No matter how often we proclaim the virtues of Roatan, we couldn't leave it out of our wall-diving world tour. It's ringed by a barrier reef where practically every fish that exists in the
Caribbean can be found; the reef's backside is all wall, plunging thousands of feet into the Cayman Trench right off the western end of the island. We'd rather dive it, but for about $500 you can catch a ride on the world's deepest tourist submarine and claim bragging rights of 3,000 feet when asked that oh-so-common question, "So, what's the deepest you've ever been?"
Staying at one of Roatan's excellent dive resorts is the best way to explore your way up and down the surrounding coral fortifications; sites like West End Wall, a precipice with pillar corals and azure vase and barrel sponges, border a deep blue abyss. Other walls include Eel's Garden, Port Royal and the Enchanted Forest, each replete with enormous stands of black coral, elephant ear sponges and delicate blue bell tunicates. It's all there for you when you check in to Anthony's Key Resort, where you are assigned not only a room, but a tank number and a dive boat for the week, too.
Even after 30 years in the dive resort business, Anthony's Key keeps things fresh for their roster of returning guests, some of whom started coming as kids and now bring their own children. A huge freshwater pool was recently built on the key, complete with a poolside bar and grill, which just makes being on vacation more vacation-like. And the resort's weekly activities reflect the interests of their guests, going beyond horseback riding and beach barbecues to stuff like a reef fish ID class on Sunday nights, presented by one of their divemasters. It's cool to know what you're looking at, especially in a place that's a Noah's Ark of marine life. There are even optional trips to dive farther afield, perhaps to Barbareta Wall.
Three miles offshore, the hilly, uninhabited island of Barbareta is framed by white-sand beaches and coves that lead to a dramatic mile-long wall dropping off to about 130 feet. It's great for encountering pelagics such as tuna, turtles, sharks, eagle rays, barracuda and even whale sharks (usually in January and February). But there's plenty of small stuff, too in fact, you may see one of everything, whether it moves or is stationary. The wall is long and the currents are strong, resulting in drift dives that are never the same as previous ones. The shallows offer plenty of options for second and third dives, and it's a great place for snorkelers, too.
Out here, you'll be reminded of Roatan's endless offerings and the spirit of discovery that keeps divers returning again and again.
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