Raw and beautiful, Guanaja is a charming respite in the Bay Islands of Honduras The name Guanaja sounds like an echo of the ancient Payan Indians who revered it as a sacred paradise free from the complexities of the mainland. Today, it's a step back in time - a unique blend of natural beauty spiced with a blend of charming inhabitants. Life here epitomizes ''island style,'' and there's been little development to spoil the incredible beauty.One of the three main islands of Honduras' Bay Islands, Guanaja (pronounced gwin-na-ha) is located 40 miles from the mainland. This mountainous island is approximately 13 miles long and three wide, and has two small cays about a half mile away. In fact, Bonacca, the capital, is not on the main island. It, along with businesses, taverns, hotels and 3,000 residents, are all squeezed onto the two smaller islands. It's cramped but an experience to wander through.Small planes from Honduras land on a tiny strip of land and compete with wild chickens for taxi space. Don't worry about a rental car - there aren't any roads. Travel is either by water taxi, resort boat, horseback or foot, and boats are the only way to reach the dive resorts on the main island.A day on Guanaja starts with a mountainside cabana and a purple sunrise. These are followed by an eclectic symphony of sounds: wild parrots in the almond trees, the clink of scuba tanks being loaded, generators kicking into action and a hoot from the pig farmer delivering pork chops by horseback. It is a time away from civilization. Outside the cabana, rich Honduran coffee is served by a smiling, amber-skinned beauty and blue waters come into view. Ah! Nirvana.On the leeward north side, dive sites are close to shore and marked with mooring buoys. Some reefs, such as End of the World, are close enough for a shore dive, which allows lots of time to hunt for macro critters.A short boat ride brings you to the 180-foot drop-off at St. Michael's Rock channel. The crevices and overhangs are draped with fabulous red rope and azure sponges. Slipper lobsters hang upside down in the crevices and the schooling juvenile Creole wrasse dart everywhere.The Pinnacles is an intriguing dive. These stone peaks spiral up from 130 feet through a maze of tunnels and corals to about 55 feet below the surface. The tunnels are filled with silversides so numerous that they block the light, creating an eerie feeling. An encounter with the huge resident nurse shark in a dark tunnel is a definite adrenaline rush. The dives on the windward southern side of the island are reached by crossing a mangrove-lined canal. At South West Cay is one of the Bay Islands' most famous wrecks, the Jado Trader. This 240-foot freighter was sunk as an artificial reef in the 1980s and rests at 110 feet on its starboard side. Several huge groupers are waiting for you at the mooring line for a handout - or to lead divers to the wreck. The fish life on this site explodes through the wreck's cavities like silver bullets. The interior hides a cornucopia of invertebrates, including flaming scallops. At the bow, I spied a pair of amorous green morays - alas, no film left. Time at this depth is short but exhilarating. Jim's Silverlode at South West Cay is a thrill to navigate. The tunnel entrance at 70 feet is obscured by a liquid mass of silver fish. It then opens into an amphitheatre and a gladiator show of friendly fish. Snorkeling the shallow reefs near St. Michaels Rock on the leeward side is fascinating. Red cushion starfish are everywhere and the unexpected can happen. I ran into a friendly dolphin and enjoyed 15 long minutes of non-verbal communication.Sea kayaking is popular in Guanaja and is a wonderful way to cruise the shoreline or visit the Gully Waterfall. The climb to the bottom of this waterfall is steep and slippery, but the challenge is half the fun. Sinking into the splash basin and being massaged by the waterfall creates a priceless memory of this island paradise.The dive resorts range from the plush to simple mountain cabanas and offer customized dive packages including meals and boat transport. Generators provide electricity, so an ample supply of batteries is needed, and there isn't TV at night. Resorts can arrange trips to visit Bonacca, archeology sites, waterfalls and island tours. For the energetic, a hike up the mountain trails is a true workout.Horseback riding along the trails and beaches is an opportunity to meet some of the quirky characters of Guanaja, which is part of the charm of the island.The lazy diver's activity (my way) is lying in a hammock sipping a famous Brian Rowland Monkey La La cocktail while watching a sunset with Lanita, the resort's parrot. It's sacred! For more info: Bayman Bay ClubReservations OfficeTerra Firma Adventures 10097 Cleary Blvd. - Suite 287Fort Lauderdale, FL 33324 Local: (954) 472-3700 Toll Free: (800) 524-1823 Fax: (954) 723-0044 E-mail: email@example.com Web: http://baymanbayclub.comPosada Del SolReservations Office P.O. BOX 1257San Antonio FL 33576Toll free: 800-642-3483Fax: 352-588-4158E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgWeb: www.posadadelsol.comEnd of the World ResortTel: 504-991-1257Web: www.guanaja.com
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