For many divers the Caribbean Sea is a dream destination, boasting beautiful clear waters, white sandy beaches and an array of different cuisine depending on where you travel. Some of the most renowned diving happens around “The Bay Islands” just off Honduras in Central America, they consist of three principle islands, Utila, Roatan and Guanaja.
Utila is being very well known for the younger, backpacker vibe where new divers and instructors are introduced constantly into the world of diving. The island also has frequent visits from the gentle giants, Whale Sharks.
Roatan, the largest of the bay islands is the treasure. With a more laid back atmosphere and not so many hostels, Roatan differs both above and below water from its famous neighbouring island of Utila.
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.
We all know about the largest reef system in the world, The Great Barrier off the North East coast of Australia but many people don’t think about where the second largest barrier reef is found. The Mesoamerican reef stretches down the Western side of the Caribbean Sea starting at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, ending at the Bay Islands. This reef produces a fantastic wall along the West coast of Roatan making numerous dive sites along the way.
The diving here is mainly drift, making it a very comfortable and easy experience. From deep dives down to 40m up to the shallows there is always something to see. The boat captains are attentive and will drop you off and pick you up an hour later when they see your SMB deployed.
If hassle free diving is what you like then Roatan is the island for you. With the hundreds of dive sites along the wall protecting the island, you are never more than a 2 minute boat ride away from the nearest dive site.
Diving Options Here..
With the numerous amount of dive sites does come the numerous amount of dive shops. Part of the fun is strolling down the main street looking for the right place to suit your needs.
If you ever talk to divers about Roatan, many will mention Anthony’s Key Resort as this is the largest of dive operations on Roatan. Boasting 11 boats, lots of accommodation and bus transfers, this company are like the McDonald’s of the dive resorts, on your way out to the dive site you will pass at least 6 of their boats! They also have a swim with dolphin experience in their facility which we can all agree is a very out-dated attraction. However they do have the island’s very own hyperbaric chamber, hopefully not needed but great for peace of mind along with their medical centre.
Looking for a more personal, top quality experience, with small groups? A personal favourite is Roatan Divers. This beautiful boutique dive centre on the water caters to all your needs. With everything made easy and hassle free, the staff are on hand to make sure you have the best possible experience, all you have to do is relax, enjoy and have enthusiasm! It boasts a warm friendly atmosphere and they will leave you wanting more which is apparent in the many returning customers they have.
Roatan Divers have also partnered with Tobri Divers, a resort on the other side of the island meaning that no matter what conditions are like you always have an option to get in the water! If relaxing by a pool enjoying a cocktail or Salva after a day of diving whilst looking out over the serene beauty of the sea is your kind of vacation then this resort is for you.
If you wish to discover all the exciting dive sites around the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System in a single trip, then here is the Roatan Aggressor, which can be your best choice, as it will take you to areas like Roatan, Utila, Cayos Cochinos and the Sea Mount in a week cruise.
When compared to Utila the one difference that is commonly said is how much more marine life Roatan has and this is mainly down to the work that Marine Park carry out. Much of the reef is protected making it illegal to fish or hunt for shells. Every diver should pay a marine park fee and the dive shops collect this fee and pass onto the Park. Statistics are posted every year of the money contributed from each dive operation on the island.
You can also obtain a spearfishing licence to hunt the invasive Lion Fish. You may see your dive leader use the opportunity to hunt a lunch time snack. Lionfish are becoming more popular on the menu, what better fish to catch and eat than one that shouldn’t be there!
Diving in the waters off Roatan is always a surprise. From an Orca to a Manta ray to the little favourites of the sea peas. You really are excited for all the possibilities these waters have to offer.
Night diving is a must when you are on Roatan, even if you’re the diver who usually opts out of the later dive in favour of beer o’clock. Here unlike anywhere else in the world, when conditions are right you get to witness the almost psychedelic experience of String of Pearls.
When diving under the dark waters take a moment to find a sandy spot, turn your torch off and just sit. And wait... after a couple of minutes you will get the feeling you are in outer space as these most incredible bioluminescence start appearing in front of your eyes one by one until you look around and realise you are completely surround. Almost replicating the sky at night with the thousands of stars on show.
This phenomenon occurs as a mating display of ostracods. Tiny organisms that light up just like fire flies. It truly is hard to describe and imagine the spectacular light show but one thing is for sure it will leave you in absolute awe of our underwater world, may even bring a tear to your eye and definitely confirm that the beer can hold off for an hour or too.
One for the Bucket list
Roatan will most certainly not leave you disappointed if you choose this as your next dive vacation. Great food, great scenery and ample amount of marine life, this Caribbean island really is a treasure to enjoy with little effort needed. A true diver’s bucket list destination.
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