This is the place for photos and reflections of my visits to Latin America beginning in 2012. Previous blogs are linked on the main pages of my photo collections on flickr. HAPPY TRAILS!

Monday, June 23, 2014

ROATÁN, HONDURAS: Golden way to start a vacation!

OK NOW - time for our next adventure: a week on Roatán (1 of the Bay Islands of Honduras) and another week and a half split between 2 stops each in mainland Honduras and the Guatemala highlands.

We met with travel partners Jennifer, Susie (childhood friends of mine), and Susie's Mike in Portland; our trip down went well, though we recommend avoiding midnight flights and 4-5 hour layovers when possible.

Still, spirits were high and we were eventually granted our 1st peek; moments later we were crossing airport tarmac on the island of Roatán, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Susie and her Mike

My Mike and Jennifer

We took a few minutes to settle into our rooms at Posada Arco Iris on Half Moon Bay in West Bay Village before hitting the beach out front.

Posada Arco Iris has a lovely setting and great location. The rooms are 'shaggy chic' and comfortably appointed - we were pleased with our choice and would stay there again. Boo on screwing up reservations we made 8 months ago and a shout out to Susie, Mike, and Jennifer for being such great sports about the room changes.

Here you see the entrance,

the steps to our top floor apartment,

Mike modeling the porch,

the jungliness (pretty sure that's a word),

and our beach spot out front (aka Jennifer's Office).


West End caters to tourists but keeps a laid back charm. Most of the village is lined on both sides with cafes, shops, and dive ops but on the north end along Half Moon Bay where we stayed, palms and sand and that gorgeous water control the west side of the street. I hope the personality of the village shows in these photos.

Proof I was there.

Lots of creative signs.

Typical Latin American dichotomies: boat after boat disgorging fish onto the beach from the Roatán Marine Reserve...

...and Save Our Seahorses sign at the Marine Reserve office decorated with dozens of dead seahorses.

The sunsets were lovely, including the calm one below and the one with local kids flinging sand around Mike's feet below that.

Here's a little cross section of the activities we enjoyed. Not represented (because we didn't fit them in), are the butterfly place, the Arboretum, Yubu Garifuna experience in Punta Gorda, Gumbalimba Park, West Bay, and the other 95% of the island. I figure anything we didn't do this time (and/or haven't fit in on our other 3 visits) is an excuse to return.

Susie, her Mike, and Jennifer headed to Anthony's Key Resort for a hands on dolphin experience.

Jennifer hopped a cab to the Carambola Garden and Reserve in Sandy Bay; I was diving or would have joined her on this one - hiking there has been a favorite activity of mine on previous trips. She made it to the top of the island.

One afternoon we met home town friends Linda and Loyal at their dive shop and they took us to their beautiful condo near the south end of West End.

One of our few prearranged activities was a visit to Steel Pan Alley, a steel drum school in Gravel Bay, about half an hour from West End on the south side of the island. The director, Deborah, is a retired music teacher who has lived on the island for many years. She teaches local kids how to play the drums and visitors can learn how to play and about the history of the music from Deborah and the boys. She promised 'zero to music in 2 hours'. Boy, does she run a tight ship! I was a little afraid of her but it was a great experience and I am already enjoying the Christmas CD of the boys' music I brought home.

Gravel Bay is off the tourist track so the sightseeing alone was worth the cost of admission. The boys gave up the better part (as in most of as well as the part they were in the lead) of a Honduras World Cup match to work with us; here is a local fan gathering watching a community tv.

Mike has chronic fishbrain so in addition to the shared activities, his focus was fishing. He didn't land a lot of fish but met some great people and saw some beautiful sights along the way. He didn't land any permit but saw more than he's ever seen, including some huge ones, always a treat. In the 3rd photo you can see he scored a tuna - more on that later.

For Susie, her Mike, and me, scuba diving has been the prevailing activity. Sometimes we dove together and sometimes separately since we have different levels of experience and different preferences.

I really enjoyed the variety of dive sites - deep, shallow, sand, coral, caves, swim-throughs, and wrecks. Susie and I also had an awesome night dive where we swam around with dive lights spotting shrimp, lobsters, octopi, and eels, then sat on the sand as a group and turned out all the lights to play with bioluminescence. As if that wasn't magical enough, we ascended in the dark and climbed onto the boat just in time for a massive meteor to drag itself across the sky and explode.

I identified more than 80 species including some really tiny, well-camouflaged ones I couldn't have spotted without excellent dive masters. Here are a few more favorite photos from our dive time with Scuba Roatán - an awesome, smallish shop, highly recommended.

The dive shop featuring 3 divemasters and a (kissing) boat captain.

Dive orientation

I dove 2 wrecks; the photo below is from the Aguila

and here's a shot of me (and a buddy) diving the Odyssey.

Flamingo tongue (1 inch, like a snail)

Peacock flounder

Big blue parrotfish - cheese!

Another treat - a huge grouper having its teeth cleaned by shrimp and wrasse. Sometimes you see fish lined up for a turn at these cleaning stations.

Always a great dive if you see turtles.

Underwater friends Susie (left) and Stacey.

Lettuce slug (2 inches)

Pillar coral, feeding

Fan worm and friends

Trumpet fish

Coral detail

Flat file fish - 1 of my 2 favorite dive photos of the trip (1 inch)

My 2nd to last dive I had the divemaster to myself and he chose to take me to a dive site called Hole in the Wall and neighboring Swiss Cheese where we spent more than an hour exploring every alcove, overhang, cave and swim-through we could find - 1 of my all time favorite dives.

Spiny lobster


Other favorite dive photo :-)

On Saturday, our last full day together, my Mike and Jennifer joined us and we dove a site - Happily Ever After - with good snorkeling for them near by.

Susie and her Mike holding hands.

I couldn't go up and he couldn't go down so no hand-holding for my Mike and me, but we took photos of each other.

We shopped locally and ate some meals in and enjoyed a variety of meals out. This photo is from Taco Tuesday ($1 each!) at Monkey Island. We met home town friends Linda and Loyal there for dinner.

This fabulous barbecue stand is on the beach in front of our hotel - $5/plate including fresh fish like tuna or wahoo. MmmmMmm....

Mike bought more than 2 pounds of barracuda from a local fisherman; since barracuda can contain toxins, the locals told us how to test it and we got help from the housekeeping staff. Basically it entailed leaving a small piece of the meat with bone where a certain sort of ant could eat it. We heard 2 versions: 1) if the ants won't eat it, it's bad or 2) if they eat it and die, it's bad. The housekeepers spent half an hour with him finding the right place for the right ants and watching for the results (really sorry I don't have a picture of that!); they determined ours was good and this was the result. Mike said it was 1 of the best meals of his life.

When the strawberry cheesecake and peach ice cream is this good and it's warm out, eat fast.

Remember that tuna Mike caught? He made a delicious ceviche, I arranged for 1 of the housekeepers to make fresh tortillas for us, and Susie contributed mangos that plunked down out of the mango trees by their room. Note the classic Honduran beer on the left - Salva Vida (in Spanish "Life Saver").

Good food and good people = perfect last night together on Roatán.

Susie, Jennifer, and I left on the early ferry to the mainland Sunday morning; the Mikes had 1 more night and flew home mid day Monday. I hope this set of photos gives a broader sense of our time together, though obviously not every activity and flavor and color of blue we experienced is represented.

Happy trails!

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