Sunday, July 22: Roatan Day 1
I’m sitting on the water in Roatan, Honduras at Coco View drinking a cup of morning coffee, listening to the ocean waves breaking over the reef ledge that makes up coco view wall. The coffee is honest to goodness dark Honduran coffee, strong but not bitter. My view is currently of one of the locals, an iguana, protected on the Island. For an $8 donation, you can visit Iguana Hideaway and Sherman Arch, a local islander who has created a habitat for hundreds of tame iguanas, championing their preservation and protection from the cooking pot. Although they are tame, Sherman says you shouldn’t wear yellow shoes, the iguanas might think they’re bananas!
Life doesn’t suck right now. My dive gear has already been loaded on the boat by our fantastic crew for the first morning dive of the week, but I’m on island time right now so, no worries. Adventure Outfitters is on the Blue boat this week with Captain Dave and Divemaster Kirk!
CoCoView offers unlimited, 24-hour access to walk in, walk out shore diving and snorkeling along the reef in their “Front Yard,” They also offer two boat trips a day, aboard one of our unique, custom designed dive boats to Roatan’s great diving sites. You’re likely to see sea turtles, moray eels, dolphins, massive coral walls with spectacular sea sponges, and wrecks.
It took a bit to get here, a short drive to Orlando, plane to Miami then one to Roatan. The flight between Miami and Roatan is surprisingly short, only one and a half hours. It’s easy to put up with the discomfort of the current state of airline travel for that long in order to arrive here. Even Honduran immigration and customs has improved to the point that it was hardly noticeable, hardly. The short trip along the length of the island shows surprising growth and modernity coupled with poverty and neglect that makes these trips outside our country so cathartic…but I have certainly seen worse roads and conditions for locals in the world and despite some political unrest and downright hazardous conditions on the mainland, Roatan is relatively safe and secure.
I think I packed all the right gear, hopefully I hit the sweet spot of just enough to deal with all the normal dive conditions with a few spares and repair parts for small emergencies, but Dockside Dive Shop here at Coco View has enough gear and supplies if I’ve forgotten anything. Anna and I did a short checkout dive yesterday so we’re ready for Sunday’s morning dive.
Monday, July 23: Roatan Day 2
Yesterday was amazing. The water is 84-85 degrees at depth and about 97 on the surface…Anna loves the temperature on the top of the water but has already dragged out her 3 mm for the afternoon dives. Me, I’ve got my shark skin shorts and my Hammerhead freedive top. I’m just fine. At the moment, they only have aluminum tanks and I normally use steel tanks at home but there are plenty of tanks with Pro Valves, so we have been taking out the donuts to use our DIN first stages. CoCo View is amazingly accommodating and the won’t let me carry my gear to the boat, although, they do require me to analyze and log every nitrox tank I use (makes sense, everyone should be responsible for analyzing their own tanks!).
Our first dive site was First Bight Wall. The majority of the group had an orientation dive so, only a few divers on the boat, CoCo IV. Nice, easy dive with tons of pretty fish and on the wall dive back in, we saw three Spotted Eagle Rays at the safety stop before heading through the cut, back to the resort. About an hour on the dive site and 30 minutes on Newmans Ledge on the second dive. Seas were a bit rough, 3-foot or so, but the captain did our surface interval in a cove over by Fantasy Island Resort. Seemed rather dull over there compared to what we were doing… We also met some of the locals, including one of the new CoCo View canines! As you can see, we always try to find one, no matter what country we’re in!
On day two, we went to Carib Wall and 40’ Wall. Seas calmed down a bit and Capt Dave was able to take us into secluded coves for each surface interval. Fresh pineapple and watermelon for snacks with a different hard candy, supplied by Anna, each dive. Sea Horses sighted on 40’ Wall, my personal highlight, but we also encountered a few cleaning stations that are amazing to watch. You could also see Goliath Grouper swimming off the deep walls, while we were surrounded by Spade Fish, near tiny Necklace Decorator Crabs.
All truly amazing, the variety has been astounding. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen some Lionfish, not too many, but they’re here. Planning for an early morning, pre-dawn dive to the Prince Albert and possibly Newman’s Wall. Wish you were here!
Tuesday, July 24: Roatan Day 3
Went on a pre-dawn dive this morning. This is a really great dive, part night dive and part day dive but you get to see all the night time creatures going to bed plus all the day dwellers getting up. For me, it’s one of the most magical and beautiful times on a reef. Of course, the logistics can be tough if you’re not a morning person or enjoy the dockside night life a bit too much.
We hit the deck at 0400 and link up with our group immediately, no sense in going slow. Tanks were set the night before by the CoCo View crew and lights all charged and tested. At CoCo View, you may dive at any time, day or night.
There are always tanks handy and the water is a very short walk from the gear storage sheds. There is a very strict sign-out and tag policy so the resort can account for everyone and for night dives, CoCo View has a night divemaster on duty, David, who will assist you getting in the water and give advice as-needed or requested.
For me, the morning dive has been the best time to find octopus and watch lobster and crabs crawl out and about. You’ll also find parrotfish asleep among the coral and rocks, plus the brittlestars out wandering. Toward the end of the dive the sun begins to illuminate the sky and ocean. Anna turns off her lights and just sits quietly in one place to take it all in. It’s one of my top dives.
Wednesday, July 25: Roatan Day 4
Last night, Adventure Outfitters was part of a musical performance by the local Roatan children. If you do venture to CoCo View, be sure to ask about their Good Works program and the Roatan Children’s Fund. CoCo View asks for donations for medical and schools supplies to help local kids who are not as lucky as our own. They don’t have to take up a lot of room in your suitcase either! The schools are looking for supplies including packs of pencils, crayons, notebooks, book bags and children’s vitamins. As a result of the donations, they rewarded us with an amazing performance! These local kids are to compete this Saturday. We wish them the best of luck!
We were also surprised by the local musical talent, as Pat and Mike broke out their ukes for all of us yesterday evening. Basically in point, this doesn’t suck.
The Adventure Outfitters team has been all over fish identification this week. CoCo View is in the final week of a fish count month in partnership with REEF, an organization focused on “protecting marine life through education, service and research.” Every day CoCo View has been posting three fish for us to find. It’s voluntary, and participants can post on the board where they see the daily fish. Every day there’s also a drawing from the players to win prizes! Our group has won two t-shirts so far (proud teacher moment)!
The daily fish posts are really a great way to improve fish identification skills. Take a few fish, read about their phases, habitats, colors, etc… We’re all looking in every barrel sponge for a linesnout goby and discussing the peculiarities of various gobys and their habitats. Not normal dinner conversation but making all of us more knowledgable and it shines these pretty reef fish in a completely different light. We learn about their functionality, how they are valuable to the environment and now have a new-found respect for each of them!
In the CoCo View dining room, the tables are decorated with placemats covered in fish pictures. Specimens include sea slugs, sea cucumbers, butterfly fish, wrasse and many, many more. On the first night, they were just placemats, part of the décor. Now, after three days and hours under the water swimming with the fish among the coral heads, it becomes dinner conversation. We’re becoming part of this place, just a bit, and paying more attention to the reef. I have some great ideas, pictures, and footage for my next Fish Identification class and some great footage from today! Be sure to check out our Facebook page for more pictures and videos!
Thursday, July 26: Roatan Day 5
Yesterday at the end of our last dive of the day along CoCo View Wall, I found the elusive Linesnout Goby. I looked in many barrel sponges throughout the day. So, of course, on our first dive today at Mary’s Place, I immediately found three of the elusive (at least they were yesterday) Linesnout Gobys. What’s amazing to me is that I can now immediately distinguish between two species of tiny fish that I previously dismissed as simply “a goby”. I’ve been doing a huge injustice to the tiny little gobys that will not happen again. I am embracing the CoCo View fish identification contest as my own and will incorporate it into my future classes. Today the hunt is on for a Green Razorfish. We’ve already located branded butterfly fish and yellow tail damselfish.
On the swim in this morning I hung out off Newman’s Wall at about 50 feet. I enjoy just hanging in the middle of the water column with blue below and just surrounded by the deep. It’s a beautiful swim and normally huge schools of parrotfish whisk by to keep the divers company. Its truly an amazing sight and dive. Today I saw what I thought was a medium sized fish scale hanging in the water. I envisioned a final, unsuccessful flight from some large, many toothed predator, an end of the food chain for one of the many beauties swimming by. I swam over and reached out to take this small remnant of combat only to discover it was a small piece of weathered plastic. Perhaps it represents a different battle for the food chain here. Even in this pristine, well protected marine sanctuary we can’t escape evidence of the trash we are dumping into the ocean. The whole episode puts our cleanup dive into perspective and serves to remind me of how important our work with keep Tampa bay beautiful is, even here in diver paradise.
Friday, July 27: Roatan Day 6
Our week long trip to dive paradise is coming to an end. Last night, we had quite an evening in the bar with an exciting competition of hand selected racing hermit crabs. The night dive master, David, personally searched the CoCo View Resort grounds for the racing crabs. It actually wasn’t terribly difficult because the little crustaceans are everywhere. It was an exciting competition and an Adventure Outfitters thoroughbred crab made it into the semifinals but beaten out by a nose (antenna). Pat and Mike’s crab, C9 only won the silver. It was all for a good cause since the winner donated the sizable purse to the native dancers from Tuesday. After that excitement the resort took it up a notch with fire dancers. We were all seriously impressed by the young lady who gyrated around a flaming hula hoop without setting herself or us on fire. The entire troop was an amazing sight with flames and dancers hopping across the dock (fortunately with water nearby.) All very exciting and the perfect end to a long day.
This morning, Friday, is our last day of diving and since our flight departs at 1315 on Saturday we’ll end our dives just before lunch. A few of the Adventure Outfitters braved another early morning, pre-dawn dive. We we graced with an octopus, countless monster lobsters, numerous sleeping parrotfish, a drowsy scorpion fish, and young porcupine fish (I think was a Burrfish.) Its always an awesome dive and well worth the early morning wake up.
Our final dive was to one of my favorite spots, Calvin’s Crack. It’s a very dramatic site where the diver slips through a tight restriction then drops 30 feet down. The crack runs 20 or 30 yards and ends around 80 feet with an opening in the wall that plunges to 150+. Its really a dive in a lifetime. On top we looked for a seahorse and toadfish, but I think they were on an earlier flight out. Still had a wonderful, calm dive that was the perfect end to a week of endless diving. CoCo View is a dive resort for divers by divers. On our boat was a family that was on their eleventh trip here! We’ll do this trip again, but next time I’ll be bringing my rebreather!
Watch your air and dive safe.
Over and out,