It's the sort of dive that IMAX producers dream of. The dive party is swimming along a narrow underwater canyon. Purple and violet gorgonians sea fans cover the walls and create eerie shadows in the depths. Down below, white sand winds along the floor like a river. Then the canyon opens up and surface light floods back in.
That's a quick look at Mary's Place, a Bay Islands classic on the south shore of Roatan, and one of the reasons that, for many divers, a trip to this sea-surrounded bit of Honduras has become an annual ritual.
Many of those "repeaters" also have a favorite resort, and for many of them, that place is Fantasy Island.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the resort is literally on its own island," says Nick Palandra, general manager for Fantasy Island's American booking office. "That, plus we have a great white-sand beach, which is rare in the Bay Islands. The word's also out about our new, 130,000-gallon theme pool. And divers love the fact that they can step off that beach and be on the wreck of the Prince Albert or on any of three world-class wall dives in just a matter of minutes."
There's that, and then there's the ambience. Fantasy Island's designers didn't shove the environment to the back burner when they created the resort. Monkeys swing in the trees along the footpaths. Peacocks strut along the grounds. There's even a small zoo in the center of the resort.
Roatan in general is an extremely family-friendly destination, and the on-its-own island security of Fantasy Island just makes the place that much better for parties that include young bubble-blowers. There's even a Kids Adventure and Exploration Programs that includes fun hands-on learning about Roatan's history, environment and wildlife, lots of snorkeling, sand-castle competitions and more all done while mom and dad are off diving their brains out on Roatan's reefs and walls. And grown-up nondivers have a choice of activities that include on-the-beach massages.
"Roatan diving is legendary," says Nick Palandra. "And here at Fantasy Island, we wanted to complement that with a resort experience that's both beautiful and memorable. Our visitors tell us that we're right on target in that regard."