Mainland Honduras & Roatan's Fantasy Island
I had my head in the clouds. On my way to Roatan in the Bay Islands of Honduras, I had a few extra days built up in the ol' time-off hopper, so I got off the plane in Tegucigalpa (mainland Honduras) for a five-day expedition to the Sierra de Agalta mountains. An environmental scientist and Explorers Club friend of mine had spent a year in this mist-shrouded forest and actually discovered several species previously unknown to science animals, bugs and plants that had evolved to survive in this unique corner of the world. That alone appealed to the part of my brain that seeks out primal adventure.
Once I was there, I was struck by the hush. The silence, held by the clouds that press deep through the high canopy, was positively eerie. We hiked up steep slopes along paths that ants would find difficult to follow. Quetzals with their magnificent tails slipped in and out of view through the silken veil. Though none of us saw any jaguars, fresh tracks were everywhere even right through our camp. I half-expected to see Adam and Eve dash naked through the trees as we rounded a bend in the path.
|Temple of Faces
At the ancient Maya site of Copan on mainland Honduras there's a temple (called #11) covered in sculptured reliefs of human faces.
|1 Mary's Place
2 CoCo View Wall
3 The Prince Albert
4 Fantasy Island Dive Gazebo
5 The Shark Dive
Roatan remains an island that fulfills passions at least the undersea sort. The island is ruled by the red and white "diver down" flag. Restaurants even accommodate the schedules of the dive boats. Despite all the conveniences of Internet, air conditioning and satellite TV, the main town of West End still has dirt streets and a countenance lost in time. Somehow the modern and the unspoiled exist in harmony which is why it seemed appropriate that I was headed to a place called Fantasy Island Resort.
On the south side of Roatan, Fantasy Island, like the cloud forest, is a world unto itself. You start breathing from a tank practically the moment you cross the bridge that leads there. The resort has recently been renovated, so everything has that fresh-out-of-the-box smell. With an on-site PADI Dive Shop, it's easy to get in the water right away.
Being on the French Harbor side of the island gives Fantasy Divers quick access to some of Roatan's best dives. I never miss nearby Mary's Place, a lush site that never fails to thrill. Here, crevices and overhands harbor every Caribbean creature imaginable REEF reports that Roatan is the only island in the Caribbean where you can find every species in the sea. You'll see grouper, lobster, nurse sharks, seahorses and lots of octopuses. In silverside season, the cracks are packed with mercurial rivers of these tiny fish, as well as the predators that feed on them.
When at Fantasy Island, I also dive as much as I can at the onsite Dive Gazebo. The shop will leave tanks for you day or night, and there's a nice wreck and a sunken airplane just a giant stride away. The list of dive sites Fantasy visits is extensive, including the Valley of the Kings, CoCoView Wall and the wreck of the Prince Albert.
Both the green and the blue -- the adventurous mainland of Honduras and the magical blue realms of Roatan will feed the inner eco-mad explorer in all of us.
If you want to experience Roatan from the single diver perspective, don't miss the Society Singles event on September 3-10 at Fantasy Island Beach Resort. For more information, please click here