Monika Wanis, a 4th-year in anthropology and psychology, sits on a rocky beach in Belize. She was bitten by a shark while snorkeling off the coast.
One Ohio State student’s visit to Belize over spring break ended with a shark bite, but she said some people are trying to get her to stay quiet.
Monika Wanis, a fourth-year in anthropology and psychology, said a shark bit her on her toe during a trip to Belize with Buck-I-Serv to give out shoes with an organization called One World Running. She’s recovering from the incident, but she said she believes officials from Buck-I-Serv are more concerned with protecting their name and reputation than they are about her well-being.
“In the email that they sent me, basically the first sentence said, ‘How are you feeling, I hope you got medical care,’ and then the remainder of the email said, ‘I hope you consider posting positive things on Facebook about One World Running and Buck-I-Serv because they do not want bad publicity and press.’ I didn’t put anything negative about Buck-I-Serv or One World Running on Facebook because it’s not their fault,” Wanis said. “I just want people to realize that they’re not out to make sure that I’m safe, they’re out to make sure that their name doesn’t get a bad rep.”
The bite took place on a snorkeling excursion.
Wanis had geared up and boarded one of the two boats taking the group out for snorkeling on an island called Caye Caulker. The group was heading out to a part of the Caribbean Sea with stingrays and nurse sharks.
Prior to getting into the water, Wanis said the instructors threw buckets of fish into the water because nurse sharks eat shrimp and fish. Wanis and another one of her classmates then asked the instructor if anyone had ever been injured on this type of snorkeling excursion before and he assured them that they had not.
After Wanis had been in the water for about two minutes, she said she asked the instructor if she could touch any of the sharks or stingrays.
“He said, ‘Yeah absolutely, they don’t harm you,’ and then went to go get me a stingray,” Wanis said. “When he was lifting up the stingray, I felt the shark bite me.”
Wanis immediately swam to the instructor and said she had been bitten; she said he then pushed her toward the boat yelling to her to get out of the water. Another instructor lifted her up to the boat and they immediately headed back to shore. The shark had bitten a toe on her right foot.
One of Wanis’ advisers on the trip wrapped her toe in a towel to prevent more bleeding.
However, there was still one problem when they got back to land.
“When we got back to shore there was a guy there that said there was no nurse, and then the instructor told me there was no hospital or doctors on the island,” Wanis said.
One of the advisers on the trip ran to get another adviser who had been a nurse for 30 years from One World Running, who was also on a mission trip there, while Wanis stayed back on the boat with the instructor. To distract herself from the pain, Wanis said she tried to strike up a conversation. During this conversation she found out the instructor had also been bitten by one of the sharks as he spread apart his toes to show her the scar.
Wanis’ adviser returned to the boat and carried her into a golf cart that they rode to the nurse’s clinic.
“The clinic was just a room with nothing in it but like a little bed,” Wanis said.
Once in the clinic, Wanis said everyone was trying to convince her that she had only stepped on a shell. Wanis argued that it could not have been, and that the instructor had been bitten by one of the sharks as well.
Wanis said that at the time of the incident she could feel her leg being jerked back.
Wanis said she was not able to get stitches at the clinic.
“They just squeezed the blood out, cleaned it with saline solution and they used Dermabond on it. They glued it together and wrapped it up still bleeding,” Wanis said. “They gave me ibuprofen 800 and amoxicillin and I ended up taking ibuprofen 800 every five to six hours because the pain was really, really bad.”
Wanis returned to the beach and waited for the other students to come back from the snorkeling trip. When they returned, Wanis said one student told her that the instructor said he had seen the shark bite her.
“One of the girls said, ‘No after you left the snorkeling instructor said that he told everyone it was a shell as soon as it happened because he didn’t want everyone to panic and try to get in one boat.’ Then when everyone got in both boats he told them it was indeed a shark,” Wanis said.
Unbelievable. You try to touch wildlife and get bitten? Responsible tourists ask a tour operator if they interfere with the marine life. If the answer is yes, they choose another tour operator. Teaching wild life to associate humans with food is not a good thing for people or wildlife.
I certainly don't want any part of this controversy....However From personal experience I don't think any animal could get to my toes when I'm properly geared up.....Were these guys Bare Foot?? And In all fairness to Caye Caulker they do have a sign that states they have 2 Cemeteries and no hospitals. DISCLAIMER: I hope this humor does not offend anyone however some of this is a bit funny....Just the way my brain works on some days.
My friends call me Judyann
Judyann - Good question about bare feet. I never thought of that. Usually the guides a pretty good at making sure their party is well equipped. We all known that feeding and handling the fish is very common at Hol Chan and Shark Ray.
I remember a tourist that got bitten by a shark in Shak Ray alley 12 years ago: He had actually shoved his hand in the shark's mouth. He admitted that and his wife was so angry with him, she wouldn't help him. No severe injury though, 2 or 3 stitches.
I wonder if she accidentally, while swimming shoved her toe in the mouth of the shark that was swimming behind her. As for the email from Buck-I-Serv, not very clever to write in this manner, but I don't see the news value from this story either. Why take this to the press and badmouth people that are working so hard to make a living.
I always say, when you don't have anything positive to say, keep quiet and I try to live by that as good as I can.