Tues 27-Thur 29 November - Day 32 to 34 - Roatán Island, Honduras

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Central America Caribbean » Honduras » Bay Islands » Roatán
November 29th 2018
Published: December 1st 2018
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Tues 27-Thur 29 November - Day 32 to 34 - Roatán Island

Today we headed to the idyllic Roatán Island. This is the largest of the beautiful sun-soaked Caribbean Bay Islands. Development on the island means there was plenty to do, but it was also easy to find a deserted beach lapped by warm Caribbean waters. Here we found palm-fringed lagoons, turquoise water, friendly locals, lively nightlife and stunning underwater scenery, with some of the cheapest diving and snorkelling in the world!

We caught the Galaxy Wave ferry across to the island. This took around 1.5 hours. With a swell (which is normal) many people were sick. Tom was OK as he had taken a sea-sick tablet and slept most of the way!!

A minibus picked us up as Alfredo had organised it beforehand. Gosh, he is so efficient as everything always ran smoothly. It was only 20 minutes to our Hotel Seagrape which provided large rooms, beautiful pool, dive shop, restaurant, wifi hot spots (our room was close to one, so we could sometimes get wifi in our room) and very helpful staff. I needed a document printed then scanned and they were very good to do this at no charge.

We had a very ‘relaxing’ (you all know me!!) 2 ½ days on the island. The restaurant strip provided extensive restaurant outlets and lots of tourist shops. West End is the most popular tourist town. Each day 3-4 cruise ships come into the harbour so it can be busy from 10.00am – 3.00pm. Sometimes there was anything up to 12,000 extra tourists, including many Americans. It was easy to dodge them at the various tourist sited by going early or later.

We got to have a favourite pub which we went to several time for drinks and dinner. Upstairs was the best as the views were spectacular and there was always a breeze. All the outlets were very rustic and unique.

Roatán is an island in the Caribbean, about 65 kms off the northern coast of Honduras. It is located between the islands of Utila and Guanja and is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras.

The island was formerly known as Ruatan and Rattan. It is approximately 77 kms long, and less than 8 kms across at its widest point.

The most populous town of the island is Coxen Hole, capital of Roatán municipality, located in the southwest. West of Coxen Hole are the settlements of Gravel Bay, Flowers Bay and Pensacola on the south coast, and Sandy Bay, West End (where we stayed) and West Bay on the north coast. To the east of Coxen Hole are the settlements of Mount Pleasant, French Harbour, Parrot Tree, Jonesville and Oakridge on the south coast, and Punta Gorda on the north coast.

Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage (1502–1504) came to the islands as he visited the neighbouring Bay Island of Guanaja. Soon after the Spanish began raiding the islands for slave labour. More devastating for Native American communities where no indigenous people survived the consequent an infectious disease epidemic.

Throughout European colonial times, the Bay of Honduras attracted an array of individual settlers, pirates, traders and military forces. On several occasions, the islands were subject to military occupation. In contesting with the Spanish for colonisation of the Caribbean, the English occupied the Bay Islands on and off between 1550 and 1700.

In 1797, the British defeated the Black Carib, who had been supported by the French, in a battle for control of the Windward Caribbean island of St Vincent. The majority of Black Carib migrated to Trujillo on mainland Honduras, but a portion remained to find the community of Punta Gorda on the northern coast of Roatán, on the eastern end of the island. We visited this little village during the day we hired a motor bike for the day. Punta Gorda offered cultural dance performances but we were running out of time as we didn’t start the bike ride until 11.00am.

The majority permanent population of Roatán originated from the Cayman Islands. They arrived in the 1830s shortly after Britain's abolition of slavery in 1838. Former slaveholders from the Cayman Islands were among the first to settle in the seaside locations throughout primarily western Roatán.

For a brief period in the 1850s, Britain declared the Bay Islands its colony. Within a decade, the Crown ceded the territory formally back to Honduras.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the island populations grew steadily and established new settlements all over Roatán and the other islands. Settlers came from all over the world and played a part in shaping the cultural face of the island. Later several fruit companies became the foundation for the island’s industry which led to Honduras being called a "banana republic".

In the 20th & 21st century, numerous American, Canadian, British, New Zealand, Australian and South African settlers and entrepreneurs engaged chiefly in the fishing industry, and later, provided the foundation for attracting the tourist trade.

In 1998, Roatán suffered some damage from Hurricane Mitch, temporarily paralysing most commercial activity.

English is the first language of native islanders regardless of race and Spanish is spoken second, whereas mainland Honduras is Spanish-speaking. It remains this way because of the islands' past as a British colony with descendants of the British Isles.

I went scuba diving twice with a PADI registered dive outfit attached to the Hotel Seagrape where we stayed. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, 2nd largest barrier reef in the world was in good condition with cliffs of coral and many colourful tropical fish. We saw a large green turtle, massive crab hiding under coral, drum, star, scorpion and parrot fish to name a few as well as a nassau grouper. Each dive cost $35 USD (all prices are quoted in USD but we could pay in both Honduras Lempira (17 HNL = $1AUD) and USD.

All reef systems throughout the Bay Islands are protected by the local and central government with help from charitable donations and those on the front line. Through local donations to the Marine Park and the many causes along with a concerted effort from the resorts on the island weekly clean-ups are undertaken to insure no metals or plastics litter the reef system and beaches as well as all major dive shops doing clean-ups on most of their daily dives.

Our favourite restaurants in West End were the Cannibal Café and a ? bar owned by a Canadian. The blue cheese burger was excellent (recommended by Jim from Melbourne).

On our motorbike day we visited the Iguana Reserve which was fascinating. As iguanas have many predators when they are little, the Reserve was established to increase their numbers through protecting the young. Every September 100s of iguanas’ hatch in the Reserve and are eventually released around the unfenced Reserve. The iguanas stay around the Reserve because they are fed regularly.

Initially when we headed east, we were trying to look for the Zipline Nature Reserve, not so much for the zipline, but it had cappuccino and spider monkeys, macaws, green parrots, but more importantly, sloths and lemmas (who was very much asleep and in the dark). It was closed by the time we passed the reserve for the 3rd time. The signage was not good. Unfortunately, it was closed but I talked the staff into letting me in saying that we were leaving the next morning. They were very good about it and found me a guide. I held a cappuccino monkey, a crimson macaw sat on my shoulders but best of all I cuddled a 3-year-old sloth. They cling to you so tightly with their long arms/legs and their long claws. He was very cute. The guide had to climb up a tall ladder to get him. Usually I would have said to leave him asleep, but I so wanted to see one up and personal. The rate at which he started to climb back up the tree was incredibly slow – just like in slow motion. He was very cute. My day was made. I wish Tom had agreed to come in with me as I love experiencing things with him, but he felt it wasn’t worth it. Very sad.

We got back too late to drop the bike off before 5.00pm but I took it back in the morning before we left at 9.00am for Costa Rica.

We saw 6 members of our group going to dinner on the way back to our hotel so dropped the bike off at the hotel, changed our clothes and walked back into the restaurant strip to join them for a local beer and a blue cheese burger.

That was the last event for the beautiful island of Roatan. We had appreciated the length of time on the island during our busy travel schedule and were now excited about spending 9 days in Costa Rica.

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