Posted by: Jacqueline Knapp | March 27, 2011

Roatan, Honduras: A Diamond in the Rough

Unfortunately my wonderful two-week vacation to the island of Roatan, Honduras ended all too abruptly yesterday (although I knew it couldn’t last forever), but as a result I finally have time (or rather am not diving and sitting in the sun relaxing) to reflect on all the wonderful opportunities and sights that this island has to offer.

The main reason why people travel to Roatan is because it has one of the most spectacular reefs you could hope to find in the Caribbean. With over 31 dive sites filled with beautiful coral formations, healthy fish life, wrecks, planes, and sharks, as well as a plentiful amount of dive operations from which to choose, you really can’t find a better place to hang out and visit for vacation if you’re a fan of scuba diving.

With such quality reefs it’s hard to distinguish the “best dive sites” of Roatan because even the “worst” are still spectacular spots.  However, of the 31 sites to choose from, my personal favorite dive sites would have to include Spooky Channel, Lighthouse Reef, White Hole, and Cara-a-Cara — an intense shark dive filled with Caribbean Reef Sharks swimming around you in every direction.

Spooky Channel takes the prize for best overall atmosphere. With a sandy bottom reaching down to 95 feet and sheer coral walls extending up to just 3 feet below the surface, you can’t get more picturesque beauty underwater. This dive site is appropriately named Spooky Channel because of the dim light that filters through to the bottom of the crevices, and diving this site with the angle of an afternoon sun made it a truly “spooky” experience.

Lighthouse Reef is a shallower dive on the West End that boasts beautiful pillars of coral formations scattered like sprinkles thrown onto an ice cream cone. You could easily spend hours weaving in and out of these coral towers peeking into every crevice finding damsel fish, lion fish, file fish, trunk fish, lobsters, crabs, and one of my personal favorites, spotted drums.

White Hole is a great dive because the lighting is breathtakingly perfect.  This site has amazing visibility and is very dramatic when the sun casts a bright light on the beautiful hues of pink, purple, green, yellow, and orange corals, reflects off the glowing spots of juvenile damsel fish, and alights the almost flourescent look of jaw fishes’ fins in the sand.  It also seems to be quite the popular hang-out spot for sea turtles and file fish.

The last of my favorite dive sites is Cara-a-Cara, the aforementioned intense shark dive located near the west end in deep blue water. This dive was quite ominous to begin with as a huge rain storm decided to pour down on our crowded dive boat just as we anchored to the buoy, forcing us all to quickly strap on our equipment and jump into the fast current of the ocean, furiously dragging our bodies horizontally along the tow line before going down. Once safely underneath the surface however, this dive quickly switched from cold, dark, and slightly annoying to jaw-droppingly exciting.

Once at the bottom depth of around 70 feet, all divers are asked to relax on a designated sandy patch with their backs to a coral formation and watch as Caribbean Reef Sharks start swarming the area, sniffing out the bucket of chum weighted down on the bottom about 15 feet in front of them. If there is little to no current the last 15 minutes of the dive will be spent swimming out in the open among these giant beasts and searching the sands below the empty chum bucket for any shark teeth that may have luckily fallen out during the quick, but ferocious, feeding.

All in all, you cannot go wrong with any dive site in Roatan, I’ve just highlighted some of my best moments and favorite spots that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Also, I’d like to thank the crew of The Octopus Dive School for being such amazing leaders, energetic, crazy-fun, and great, wonderful people! Thank you Nuria, Sophie, Carmen, Eva and Antonio!


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