Diving Roatan

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Roatan, Honduras

Caribbean reef sharks
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Country: Honduras  Area: Honduras

Water Temp: 25 - 29°C (77 - 84°F)

Visibility: 10 - 30m (33 - 98 ft)

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The largest of the Bay Islands, Roatan has pristine white sand beaches, amazing tropical jungle covered hills and a unique coral reef close to the shore. Any visitors will easily see why these islands are said to be the “Caribbean’s Best Kept Secret”.

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Roatan is the largest of a group of islands called the Bay Islands located off the north coast of Honduras. Famed as a world class diving destination, the mainland of the island proves to be equally as fascinating and beautiful as the surrounding reefs.

The perfectly white sand beaches are beautifully contrasted by the mountainous center of the island, which is filled with pine tree forests. Hiking, horseback riding and lazing on the beach draw in visitors worldwide – and the island has rapidly developed as a result.

Looks like a race! Credit

These islands have easily the best diving in the area with coral reefs, sharks and regular Whale Shark sightings. The Meso American Barrier Reef also known as the Great Western Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. This runs alongside most of Central America from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula down to Panama. Honduras and the Bay Islands are one of the most popular spots to dive this reef and it provides many excellent dive sites and an abundance of marine life for divers on Roatan.

Climate & Sea conditions

The climate of the Bay Islands is a typical Caribbean tropical climate and is very humid all year round. There a few rainy periods throughout the year, usually with some rain during June and July and then the main rainy season from November to the end of February, with its peak rainfall being during January and February. Throughout this season it’s still great to dive with most rainfall being a brief spell of 15-30mins and if anything you welcome the refreshing cool down.

There may be some strong winds during the peak rains in January and February so the temperature is cooler than the rest of the year, but do bear in mind that the average air temperature will still be 27C!

The water temperature in the waters around Roatan is warm year round and ranges between its lowest of 25C in the winter months to its warmest in the summer of 29C.

Roatan underwater, Credit

Marine Conservation

A number of different reserves and conservation areas protects the waters surrounding Roatan. The organization Roatan Marine Park is instrumental in managing these regions, and initiating activities that further protect the natural resources. Formed in 2005, the RMP runs initiatives including environmental damage inspections, environmental impact assessments, and a number of recycling programs. The organization works to engage local stakeholders to ensure that growth and development occurs in a manner that is as responsible and sustanable as possible. Several other organizations work in conjunction with the RMP to further extend their reach and abilities. Many use volunteer labour from both local and international populations. Dive shops are also critical in aiding with reef clean up and protection.

Starfish, Credit

 
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Shore Diving

There is plenty of shore diving off Roatan, with some of the best reefs located only a short swim away from the beach. The West End is the main tourist area, with the fringing reef just off its coast it is the most popular place to dive from on the island. This area has been created in to the West End Marine Park to protect its unique ecosystem and therefore the diving is unspoilt by over fishing and destructive behaviour.

Diving Roatan, Credit

Boat Diving

Roatan offers a huge selection of dive sites ranging from deep drop offs, walls, wrecks, caves, reefs and also sites with are excellent for sharks or dolphins. This diverse range caters for all interests and levels of diver making this destination excellent for everyone. The fringing reef is so close to shore that it is easily reached with a short swim, so a lot of dives are reached this way, with only the further away sites being reached by boat.

The West End is the main tourist area, with the fringing reef just off its coast it is the most popular place to dive from on the island. This area has been created in to the West End Marine Park to protect its unique ecosystem and therefore the diving is unspoilt by over fishing and destructive behaviour.

Parrotfish, Credit

The West end is on the leeward side of the island so is mostly very calm with pleasant diving conditions.  One of the top sites in this area is the West End Wall. A huge sheer wall plunging into the depths of the Cayman Trench covered in lots of healthy coral. This site is normally dived as a drift dive due to the frequent current which is usually the perfect strength to gently pull you along the beautiful reef but means you can still take it all the life around you. This current can bring in schools of barracuda and many other reef fish as well as Turtles and also here is where you have a good chance of spotting some Eagle Rays. Due to the depth and current at this site, it is a dive for experienced divers.

There are plenty of sites for the less experienced with just as much marine life such as Turtle Crossing where unsurprisingly you can see lots of turtles and maybe some barracuda and eagle rays on the horizon. Another dive suitable for everyone and not to be missed is Roatan’s Shark Dive. Not for the faint hearted, you can witness around 20 Reef Sharks which are attracted by the smell of some fish that the divemaster brings in a bucket. It’s a thrilling experience to sit and watch the sharks swimming around very close to you and once they disperse you can explore the surrounding area where lots of people can find old sharks teeth.

Green Sea Turlte, Credit

Whale Sharks are another top marine creature that is commonly seen in the Bay of Islands. More commonly seen around the island of Utila, but there is still a chance of seeing some near Roatan in season. As the island of Utila is so close and has a much, much greater chance of seeing Whale Sharks many dive centres run regular day trips across to the island as this is the best chance for their customers to see these gentle giants. Utila is thought to have resident Whale Sharks and there is the chance of spotting these year round, but the best times are the months of March, April, September and December.

Liveaboard Diving

There are two liveaboards that currently sail through the Bay Islands. The Caribbean Pearl sails a one week route through the islands, frequently stopping on land for meals and exploration. The Zepplin  is a smaller boat that sails a 2 and 7 night route, which is highly customizable.

Fan Coral, Credit

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How to Get there

Roatan is easy to reach from the US with an airport on the island with has regular flights to many destinations in the US and on the mainland of Honduras. You can also reach the island by ferry from either Utila or from Honduras’s mainland port of La Ceiba.

Street in Roatan, Credit

Even though this island is so easy to reach is seems to have escaped the mass tourist development and retained a lot of its character, culture and natural un-built up landscapes.

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Where to Eat & Drink

There are loads of options for restaurants and bars on Roatan, with the majority of places located in the West End and West Bay. Restaurants serve anything from Honduran specialities to classic international fare, and they always incorporate a decent amount of seafood. The Hole in the Wall is a favourite among visitors, given that they serve all you can eat lobster and steak on Sundays and Wednesdays. The Hungry Munkey by contrast serves classic American fare, including pizzas and hot dogs. Ooloonthoo is the only Indian restaurant on the island and is a great change of pace.

Food! Credit

The island also has a great nightlife. Guests can choose between laid back beach bars and pulsing dance clubs that stay open well into the night. Locals and tourists frequent a number of the bars, and they become especially busy when cruise ships come into the harbour. The Thirsty Turtle is one of  the more laid back options in town, while Foster’s has a more typical club environment. Check with locals for nightly events and music.

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Other Activities

Activities in Roatan largely revolve around the ocean and the beach. Kayaks are readily available for rent if you’re keen to explore the ocean, and horses make for a great way to explore the beach. Otherwise, set out on foot and explore the island from east to west on a 1-hour walk. The fishing off Roatan is also fantastic, and a number of companies run deep sea tours. It is common to catch Marlin, Barracuda, Tuna, Wahoo and Mahi Mahi.

If looking for more adventure, a submarine dive company has opened up on the island and runs the cheapest submarine tours in the Americas (if not the world). Hikes and ziplining through the jungle is another great way for a thrill.

Lovers! Credit

If keen to soak up local culture, try your hand at a cooking class or join a Spanish school to learn a new language.

If traveling with a family, a number of operators that offer bubble maker and discovery dive courses.

This wonderful easy to reach, unspoilt island is a great location for both divers and non divers as a choice of holiday destination.

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Tips

There is a hyperbaric chamber on Roatan at Anthony’s Key Resort in Sandy Bay.  Take good care of all your possessions and valuables. Unfortunately, theft and crime on Roatan has been on the rise in recent years, and it is generally targeted at tourists.

Blue Chromis swimming around, Credit

Do prepared for power outages on the island. They occur fairly frequently.

Backpackers tend to congregate in the West End.

Bartering with local vendors for souvenirs and produce is expected. While vendors can become a bit pushy, a firm and calm strategy is often successful.

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Roatan mid-October

My husband and I are looking for a quick getaway dive trip and have Roatan or Belize in mind. What is the visibility and weather like during this time - especially after the crazy hurricanes the Caribbean has just experienced?

mediving

Vandra Allison

0 votes

Hurricanes seem to be still going!!

Rating 8/10

First diving trip

Roatan29 Dec 2013 - 11 Jan 2014

Nice vacation in Roatan during New Year's holiday.

I've dive 14times and I see turtles, a lot of types of caribean fishes.

I suggest the shark dives at Cara Cara where you can see 15-20 grey reef sharks and swim with them.

I dive with seagrape plantation resort, they were kind and friendly. The only problem is that they had only thanks suitable for Yoke regulators

withfriends

André Fernandes

Nice - congratulations :)

Hafa Fauziah

very interesting story, we can melikat beauty beneath the sea and every living creature that is in his excellent article, I really enjoyed reading it

Rating 9/10

Cruise Dive

Roatan24 Jan 2010 - 31 Jan 2010

A cruise I was on stopped in Roatan for one day in January 2010. My newly certified friend and I booked a two tank dive through Subway Watersports and they picked us up right outside the gates of the Mahogany Bay cruise terminal.

We dove a wall site for our first dive and a reef for our second. Immediately upon descending we saw an eagle ray, which is my favourite, but sadly it just kept right on going.

The reef was in great shape with a fantastic diversity of coral and fish life. These were two very easy dives which I was glad of for my newbie buddy. The water was at the low end of my warm scale and I wore my 3 mm wetsuit and was quite comfortable as a result.

Had an encounter with a puffer fish who was not at all pleased by my strobe flash. Also spotted a pair of adult lionfish.

Roatan Roatan 2 Roatan 3 Roatan 4 Roatan 5
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Catherine Jones

Excellent Photos, i love the pufferfish one, he definitely doesnt look pleased!

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