By: Vicky Peterson and Sabine Zimmerhansl
I (Vicky) went with one of my best friends, Sabine, an accomplished diver who has many dozens of dives more experience than I to Roatan Island. We were two girls in need of a vacation, going to the tropics to play in the water and have fun in the sun - wee!
Since we had prior warning (we researched other internet reports), we made sure all our luggage was marked "priority" (TACA has a habit of losing luggage or leaving it behind for the next flight) and kept most of our important dive gear (regulator, mask and a change of clothes) in our hand luggage. Unfortunately our flight left SFO at 1.00 am in the morning and when you have to check in three hours prior to boarding, then you sit on the airport for a long time (oi!) and an top of that , had 3 connections through various airports in Honduras. The good thing was, we got the fly-by tour of Honduras, the bad thing they didn't serve food, the planes kept getting smaller and smaller and by the end all we wanted was to finally get there.
Twelve hours later and a short bus ride from the airport we arrive at the resort to a refreshing fruit punch, air conditioning, friendly service and a nice clean room - with our luggage! We had an upstairs room with high ceilings, ceiling fan and air condition unite and a good view of the ocean from our balcony. All of the rooms in the resort have an ocean view, some better than others, but the ones close to the dive shop get the loud compressor, mechanic garage and laundry room noises (it's easy to change rooms if you need to and they are very accommodating).
Our room was located close to the dining room so it was quiet and we had a wonderfully quick walk to food - very important when you try to dodge the mosquitos on your way to breakfast. The food was buffet style, 3 times a day, and very good. There was no shortage of fresh fruits and veggies, meat and fish and various deserts and the selection was great. At dinner they offered a variety of cooked dishes (some of them rather dry in the meat since it was to well done) but there was always a roast or complete fish to get a fresh cut from as you waited. Since ice tea and water was free and filtered, we rarely had soda's and happy hour in the bar between 5.00 and 6.00 pm provided a great solution after a day in the salt water.
The resort offers 3 boat dives a day - a 9.00 am, 11 am and a 2:3.00 pmdive and unlimited shore diving from the gazebo which also was great for snorkeling, since you where right on top of the reef. You could also get a ride from the dive dock to the wall outside the resort and take a small tour back to the gazebo on your own.
All boat dives exceed the tables, so you better bring a computer, even though it's not required (you can rent a computer for $25.00 a day at the resort, and the models they offer are in good condition).
We took it easy the first day, went to the 8.00 am orientation, where we learned about the doctor services, hyperbaric chamber and signed away any liability for the resort to our equipment, and went on our first boat dive at 11.00 am.
Fantasy Island is it's own little island off of the south side of Roatan Island. This means, it always gets the wind and currents and there are constantly waves and surge. As a Monterey diver, we didn't mind, but if you want calm seas and no surge - you need to go to the north and west sides of the Island
(a trip the resort offered with a two tank dive and transfer, you had to take care of your lunch at a restaurant there though, and the food was great - take about $20.00 if you want food and a souvenir).
Even with our Monterey experience, we got bruised shins and arms from the boat ladders, as we tried to climb in during some of the rougher days. It took you some time to figure out not to hold the ladder when the boat lurched up about 3 feet out of the water and you tried to get out at the same time.
There are dozens of sites, just within a 5 minute boat ride of the dock and they are all great. We always started deep, down the wall, toured it to our halfway mark and then went back above the coral. To me (Vicky) everything was great, tons of fish - Damsels, Angels, Wrasse, Jacks, Parrots, Groupers, Eels, and Trigger fish, to name the ones I recognized. The treats were the Sea horses, Rays, Green Turtles and the Juvenile Spotted Drum. Sabine missed the "bigger" fish (she has a tendency to run into sharks, whenever she dives) and remarked on the missing color of the corals. I (Vicky) agree that the coral looked a little beat up (the lace coral was mostly gray and usually shredded a bit), but I thought that might have been left over from the hurricane from 4 years ago.
Sabine also wasn't happy with the "mob" tour method, where we all had to follow the DM instead of going off in buddy pairs and returning back at the boat in a set time. I (Vicky) think, that was due to the fact that the DM had special
things to show us and sometimes he'd take us through chimneys.
The dive operation was well done and very professional. There were always 3 boats out (except Friday and Sat when there were only 4 people diving in the whole resort) and the boats were always working. Well, the first boat we were on broke the hydraulic to the rudder, so the DM manually steered from the service hatch - just so we could get to our dive site. They had another boat come and fix it while we were down. It was more amusing than anything else.
Because we slathered ourselves liberally with bug cream (any brand works as long as you use lot's of it and all the time), we weren't too badly eaten. But a warning - if you don't use repellent, you will come out in red spots kinda like measles (at least they don't itch when you are there). The No-See-Ums there are mostly in the trees so your arms, back, neck and face are the first targets. They will even go for that one tiny spot that you missed with the cream (Vicky got about 18 bites in one spot on her back on the way back from the dive dock, you could watch and count them coming up). Luckily the constant breeze kept away most of the mosquitoes.
» Gallery - Roatan Island, Honduras:
Though we were glad to come home, where one doesn't need bug cream and things weren't constantly damp (one of the negatives in the tropic, even aircondition can't keep up with it after one week), we can recommend this location for anyone looking for a nice relaxing dive vacation. The price was perfect ($1,500.00 including air), the service was great, the food was excellent, there was a variety of non-diving activities (for the better half that doesn't dive) and the diving itself was great fun.
We met some neat people from other parts of the US and enjoyed our evening cocktails every happy hour (1/2 price drinks from 5.00-6.00 pm) with our new
friends. Vicky got 12 dives in and even though Sabine could only do 5 dives (she had ear problems from a flue she had had the week before), she was able to enjoy the sun and surf of the Caribbean - what more do you want?
Photos by Vicky Peterson and Sabine Zimmerhansl
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