Friday, April 13, 2012

Roatan- finally!

Hello Bloggers- as promised in my last blog, here is the second of three blogs and this blog is (more or less) a trip report about a dive trip to Roatan.

After many years of dreaming and planning I finally made it to Roatan. I traveled there as part of and with a great group of divers and we spent the week of February 4th thru the 11th, 2012 scuba diving and doing UW photography there. For those of you reading this and are unfamiliar with Roatan, Roatan is one of three of the Bay Islands (Utilia and Guanaja-the other two) off the Caribbean coast of and part of the Central American nation of Honduras. It is a diving 'mecca' and its reef is part of the Mesoamerican Reef system. This reef system is the largest in the Atlantic Ocean and stretches from North of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula to south of Honduras. The reefs of Belize and Cozumel are also a part of this reef system and are very similar to Roatan.

Roatan offers reef and wall diving, with depths ranging from 20 feet to those well below recreational diving limits. Its corals are relatively and comparatively robust, colorful and life-full. The visibility is good (from 60 to over 100 feet) and currents and surge are minimal and the seas are calm or when the wind is blowing, dive sites in lees are conducted. Water temp when we were there was 79 degrees and the air temps in the 80s. Some destinations in the Caribe are lacking quantities of marine life. This is not the case in Roatan. In my opinion, Roatan is a very easy place to scuba dive. Some destinations can be very challenging and the diving aggressive.

I got the urge to go and dive there several years ago after hearing about it from friends of mine, Jan and Don McGarva who used to own Pleasure Diver in Key Largo. They made several trips there and stayed at a 'couple-three' different places during those. I booked the group trip through Doris Pfister of Caradonna Dive Travel and highly recommend using her and Caradonna should you book a dive trip anywhere.

We all flew direct, non-stop to Roatan using Atlanta and Houston as gateways and Delta and Continental, respectively as air carriers. I recommend flying direct. While it can be more costly, you And your things will arrive in Roatan once you depart the US. Our group stayed at one of several all-inclusive properties on Roatan, the Henry Morgan Resort. Some other all-inclusive resorts are: Fantasy Island, Anthony Keys Resort and Coco view. Our package included, airport transfers, lodging, meals, snacks, bar-consisting of local beer (Salva Vida), house wine and well drinks, including those foo-foo types and five days of three tank diving and a night dive for 16 dives. Saturdays were our travel days and we dove Sunday through Thursday. Honduras has a 16% tax on these packages and there is a $35 departure tax.

The HMR is a very nice property and its staff were friendly and courteous and at times fun. The rooms were clean, fresh and tended to daily by maid staff. The property's infrastructure (electricity, hot water, etc) was functioning, save one night when two of our group had no hot water for a shower. Of course this was after the night dive. The property is situated on a beach that runs to land's end. The diving operation, on property, was ran by TGI Diving (Tropical Gangsters International). This operation was, in my opinion, a very well run and managed and professional diving operation. I've seen better, but, I have also seen worse. TGI was good at what they did and fun.

As mentioned the meals were part of our package. They left something to be desired, and though no one lost any weight, most of our group ended up eating off-property beginning on Wednesday, only eating breakfast on property. The food was okay, it is just that it could have been better and our group's experience in such things was in harmony. For this reason and one other, I would not recommend the Henry Morgan Resort. The second reason is, the resort is not a 'dive (dedicated) resort' per-se. Rather it is a real nice resort that offers diving. My experience is that dive dedicated resorts have fewer guests and all of them are there for diving. Please don't get me wrong here, our group had a fantastic time and trip. In fact, a blast! This 'food thing' was the one negative. IF HMR did something about that, I could recommend the place.

As mentioned we had nice rooms and the bar-tab was part of our package. We had a good dive op and were in one of the dive meccas of the world. In short, we had a good place to sleep, lots of diving, some of which were breath-taking and stunning and many happy hours- including live-entertainment dancing on property and on the beach. We also had the good fortune of having great weather the week we were there.

Roatan has lots of subjects for UW photography and many that are commonly seen where they are not typically sighted in my stomping grounds, the Florida Keys. This was one reason why I wanted to go there. I went there 'mission-orientated' from an UW photography stand-point and my mission was to photograph specific subjects, suited to Macro lenses. This, and I should know, was a huge mistake, because whenever I do that, those subjects are the last thing I will see, if at all. This proved to be the case on this trip and 'mission'. I shot wide angle the first couple days diving and then shifted my focus to Macro per my mission. The accompanying images will show a good example of what we did see and what was not photographed (by me on my mission) were Seahorses and Frogfish. Oh well, such is life in UW photography and mother ocean's whims. I and we still got our shots!

We had a great trip. With great people on it. Among us were long time friends and new friendships were formed with bonds made and strengthened during our time in Roatan. We are all hoping to do another trip together some where and some time. Some of you reading this missed this trip. I have your contact info and will keep you in the loop for the next trip. Hope this trip report was fun to read and informative. And that the images do a fair job portraying it. Thanx to Cj, Steve, Alan, Anne, Rich, Marc and Wendy for sharing some of your photos here! And for the luxury of the time we spent together diving and the happy hours. I think I could plan a dive trip to a golf-course pond and I would have a great time with all of you there.

If anyone I know reading this is planning a trip to Roatan and wants any additional information or elaboration, please email me. If Roatan is not on your bucket list as a diver or UW photographer, I think it should be. For me, it was a great experience and I am lucky and happy to have made it to Roatan, finally!  lg


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