We endured the bugs, the wind, the cats, the stifling heat, and the bugs again. And still, we found paradise in Coral Vista #5 on Half Moon Bay in the West End, Roatan, Honduras.
Would I go back? Most definitely. It was completely different from my dive trip to Utila six years ago where there were barely any fish. On the west side of Roatan, there are groupers, snappers, grunts and damselfishes. I had several close encounters with green moray eels, swam next to turtles and even chased down a solitary eagle ray. The largest predator, however, was nowhere to be found. Roatan was once known for schools of hammerhead sharks. We didn’t even see a nurse shark. While it is healthy now (see my picture of the elkhorn coral), the coral reef may be in danger due to over fishing, the lion fish invasion, and the lack of big predators. Plus, the island struggles with recycling and trash. We found beer cans at 2000 feet.
Normally, we would spend one day exploring the entire island, but we never seemed to have the time or energy to commit to that 96 square mile journey. We learned that most people live on the coast, avoiding the mountainous jungle that splits the island down the middle. Expats are beginning to build on the mountainsides, but it’s expensive to import construction materials and create access to water. The natives still live in dilapidated structures, probably not hurricane-sustainable. So, disparity continues in that regard – same old Caribbean story.
At times West End felt a little like a Mexican cruise ship port with little kids peddling goods to naive tourists. We got played almost daily by a nine-year-old and his sister selling jewelry and stonework that “his brother made.”
Kids there have strange school hours. They matriculate from 9am to noon, then spend the afternoon selling their wares to Gringos, returning to school from 5 to 9pm. While it keeps them out of trouble, the kids are quickly immersed into the harsh business world. Didn’t seem to hurt Daniel any. He knew that sticking his little bottom lip out would cause us to reach for our wallets. His little brain also quickly converted lempiras to dollars, swifter than anyone in our alcohol-addled party. I’m happy to have contributed to his, um, education.
The people are lovely, the corals are healthy and it’s one of the least expensive places to live and dive, and I wouldn’t hesitate if someone suggested we return for a visit. Since I spent most of my time underwater, I believe the island itself is worth exploring next time.Coda: While the taxi driver struggled with his daughter, I dashed in to pay my respects to the marine park headquarters which I had neglected the entire week. While I was making my “donation” in exchange for some jade dangles and a sticker for my dive log, my astute husband discovered the van’s unlocked sliding door. Leave it to Tom to ensure our on-time arrival at the airport, ultimately leading back to our own little paradise at home.