Roatan - March 2009
There is a risk of getting malaria in Honduras and out on Roatan, so you may want to check out the CDC website and consult with your doctor about possible prophylaxis. I weighed the risks associated with the medications, side effects, and possibility of contracting malaria, and decided against it. I met several other divers that had taken preventative treatments prior to going. No malaria to report, as of yet!
Delta has a direct flight out of Atlanta to Roatan, so we actually never set foot on the mainland of Honduras... Customs was a bit of a hassle... three plane loads (Medium body jets, not little island hoppers) seemed to get there near the same time and overwhelmed the terminal... and there were only TWO agents working the flights... if you are able, sit near an exit, and get off the plane and to customs as fast as possible... and don’t get in the “single” line... it seemed to move much slower than all of the group lines. Oh yeah, you will be standing outside during much of the wait. I wish I could say that we were just unlucky with this, but I met a woman who has a place there, and she said it was the norm.
Stayed at Cocoview, and a rep met us on the other side of customs... after we identified our bags (Which they had already pulled from the belt, identified by the huge pink tags), we were led outside to wait for a van full to gather... our bags were handled by Cocoview personnel... all told, it was a few hours between landing on Roatan, and being on the bus on the way to the resort.
After a 30 minute van ride in air conditioned comfort, save for the annoying country music blaring from the speakers (old school country, like Patsy Cline... gag! Maybe the driver thought that is what us gringos actually listen to... I think my IQ dropped 10 points during the ride, and I don’t have it to spare), we arrived at a dock and boarded a small boat which took us to the resort... our bags went on another boat and were delivered to our rooms.
There were no Cocoview cabanas available at booking, so my dive buddy and I were given a beach house for the week at the same rate... two bedrooms, each air conditioned, and a very large central area that was screened in... actually extremely comfortable, especially at night... we joked that they really screwed us out of diving because the house was so nice, and had such a great view, that there was no point in leaving to dive.
Transportation to and from the resort and the houses (about 4 blocks) was via single speed bicycles... just grab any one on the rack near the resort center - very nice riding down the dirt path to the house at the end of the day... path was well lit.
There are no restaurants at the resort... all of the food is included in the price of stay - meal times are the same every day and served buffet style... like being at camp, the dining hall is not air conditioned, but at this time of year, the weather was ideal... we ate most all meals on the tables out side, on the water (Will add pics to my profile)... plenty of food... I think I gained at least 5 pounds... dessert was served every lunch and dinner... and who am I to insult the chef by turning that down?
You can also order groceries to be delivered to your house... word of caution... most “juices” we ordered seemed to be sugar water dyed various colors.
Each diver was assigned to a boat (One of four) and each boat could accommodate up to about (gulp!) 26 divers... there were about 14 divers on our boat the first day... after that, people picked and chose dives to go on, and about 10 seemed to be the norm.
Dive leaders briefed and led the dives... everyone followed, which created some serious congestion at times if the dive leader pointed out something of interest... God help the poor corals in the vicinity of a sea horse! They were caught in a gauntlet of photographer fins.
The dive conditions were not ideal, I don’t think... it was my first time to Roatan, so I have nothing to compare it to, but the visibility seemed to hover around 40 feet and we didn’t see many schools of fish... “Macro” is the buzz word around the resort... and I did see my first sea horses, not contained in a glass box in a zoo... the walls are just impressive in themselves... and Roatan diving is all walls.
Two walls, Newman’s Wall, and Cocoview wall led to the Cocoview beach... After the morning dive, the crew dropped us off at one of the walls and we ended the dive by simply following the wall back to the resort... same for the afternoon dive... when I realized that 50% of the dives for the week were going to be these “drop off dives,” I felt a little gypped - but it turned out to be some of the best diving all week, and fun to actually go somewhere other than back to the boat you just jumped from.
Also, both walls led to the Wreck of the Prince Albert, a large wreck right in Cocoview’s “front yard.” Would have been pretty impressive I am sure, had the visibility been a little better.
The orientation was rather long, but worthwhile... other than usual paperwork, there were presentation by staff members on the history of Cocoview as well as diving Roatan.
The check out dive was a no-kidding check out! And a little frustrating with about 10 divers per DM - we all geared up and made a shore entry into the front yard... once in about 4 feet of water, weighting and neutral buoyancy was checked... then onto deeper water for mask removal check and regulator recovery check... then further down to the Prince Albert wreck and orientation to the area. Divers everywhere... lower visibility due to the bottom being churned by the crowd.
Bells were rung before each dive giving 15 minute warnings of boat departure... all gear was stored right out at the dock in a locker area assigned to each diver and boat captains and dive leaders would put your gear on the boat if you had indicated your intention to dive, by hanging a wooden card at your locker... whether you actually made the boat or not was irrelevant... if that tag was up, your gear was going!
Lots of optional activities... zip lining, island tour including an iguana sanctuary and a tour of the Carambola Gardens as well as time to shop the schlock in the west end.
We did the optional shark dive... very tame, nothing to fear dive... not a lot of feeding went on... sharks (gray Reef) were attracted to a bucket containing a few fish heads... they hung out, let us snap some pictures, a resort employee took video, gawk for a while, then the wrangler released the fish heads, they were gobbled up and the sharks took off. Video available for $65... just remember to pick it up at the office before you leave... Grrr!
Also did a “swim with the dolphins” thing. While I understand these things cause a lot of controversy, it seemed to be really well done... it took place at Anthony’s Key Resort... a few photo ops, a close encounter with a dolphin, then 30 minutes to snorkel in the enclosed area (Not a tank... a fenced area of reef containing lots of corals and other fishes... also the dolphins swim out in the ocean regularly). Oh yeah, professional picture CD available for purchase... think that was another $40. And lots of gift shops to be herded through!
I didn’t think the diving was spectacular, but that may be a seasonal thing... I would go back in a heartbeat for the beauty of Cocoview, the friendly staff, the convenient diving, and the relaxed atmosphere! Correction... I WILL go back!