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Bay Islands of Honduras consist of three islands north of mainland Honduras,
stretching 75 miles end to end: Roatán
and lesser known Utila and Granaja. All are popular travel
destinations for awesome and inexpensive dive trips and certification
courses. All islands are closely surrounded by coral reefs, making
diving from a dinghy or 5 minute boat ride the norm. There are a
hundred numbered and named dive sites, marked by dive/mooring buoys, on the
south, west and northwest coasts of Roatan. Although Spanish
is the official language of mainland Honduras, the Bay Islands retain their
English heritage (Great Britain ceded the islands to Honduras in 1859) where
English is the dominant language, although Spanish and Garifuna (African-Carib-Arawak
Indian) are also present. Pictured is the north coast of Roatan, reefs
There are numerous accessible bays for
the south side of Roatan. We anchored in French Cay Harbor behind the
reef and small cays, next to Fantasy Island Dive Resort. From here we
have access to the Roatan Yacht Club (for $3 you get secured dinghy dock,
fast wireless internet, trash dumping, bar, pool; laundry service also
available; restaurant temporarily closed due to change in ownership), a
state-style grocery store, and other services. Taxis (cheap) are
easily available to go to the popular but low key West End with its
multitude of dive shops, restaurants, bars and shops. Fantasy Island,
where ARGO and Deborah were docked for 2 weeks (while Steve returned to the States for
his daughter Jana's graduation from law school),
offers scenic beaches, snorkeling, dive operations (Deborah did several
dives including a night dive), wireless internet, bar
and entertainment. Pictured: ARGO and Fantasy Island.
FANTASY ISLAND DIVE RESORT,
FRENCH CAY HARBOR
French Cay anchorage & Fantasy
Island, both in far background
Traditional Fire Dancing
One of several superb beaches and
Monkeys roam freely; one stole my
Traditional Garifuna Dancing
. . . AND THE MENAGERIE at
Iguanas everywhere on Roatan -
orange, green, brown, big, small
Agoutis (a rodent) are everywhere on
A coatimundi, member of raccoon family, lives on ground and in trees
Separated, lovesick scarlet macaws
Checking for leftover [alcoholic]
beverages in the
trash (he drank thru a straw, got tired of it, took lid off and drank
out of cup!)
Kinkajou - nocturnal, agile, lives
in tropical forest canopy tops
They could be easily approached
Parrot couple (they hate to be
Several of the cruisers became friends
with Dr. Jamie Betheaepstein, an American (ex-pro football player) who is just getting his liveaboard dive boat,
m/v Tabutne 1 "Divers At Play", ready for
charter trips. We had several pot luck dinners on board and a day trip
to dive the West End, Roatan. Deborah accompanied him and his crew on
their very first
charter with paying guests for a 3-day dive trip to Utila.
Pictured above is the deserted north coast of Utila, with dive/mooring
buoys scattered close to shore. Deborah was
guest / guest crew, doing all the dives and helping out as needed. On
the 20 mile trip from Roatan to Utila, we spotted several pilot whales that
swam very close to our boat. Unfortunately by the time I got my
camera, this was the best shot I could get.
took several road trips around Roatan. Typical housing along the south
coast are houses built out over the canals that run inside the reefs.
It's common to see outhouses on the docks. A water taxi was necessary to check out the cheeseburgers and cold beer at
the locally famous Hole in the Wall in Jonesville, also built out over the
water (but fortunately not on a canal), over owner Bob's trimaran that sank there 17 years ago. There
are large fishing and shrimp boats, many which have been converted to
carrying lobster traps, as these waters have been badly fished out.
Pictured left: Stilted houses over canal; Right: a true "house boat";
however, it's really a boat of ill-repute.
It is now time to
start planning our trip back to the Rio Dulce, Guatemala for hurricane season. We
plan to do this leisurely, checking out a few more anchorages in Roatan,
then heading west stopping at Cayos Cochinos, the Bay island of Utila,
Puerto Escondido on the mainland, and finally staging at Cabo Tres Puntos
before taking the bar exam at Livingston, Guatemala.
So, after more than a
month at French Harbor, we head east along Roatan's south coast to
Port Royal, a huge bay(s) surrounded with green hills and reefs and not much
else there but peace and quiet; and Jonesville (pictured above).
Jonesville surrounds a 2-pronged finger of water jutting up into the green
hills and protected at the entrance by reefs (Deborah had a great dive there
from the dinghy). A popular cruiser hangout, Jonesville was more than
we expected. About a half dozen cruisers are anchored there and
several land-based cruisers have houses there including the Hole in the Wall
restaurant/bar. Our first night there, one land-based cruiser hosted a
Blue Moon pot luck dinner party at their house overlooking the reef.
Another land-based cruiser offers use of his laundry facilities and trash
disposal (donation) and $1/day wifi internet on our boat. As there is
no public road access here, group trips into town were done with the various
land-based cruisers (e.g., in the back of a pickup). We had several
dinghy outings exploring the surrounding area, and left more to see next
year when we return. Definitely a fun place.
Cochinos national park is
an isolated collection of small islands and cays surrounded by reefs and
turquoise waters, located midway between Roatan and mainland Honduras.
We'd heard this is a must-stop and so we did for
several days. As it is somewhat
remote, there's seldom more than a couple of boats here, good thing as there
are only 5 mooring balls and no anchoring allowed. Ashore the lush,
mountainous Cochino Grande are several private homes, hiking trails, old
lighthouse and the Plantation Reef Dive Resort which is cruiser-friendly.
With half a day's notice, Plantation Resort made us dinner 2 nights (huge
amounts of crisp beer-battered fish and delicious lasagna) which was very
good. We look forward to a repeat performance next year.
on our way west, we go to the bay island of Utila, East End
anchorage. Utila is basically a flat island with one knobby hill,
surrounded on the west side by a gillion reefs, and East End being it's only
really settlement. Unfortunately, Utila (East End) has the
reputation for thefts and break-ins after dark, so cruisers are usually home
by then. We checked East End out during the day, but the hot stagnant
air kept our activity in check. However, we did get a good feel for
we stopped at Puerto Escondido at Punta Sal on mainland Honduras.
Again, another must-stop, we'd heard. Once we figured out the tricky
entrance, we enter the bay bordered on one side by lush lowlands, and on the
other side (where we anchored) unbelievably beautiful lush peaks studded
with brilliant purple and white flowering trees. A German female
single-hander that we knew arrived the next day after catching
a tuna en route, and invited us and the only other boat over for sashimi and
cocktails at sunset. Excellent!!!!
Time to stage for the
Rio Dulce bar exam at Cabo Tres Puntos along with 3 other boats.
Weather had surrounded us (but not affected us, other than the unusual
westerly winds so we couldn't sail) all day, giving way to spectacularly
purple blue skies and mountains, and clouds ranging from stark white to
creamy golden. We all leave the anchorage in the dark the next morning
prepared for the Guatemala bar exam . . .
Continue to Guatemala . .
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