Meeting a Prince in Roatan
It almost couldn't get any easier. I rouse myself from my room at Fantasy Island resort, walk down the beach (the view's not too shabby), past the pool, down a shady path to a dive gazebo over the water. The water shimmers like it's been covered in glitter. I pick up the phone and ask that two tanks of nitrox be delivered. About two minutes later, they arrive via boat, I strap one to my BC, gear up, and my buddy and I giant-stride about five minutes later. We follow a guideline on the seafloor to find a Prince.
Within about a five-minute easy swim, the 140-foot intact hull of the Prince Albert, an island freighter sunk in 1987, looms out of the blue in about 85 feet of water. After nearly 20 years underwater, she's covered in marine growth: sea rods, encrusting corals and sponges. In the sand around the wreck, garden eels sway. It's still possible to penetrate some of the wreck through open hatches, and inside you're likely to find shimmery schools of silversides, especially in August, plus a horde of shy critters like red night shrimp and bigeyes.
Close by, in about 60 feet of water, we also explore the remnants of a DC-3. It's a little more sandy here, but there's something enticing about a plane wreck in the water. Little gangs of juvenile sergeant majors like to hang out here.
Above the water, Roatan still exudes that edge-of-the-Earth feel. The quaint town of West End still has dirt streets, itinerant backpackers and an interesting assortment of ex-pats, and much of the center of the island remains covered in jungle. For an up-close look at the green part of Roatan, take to the trees in one of the world's (I've tried lots of these from around the globe) best treetop zip-line excursions. Most go from summit to sea in thrilling elevation drops. For an even bigger thrill, take a ride on Idabel, a deep-diving submarine that descends to 2,000 feet to lure in 20-foot six-gill sharks, which are some of the most ancient sharks on the planet.