THE BAY ISLANDS, HONDURAS
Whale Sharks, dolphins and spectacular reefs
Season: Year-round diving
Visibility: 30-40m/100-130ft, sometimes up to 60m/200ft
Water Temperature: 26-29°C/79-84°F
Special Offer: BUY ONE GET ONE HALF PRICE! Book a stay at Anthony's Key Resort for travel between 17 August - 5 October 2013, 26 October - 23 November 2013 and 30 November - 21 December 2013 and the second traveler gets 50% off accommodation and diving. Must be booked between 21 May 2013 and 5 July 2013. Full payment required at the time of booking.
Diving: Wrecks, sharks, Whale Sharks, house reef, walls, sea mounts, coral Gardens, shore diving
Snorkeling opportunities (Anthonys Key Resort)
Willing to share option: Utila Aggressor
Non-diving activities: dolphin Summer Camp, Horseback riding, hiking, kayaking, beach picnic (Anthonys Key Resort)
Sandwiched between Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua is the little-visited Central American country of Honduras. The Bay Islands of Roatan, Guanaja and Utila, as well as numerous small cays and islets, are to be found in the beautiful southern Caribbean Sea off the coast of mainland Honduras and have developed a reputation for offering some great diving.
The Bay Islands have all that a diver could require for a dream holiday. Volcanic peaks surrounded by coral reefs form part of the world’s second biggest barrier reef system which stretches down from Mexico through Belize and on to Honduras. A diverse variety of dive sites from shallow lagoons to seamounts, walls and sheer drop-offs is matched by an equally diverse population of marine life. Jungle-topped islands with swaying palm trees and deserted coral sand beaches dot the landscape. The larger islands have villages along the shores yet the small remote cays are seemingly untouched by civilization. Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands and it is there, amongst the green and gently rolling hills as a background, that Anthony’s Key Resort is situated. Utila is the westernmost of the Bay Islands and is home to the Utila Aggressor.
Graceful giants of the ocean, Whale Sharks, migrate through Honduran waters every year from February to June, peaking in February, May and June. These delightful fish (the largest fish in the ocean) are really the stars of the show in Honduras and are now a protected species. Whale Sharks exhibit an amazing tolerance towards inquisitive and awe-struck divers. If you have never shared your personal space with a Whale Shark, now is the time to start! Coral grows thickly on the reef walls in Honduras and many dive sites start at as little as 10 metres. At Tabyana Reef and Half Moon Bay dramatic rock and coral formations bottom out at 30 metres to a white sandy sea bed. Schooling Horse-eye Jacks, morays and lobsters can be found here as well as a host of rainbow-coloured smaller creatures such as Blue Chromis, the ubiquitous Creole Wrasse, shy little blennies, crabs and fairy-like shrimps.
A labyrinth of tunnels and caves cut through the reef in shallow water and eventually lead to an inner lagoon at Dolphin Den. Not only are dolphins frequently found here but the tunnels are usually filled with the flashing silver shimmering of thousands of silversides. Sunlight pours through the opening in the rock illuminating these delightful tiny fish that form beautiful shapes and patterns as they twist and turn as if they were but a single creature.
Pepper Point is a dive with beautiful topography and some fascinating marine life. The wall slopes away to a sandy shelf at about 35 metres with many large, shelf-like coral formations cascading down from the crenulated reef top. The entire formation makes for a series of mini pinnacles, grooves and ridges with sandy holes populated by a large number of fish. Blackcap Basslets flit about close to the recesses and can often be seen swimming ‘upside down’ with their undersides facing the ceiling of the recess. Pretty and colourful, violet and golden Fairy Basslets hide in the recesses and may retreat further, unless one approaches with care, but patience will be rewarded, as these beautiful fish will re-emerge to offer a great show if you hang around for a few minutes. Sand flats are always a fascinating place to look for the more discreet species, including Peacock Flounders and of course the shy Brown Garden Eels which sway tantalizingly before disappearing down their burrows. Search carefully for the strange Large-eyed Toadfish at the contact zone between the reef and the sand – its weird face may be the only part you see, peeping out from a hole in the reef. This amazing fish, with its wide flattened head, has a series of barbules or branched, fleshy ‘whiskers’ protruding from its chin, rather like a witch in a children’s fairy tale.
Close to Anthony’s Key Resort, and one of their regular dive sites, is El Aquila or ‘The Eagle’, a freighter which ran cargo between Puerto Cortes, Honduras and San Andres Island. The vessel sank, close to Utila island, in the early 1990s but was salvaged and brought to Anthony’s Key Resort, where she was re-sunk and now features as one of the highlight dives in the area. The ship is intact and rests perfectly upright on a sandy bottom in around 30 metres. Coral growth is not completely established but already the wreck provides homes for many reef fish and also some larger inhabitants. Cero, or Spanish Mackerel, can be found in this area. These slim, silver and gold, and usually solitary fish are cousins to barracuda and can grow up to a metre in length.
The sinking of the 100-metre Odyssey, off the north coast of Roatan and a 12-minute boat ride out of Anthony’s Key, has provided one of the Caribbean’s largest wrecks. She is 100 metres from bow to stern and almost 30 metres from keel to the tip of her mast.
The summits of the seamounts off the remote Cayos Cochinos, another area featured on Utila Aggressor cruises, are found at about 10 metres. Enrobed with many varieties of corals and sponges, these seamounts are home to morays and reef sharks as well as large schools of Atlantic Spadefish. Search the cracks and crevices for arrowcrabs, lobsters and nudibranchs.
COMBINATIONS: It is easy to combine a liveaboard cruise on Utila Aggressor with a shore-based stay at Anthony’s Key Resort with its wonderful Bottle-nosed Dolphins. There are local flights between Utila and Roatan. Talk to us about the possibilities.
FLIGHTS: Example price: From about $284 return from Miami to San Pedro Sula.