SharkNotes | Splashdown Bahamas

April 26, 2024


Dr Sara Andreotti and her team of ocean conservationists have spent years refining, testing and adjusting the technology and structures of their revolutionary SharkSafe Barrier. As dedicated supporters of their extraordinary work, we’re bursting with pride about their project in the Bahamas: with the successful installation of their very first SharkSafe Barrier in August 2023.

Sara’s SharkNotes have been keeping us up to date with the team’s work over the years, throughout the testing process. She’s back, after several months of heavy focus on her passion project. Her latest blog post takes us to the Bahamas and offers us insights into the excitement and sheer joy of being in the water with the deeply endangered creatures she studies, supports, protects and promotes.


I was in The Bahamas for four weeks in August last year, to install the very first permanent SharkSafe Barrier. As it happens, the precious cargo of SharkSafe material, scheduled to reach us as soon as I landed on location with my engineer, got stuck by US Custom for two interminable weeks. Murphy’s Law, right?

But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Knowing that I had time to spare, I chose to spend it in Gran Bahamas with shark diving legend and conservationist Cristina Zenato. I have known Cristina for more than 15 years and often chatted with her via WhatsApp, but (for the obvious reason of living very far from each other) I have never had the chance to meet her in person. It was such a pleasure to connect with her.

Cristina started working as Dive Instructor in Gran Bahamas 30 years ago and never stopped. She has been a real pioneer in demonstrating to people that sharks are very different from what the media and movies make them out to be. She started learning how to peacefully interact with Caribbean reef sharks. She cuddled them, let them come closer and earned their trust. In time, she started identifying them individually by their unique marks, scars and distinct personalities. She uses what she learned when interacting with them to gain their trust, and is able to remove the hooks that these sharks often have painfully stuck in their lower jaw. To date, she removed over 300 hooks from the sharks’ mouths.

She generously offered me her couch for a few days and it was just mind blowing to exchange stories and be in the water with her and the beautiful sharks that live there.

Among all of the sharks I had the privilege of encountering, most notable was the famous Grandma, a light grey Caribbean shark who has been visiting Cristina for 14 years, close to the known lifespan of this species. It wasn’t just great to meet Grandma, it was wonderful to also see how Cristina’s body language changed when seeing Grandma. It was literally like watching two friends connecting after a long time apart.

Cristina makes a very good point: “We have more than 500 species of sharks, and we should start distinguishing them from one another when talking about them. As more people take the time to observe sharks, without the curtain of fear in front of their eyes, it is becoming evident that, within the same species, different individuals have different personalities”. She notes, after all her interactions, that where some sharks are more cautious or even skittish in their interactions, other are bolder and more relaxed. Sentient beings indeed.

Cut to this year... eight months since I had the privilege of being in the water with Cristina and the local sharks. I returned to embark on an “island hopping” adventure for meetings and exploration.

In the brief time I spent there, I made many discoveries:

1. The Bahamas is much more expensive than South Africa!

2. You will always find a small taxi (or a ferry) ready to take you where you need to go. You don’t know how exactly, you are going to get where you need to be, but the locals do. Whatever the duration of the transport, in the small islands the fee is the same: five dollars for a taxi, three dollars for a ferry.

3. Laughing seagulls really sound as if they are laughing at you.

4. The weather in April is ten times better than August, where the humidity and heat makes it impossible to walk outside without pumping out what feels like a litre of sweat.

5. The people are incredibly friendly and chatty (with a penchant for loud music), but when they are speaking they only start each of the words. They don’t finish their words, you have got to guess the rest of it.

6. Early morning and late evening (in some of the islands, not all of them), I discovered the sand flies: a really small insect, that must be no body and all jaws. It initially looks like a small dot landed on your arm, and then it feels like a fairly large needle stabs your skin. Very painful, but easily avoided by covering the skin with baby oil (or the local insect repellent… which is likely mixed with baby oil). Be warned!

7. I can confirm that the sunrises and sunsets are worth of a desktop screensaver and that the water temperature feels like bathwater, compared to our Atlantic Cape Town waters.

As much as my time in the Bahamas was an inspiration and offered much-needed R&R, I am very happy to be back home, and ready for the next adventure on this side of the world.

To find out more about Cristina Zenato’s work, check her website:

As Italtile customers, you too can feel justly proud of Dr Sara Andreotti’s achievements ... because you play a part in funding her work every time you purchase a born-in-Italy Tivoli tap. And that’s because we donate R2 from every Tivoli tap purchase to our shark conservation fund which was set up specifically to support Sara and her Stellenbosch University research team, to further their journey along the road to create cruelty-free harmony in the relationship between man and shark.