Belize Aggressor IV provides a sneak peak into the country's now-protected coral atolls.

My entire body convulses as I turn to find a shark headed directly at me. It's only feet away, gray flesh shining in the filtered sunlight, pupils growing larger as the dark edges of its fins come into focus. Through my sudden heart attack, I see this Caribbean reef shark is barreling ahead like a determined New Yorker crossing the street. It has no intention of changing course-it's swimmin' here.

I shouldn't be so shocked-I'd already watched sharks pacing along the reef wall this very dive-but I am. You think of large animals making a noise as they move, a rustle of leaves or the creak of a branch. But that's not the case underwater. A shark's approach is silent. There is no ominous soundtrack here.

I dart to my left. As soon as I am out of its flight path, my terror turns to exhilaration. This is going to be a close encounter of the best kind!

It maintains course, soaring only inches from me. Our eyes connect as it passes. Its stare is not dead or full of ravenous bloodlust. If anything, it's indifferent to me. It owns these waters with a quiet confidence. I'm a tourist here, and again, like a New Yorker, it couldn't care less that I'm thrilled to be here.

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