Ayesha Cantrell
Ayesha Cantrell

Apr 19. 2 mins

Scuba Diving In Roatan

Off the north coast of Honduras lies an island with jungle-covered hills, contrasting white sandy beaches and sparkling waters that cloak the world’s second largest barrier reef. This is Roatan – the Caribbean’s best-kept secret.

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is home to colorful diversity and frenetic activity which draws in seasonal large pelagic visitors too. Whale sharks visit the region between February and May with numbers peaking in April. Sharks, turtles, dolphins, large jackfish, and eagle rays

make the waters their home year around. Barracuda stalk the blue, large tarpon silently skulk, and groupers menacing observe angelfish, butterfly fish, parrotfish and more than 300 other species of fish. Watch out for the giant morays and keep a keen eye out for seahorse, lobster, octopus, scorpion fish, and stargazers. Pay particular attention to locating a juvenile spotted drum; you can thank us later.

There are well over 100 dive sites dotted around Roatan which offer walls, canyons

and coral gardens with a few wrecks thrown in for good measure. Diving is either by boat or from the shore; there are many great sites a stone’s throw from the water’s edge. Roatan is great for snorkeling too. If you love a good swim through and enjoy the magic created by shards of light filtering through the overhanging reef, then you will be in heaven. Current is present, but it’s mostly of the type that gently pushes you along the reef.

Mary’s Place is a dive site you’ll hear a lot of people talk about. It’s stunning, loaded with sea fans and a rainbow of soft coral and its maze of canyons offers an experience like no other. It’s very popular, so don’t expect to have it to yourself. Dolphins Den is another lattice of chutes brimming with life and where you might find the occasional nurse shark resting. The site got its name from the unfortunate drowning of dolphins. The dolphins most likely became disorientated after chasing fish into channels. Their bones can still be seen today.

Turquoise Bay is a great deep wall dive that also has an awesome swim through. If you’re in the northeast, check out Garden of Eden. It’s a wall with a very interesting overhang alongside statue like coral pinnacles. It’s like swimming amongst a coral forest. Fish Den is a site protected by the marine park, and it shows. It’s shallow which means you can happily wallow in the snow-globe-like fish saturation.

If you like your reefs ship shaped then the El Aguila is a 64m (210ft) long cargo vessel which was intentionally sunk with divers in mind. Perfectly located in 30m (100ft) of water on a sandy bottom surrounded by a lawn of garden eels, it’s great fun to explore.

Do at least one night dive here. Apart from the chance to see octopus out and about

the area is blessed with a bioluminescent phenomenon know as ‘strings of pearls.’ On a dark night on a site with little light pollution, their effect will blow your mind. Find an unsensitive bottom, be still and switch off your lights. Wait and let your eyes adjust and start to move your arms. The effect is unreal. Each water disturbance causes the strings to pulse. You can easily see the reef outline as the strings line its shape. You can even enjoy a swim around as you’ll clearly be able to see your buddy and the reef – albeit in a very different light. Remember the digital rain code from The Matrix films. This is what you will swim through – it’s unlike any other bioluminescence you may have seen. Don’t miss it.

On the whole Roatan experiences, a typical tropical climate where air temperature rarely dips below 27C and water temperatures range from 25-29C. Visibility ranges from 20-50m

(65-165ft); the lowest visibility is in the rainy season which is January and February. Don’t let this put you off, showers are short and mostly a welcome respite. When the wind blows operators move their boats to the lee side of the island so you can still enjoy calm waters and great diving.
Getting to Roatan is simple. Direct international flights connect Montreal, Toronto, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami and Houston to the island’s Juan Manuel Galvez airport. Accommodation is plentiful, and whether you’re eeking out a shoestring budget or looking for honeymoon class luxury, there’s something for you.

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