Roatan,Honduras trip report-Feb. 6-13, 2016
Having been to Roatan before and staying at Coco View I was able to see how the south side (leeward side) of the island was with all the wall diving but I always wondered how the north side (windward side) would be compared to the south side. When the opportunity came up to do a combined trip with PCH Scuba to Turquoise Bay Resort on the north side of Roatan the week of Feb. 6-13, 2016 I jumped at the chance. We each had 14 for a total of 28 people of all ages and levels of diving and a few non-divers along for a nice relaxing week away from home. The trip turned out great even if we had stormy weather the entire time. Rained most every day, windy and not even enough sun to take my sunglasses out of their case for the whole trip. You just have to make do with what Mother Nature gives you and hope for the best which is what everyone did.
We picked Turquoise Bay because the rates are good and they had a beach & pool plus we could dive spots on the north side of the island and see how different it was from the south side. From what I have been told the north side is more reef like instead of the walls on the south side and there is more fish life. As it turned out because of the weather no one had the chance to try out any of that. Luckily for us, Subway Watersports the dive shop that works with Turquoise Bay and has a shop a nice shop at the resort also has a facility with boats on the south side so we didn’t miss any diving but I sure feel for them having to bus everyone including the tanks and gear back and forth every day.
The ride from Turquoise Bay to the Subway 44 shop was about 20 minutes and we could do 3 dives a day. Some people stayed for all 3 dives and others didn’t but either way there was always a ride back when you needed it. The normal routine for us was 2 dives in the morning with us coming back to the dock in-between dives for a change of tanks and bathroom stop for some. After the second dive we would have lunch at French 44, the restaurant next to the dive shop and then go back out for the third dive. The food we were served at the restaurant was a fixed meal and we all got the same thing unless you had some special dietary needs. It was an arrangement the shop had with the restaurant which might change in the near future. For drinks they only had soda, water and alcohol. It was a little hard to believe they had NO hot drinks (coffee or tea), ice tea, lemonade or juice.
I have to say the 1st and 2nd day there seemed to be lots of confusion on what was happening but then the shop not only had our 2 groups and a third from Iowa but they also had someone from our group switching people around in boats. After everything got sorted out and figured out it went well and the dive shop staff did a great job and were always there to help and make the most out of our trip. I have been to Roatan before when the weather was nice and I thought the diving was OK then. With the weather we had this trip which was cold topside because of the wind and clouds and the cooler water temperatures, it was again to me just OK. We were told the water temp was in the mid 80’s the week or 2 before but it dropped to a chilly high 70’s while we were there. I learned one thing-NEVER leave my 3/2 hooded vest behind on a warm water trip. We still had some good visibility on most all the dives and the seas were calm for the short boat rides to the dive sites.
Some of the dive sites we dived where-Too Tall Too Small, Mary’s Place, Calvin’s Crack, Gold Chain, Sponge Gardens, Shark Bait, Mr. Bud, Iron Shore, Forty Foot Point, Missing Link and Pirates Point. They were all a short ride from the dive shop and all along a wall. Typical we would dive into the little current there was at a depth around 60 feet and then turn and come along the upper part of the wall or over the shallows. I have to admit that after a few days it all started to seem the same.
The one thing that has changed in the last few years since I was there last is that the green morays have become very aggressive towards the divers. Several people with larger camera rigs including myself had to use them to hit the morays to keep them away from us. If you didn’t have a camera or GoPro pole you just had to be very cautious if they were around and they didn’t just come out of the reef and say hello and go back into their holes. We also had one person in our group on her second dive of the trip get bit by one along the left thumb. Luckily she was able to end her dive safely with her boyfriend and DM and we were back at the dock within a very short time. The dive shop manager got her quickly to a good doctor who took very good care of her. Two hours later she had 50 stitches and no more diving for her on the trip. I really don’t know if something like this has happened before but it sounded like if it did this was the worst. I also didn’t see it all happen as I was to the back of the group so I have no idea what got the moray going to make this happen. The only thing I know for sure was that a Loinfish, the DM, possible spear pole and other people were involved.
They morays would follow you along the reef a very long ways going in and out of the reef and sometimes swimming so far out they might be 50′ from the reef. This is what happens when you try and change nature! Lionfish get killed and fed to other animals and their behavior changes. Some places you have friendly groupers because they get feed lionfish and other places you get aggressive morays. There are already sites they avoided to go to because of this problem. The question now is what do you do when you changed the behavior of something and made things worse?
Anyways, staying at Turquoise Bay was nice and they had an excellent staff especially in the dining/kitchen/bar area. There were always workers out cleaning the grounds and they were always very friendly. They even had a couple security guards with guns on their side looking like cowboys. The big question was who or what were they protecting from who? The food was great with plenty of choices and more of it seemed to have a Honduran twist. A few nights they had people selling things like jewelry, bags and carvings. On two nights they had a musician playing music in the dining and bar area and a couple other nights they had fire dancers and local dancers doing a show. They even showed the Super bowl on Sunday. I thought it was strange because it was the first place I can remember being at that we could get LA news and the east coast news all at the same time. We did have some power outages because of the weather but luckily they had a generator that worked every time like they should.
The resort itself is spread out and built going up a hill. From the beach there are what I will call 4 levels as you go up. The first is the lower level where you will find the beach, dive shop & gear cleaning/storage area and 8 non-ocean view rooms. The dive shop also has a channel cut so they have their own little safe harbor for their boats. The second level or main level is the office, lobby, dining room and restaurant, bar, pool and 4 of the ocean view rooms. The third level has 2 more buildings each with 4 ocean view rooms and the fourth level has another 4 ocean view rooms.
Everything is connected by stairs or cobble stone walkways which didn’t work too well for a few people but no worries the office was able to and happy to place them in another room that was closer to everything. The rooms were spacious with a desk and dresser and a large bathroom. We also had a nice view out our sliding door of the ocean and beach. The AC ran perfect for my wife and I even if I could never figure out how to use it. We don’t care for it being too cold and if we did I would have gone to the office to get some help. The one thing for sure if you do go to Turquoise Bay is don’t expect a 5 star place. It worked well but the furniture all looked like it came from a thrift store and whoever painted our bathroom could have done 100% plus better if they had used a roll of tape and cleaned up their mess afterwards.
For dining breakfast was from 7:00 am-9:00 am, lunch was 12:00 pm-2:00 pm and dinner was 7:00 pm-9:00 pm although they cleaned everything up about 8:15 pm. If you were getting in late for lunch and asked they would hold your meal till you arrived back. The bar was open from 10:00-10:00 and was also the place to get non-alcoholic drinks during the day. The bar tender everyday was Rocky except for a fill in on Monday and he was always there with a smile. Like I mentioned earlier I enjoyed the food and all the choices. When I travel I do like to try things from the area (not everything) and I did like the Honduran twist on things and better yet my stomach handled it all with no problems. For breakfast they always had out different breads and spreads, some type of meat and potatoes and beans, sometimes pancakes or French toast and always someone making omelets or eggs to your choice. Because we were bused to the other side of the island for diving I only ate lunch twice and I did hear there was always plenty of choices. For dinner they had a soup area, salad area, some side dishes of beans, potatoes, or rice along with veggies and always someone making the main course. If you went hungry it was your own choice.
For other activities they had nature walks and horseback riding for free on the property but most never got to those things because of the weather. I know some were planning to go zip lining but I think the weather also changed that. On Friday our last day it rained a lot so that changed many people’s plans. Some went into town for some shopping and my wife & I went to Gumbalimba Park that you pay to get into to see birds, monkeys and other things but it turned out we didn’t get to see quite a bit of it because the power was out and the one person who could start the generator wasn’t there and to top that off the shops were closed because it wasn’t a day when the cruise ships were in. It would have been nice if they told us that before we paid to get in. We also stopped by the Carambola Gardens which we had been to before and if ever back in Roatan will go again. Speaking of cruise ships Roatan has about 4-5 cruise ships coming in every week and of course that is when things get hopping in town. Talking to our driver the minimum wage for someone in Roatan is about $400.00 per month so the cruise ships are a necessity for them.
Overall we had a good time and made the most of our trip. I would go back to Roatan but it would be quite a while before I do. Now that I have been to Roatan twice diving the same areas I personally think the diving is better other places like Bonaire or Belize. If I went back I would go back to Turquoise Bay because I want to experience what we missed out on due to the weather.
By Ken Kollwitz