (it’s a must if you find yourself traveling to Belize or anywhere that has good snorkeling for that matter) and researched the sea creatures that lived in the area. Nurse sharks, it turns out, are known as the labrador of the sea. The only thing that would want to bite is a reef shark.
The time finally arrived. We had booked three days on Tobacco Caye, a tiny little island that sat right on the reef. You could literally snorkel right off the edge of your cabana! On the first day, we swam out. I’m not gonna lie… I was hyperventilating. It didn’t help that the first thing I saw swimming out of some kicked up sand was a five foot wide stingray. Steve Irwin immediately popped into my head and I swam away from it as fast as I could. When a parrot fish swam by me, I followed it out into deeper water. Coincidentally, when I came across some brain coral, my brain and heart slowed down. This is what I was here for. I just floated above it and took in the scenery. A group of spotted eagle rays swam under, a tiny little family of color-changing squids hung in a line waiting for what I assumed was an underwater bus, lots of little blue and gold fish swam by, and lobsters chilled on rocks hoping not to be our meal.
If I had let my fears dictate what I did, I wouldn’t have got to enjoy the coral reef in all its splendor. Did I think about sharks if I drifted further out? Yes. Did I let it stop me? No. Plus, if I went out in a shark attack, it wouldn’t be the worst way to go. At the end of our trip, back by Belize City, we actually took a boat ride out to an area called Shark Ray Alley. Surprisingly, I was the first to jump off the boat and swim into a ball of nurse sharks that were longer than I was. I hugged them, pet them, and enjoyed my time with them. I swam with the stingrays and cruised alongside a sea turtle. As FDR once said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”