Diving on Roatan Island, Honduras

Roatan, Honduras

My route was from Savannah to Miami to Roatan, Honduras. Arrival in Roatan was routine and after a 30-minute wait in line at passport control, we collected our suitcases and then – not till then! – did they insist we get internet on our phones to fill out an online form, which was confusing. Finally, I got help finishing the form and easily found my driver Samuel. We drove on a road that was partly dirt and partly brand-new concrete construction. They were widening the road and making several large cuts into the red earth to build more buildings. It looked like a typical Central American country with concrete homes, mango trees, and small shops. I saw a modern grocery store under construction along the way to the West End and cute, uniformed school kids leaving a smart-looking elementary school.

Dive Day One

I did three great dives today. The sponges and soft corals are awesome here. I saw many barracuda, including one getting his teeth cleaned by tiny shrimp, jellyfish that live on the sandy bottom, and baby puffer fish living in sea lettuce.

On dive two, my weight belt was shifted and I kept leaning left, causing my BCD to rub my neck painfully.

On dive three, I wore a neck gaiter and made sure my weight was evened out. We drifted along a wall. I love walls and I love drifting. You go in one place and the boat picks you up in another. Very little effort is required when you drift.

I feel a little dizzy now so I’m going to ask if I can dive with nitrox tomorrow.

Dive Day Two

With my new dive computer (it’s a watch you wear in the water and it shows you your depth, the water temperature, how long you have been under, and manages your three-minute safety stop at the end at around 20ft deep) plus my wonderful dive socks, I was doing great today.

On dive one we saw hundreds of cool jellyfish that live on the sandy bottom. On the second dive, we saw three green turtles. It was magical. There were several large curious groupers who joined our dive team for quite a while. On dive three we saw a huge school of cute blue fish that surrounded us and swam with us for several minutes. We saw the biggest barracuda yet beyond a tall wall. We saw tiny nudibranchs, crabs with legs about as thin as a piece of yarn, a king crab, a toadfish, parrot fish, and all the usual others. There were lots of tube sponges in orange, purple, and tan colors. There were large fan corals and a multicolored brain coral, but I suspect that might be from bleaching, which isn’t good.

We explored a coral reef nursery and saw some little critters already inhabiting it. It was constructed as follows: There was a chain attached to something heavy on the bottom. There was a rope attached to the chain. Strung over the rope was a PVC tree. Attached to the PVC were fragments of coral. New coral organisms were attached to the dead coral fragments. Small crabs and nudibranchs were living on the fragments. The rope coming out of the PVC tree was attached to a buoy to keep the trees upright. There were about 100 of these undulating tree things.

Before dinner, I took a water taxi to West Bay. It was a nothing burger down there. I walked through a resort to the comically small “mall” I had seen on Google Maps. It had about 5 shops in it. I was looking for yarn or string to crochet with. There are just basically tee shirts, drinks, and snacks in all the shops. There was a hip organic produce market and three or four large hotels. As I was leaving in the water taxi (there’s no direct road between the West End and West Bay) I saw a guy with an entire mobile drinks bar on a kayak that he served to the floaters in the water. There’s no surf, I presume because of the reef, which is incredibly close. Sometimes, Sterling, our dive master says we will be at the dive site in 30 seconds, 5 minutes, or 10 minutes. This is a treat because in Okinawa, for example, the ride to the dive sites was 2 hours on a loud, crowded boat.

The smoke is gone and the weather is a bit fresher. Being outdoors is a total sweat bath at all times except at breakfast. I have A/C in my room but it only works when my keycard is in the slot when I’m there, so there’s always a delay in cooling down the room, then at night it’s too cold.

All meals are outside in a covered restaurant seating area. They have homemade bread here for breakfast. I had an omelet for breakfast, a chicken wrap for lunch, and a shrimp pizza for dinner with a fresh pineapple smoothie. I have absolutely no complaints about the food or service. The diving is top-notch. The instructors are excellent and funny. The boats are easy to get in and out of. They kindly let me take off my weight belt and BCD with the heavy tank in the water so I am able to walk up the short ladder unencumbered. We enter the water by falling backward while seated on the edge of the boat, which I love doing. I injured my groin on the liveaboard last summer in St. Maarten when I jumped 10 feet down into the water and additionally injured my Achilles getting out of the water and climbing the steps back to the main deck with my tank on.

Ooh, look at me, still awake like a big girl at 8:20 pm. Diving is exhausting in a great way. Goodnight for now.

Dive Day Three

Today was another three-dive day, so it was awesome. I saw a cool little white snake with pretty white diamonds on his back. He was winding around on the rocks. We saw two flounders on the sandy bottom. One was tiny and one was about the size of a dinner plate. They looked like moving pieces of sand. A giant king crab was living in a tube sponge. There were pretty fans, several giant schools of fish, itty-bitty crabs, a cowfish, and some fish that were almost faster than I could see darting from here to there. Near a wall, I saw dozens of schools of mini fish that were perhaps 1000 strong in each school. Some were tiny, some were very small and the next size up mimicked their parents’ half-orange, half-purple color. In the sand, sometimes I saw these fields of animals that looked like a very delicate flower bud. When you get too close, they snap close and disappear into the sand.

The people on dive trips are always interesting. Today we said goodbye to pharmacist Greg and his whip-smart 16-year-old, 200+ dive daughter Ella from Tacoma. We said hello to nurse anesthetist Palomita from Omaha (originally Tajikistan) and Paul and Lucy from Wisconsin. Paul just submitted his applications to medical school and his girlfriend Lucy has another semester before she graduates. She’s an experienced diver while Paul did his first three real-world dives with us today. I’ll be diving with Ian from Canada all week. He’s a former Canadian military officer who kept the peace in the Sinai Peninsula and later worked in Brussels with NATO.

A few folks thought it would be fun to play with some little jellyfish. They lifted them and took photos while they were floating around. No harm done, right? Well, after they touched their faces with their hands, they had itchy, stinging blotches there. Like all good divers, I try not to touch anything. Not rocks, not the sandy bottom, which kicks up the sand and makes the water murky, not fish or jellies, not coral, not the bottom of the boat, and not even the mooring line which has tiny stinging mini corals growing on it. Some folks barrel through every location, kicking everything and everyone with their fins, kneeling in the sand, and resting on rocks, which is better than resting on corals but it’s disturbing to watch them.

So I’m nursing a few small boo-boos, like a blister on the back of my left heel at the exact point where the fin hits my heel and which stings every second of every dive. But I walked around the town and found a pharmacy and bought waterproof band-aids! So, I’m thinking of taking tomorrow off. I might need more rest than I’m getting. It’s also tempting to dive while the conditions are so good. You never know when it’s going to change.

Dive Day Four

I skipped the first dive today to visit an animal sanctuary. Lots of stupid people take in baby wild animals and then have to give up the animal when it gets big, dangerous, or expensive. This sanctuary takes in these animals and run a sort of zoo with birds, sloths, monkeys, and some sort of rodent that lives on this island.

I was able to hold a sloth, which was a really fun experience. It was lighter than I expected. Sloths are docile and not dangerous. They only voluntarily come down from the trees once a week to poop. They have very slow metabolisms because the leaves they eat are basically poisonous to them but with their slow digestion, it doesn’t hurt them. Sloths never fight with each other, and the mixed members plunked together in these sanctuaries quickly come together and form families. The monkeys and the parrots just were directed to jump on my hat or shoulder and we couldn’t pet them. They were more dangerous than the sloths. Both the parrot and the monkey were heavier than I expected.

I was surprised to make it back to the dive hotel in time for the 11 am dive. I hustled to get ready but I made it. We were finally a big group so the boat was crowded. It’s hard to remember to do everything you need to do to go diving in the correct order and when you double the people, you double the difficulty. It was a nice dive, but nothing special.

Here’s a list of how I get ready:

  1. Put on a dry-ish bathing suit
  2. Drink my last drink of water for the next 90 minutes
  3. Bandage my left heal which needs some protection from the fin since I got a blister early
  4. Put on my gaiter, dive socks, and rash guard
  5. Put up my hair.
  6. Put on my shortie wetsuit
  7. Walk to the boat
  8. Board the boat
  9. Put on my weight belt – I dive with 15 lbs
  10. Stow my sun hat and put on my dive cap
  11. Spray my mask with soapy water
  12. Rinse my mask from the plain water tank
  13. Turn on my tank
  14. Check my regulator gauge to make sure I have over 3000 PSI in my tank
  15. Press the mouthpiece to make sure air comes out
  16. Sit down and put on my fins
  17. Attempt to get into the BCD (buoyancy control device (vest)) – I always need help here
  18. Secure the velcro belt
  19. Find the regulator gauge
  20. Secure the second waist strap over the regulator gauge
  21. Secure the chest strap and tighten the side straps
  22. Shake out my mask and put it on, making sure there is not even a single strand of hair to cause a leak
  23. Finish the ride to the dive site
  24. Listen to the dive briefing
  25. Get hoisted to my feet by two strong men
  26. Shuffle to the side of the boat and sit on the edge
  27. Wait for the previous diver to get out of the way and listen for the all-clear sign
  28. Fall back into the water
  29. Fill my BCD with air
  30. Look under the water to see how far down the reef is
  31. Wait for the signal to descend and start the dive

Today we were all watching a beautiful green turtle snoozing under a ledge. One diver, who seems continually oblivious and is a pretty destructive diver, swam right up to and nearly stepped on the turtle, who, of course, woke up and started to swim away. Then the man saw the turtle and turned to us and pointed to the turtle as if he were the first one to see it. I don’t even think he figured out what he had done.

After the dive, I showered off, stowed my gear, walked back to my room, washed my bathing suit and rash guard in the sink, and hung it to dry. Despite the high humidity here, everything dries in less than 24 hours. Then I showered and washed my hair and finally got into dry clothes. I rested, talked to my mom, and ate dinner. I chatted in Spanish with Eli, the hotel manager, and his girlfriend. Eli introduced me to a great Guatemalan singer named Ricardo Arjona.

Now I’m writing here writing and watching TV. I’m out of yarn so I’m done doing crochet till I can find some. I’m really just a few days from being in Guatemala. Maybe I’ll find something beautiful and local there.

Dive Day Five

I got in all three dives today. We saw turtles and big schools of fish. Lucy took some pictures of me, which she will send later. I ate dinner with her and Paul. She is a storyteller and Paul is a super-smart young guy who is headed to med school. Lucy did three study abroad programs so she has 1 more semester till she graduates with a double major in public health and Spanish.

Dive Day Six

I only got in two dives today because I leave tomorrow. The dives were fun and I saw a brown spotted ray and a gray ray.

I checked the weather in Antigua Guatemala and it will be warm but cooler than here with less humidity. Mexico City looks even better.

After lunch, I asked about going on an island tour but they quoted me $150 and I wasn’t interested in spending that much money. Instead, I walked up the road and got in a taxi with two ladies and their two-year-old daughter. They were all so nice and driver Dennis took me all over looking for yarn. I finally found it at a large, modern shopping center at a store called De Todo. At least now I can keep learning and keep busy doing anything but look at Instagram and my photos.