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Published: June 22nd 2009
Day 795 (03.06.09) to Day 799 (07.06.09)
From a choice of two Caribbean islands, which should we go for? It doesn't sound like it should be a difficult decision really does it? And yet it's one we pondered over for some time before finally making a decision an hour or so before we caught the ferry. We had heard that some cheap diving could be had in the Bay Islands of Honduras, and before we made our way back to England and it's murkier, colder waters that we were sure not to want to dive into we wanted to squeeze in one last diving excursion. We could choose from Utila or Roatan but had met no-one who had been to both to help us with our decision.
On the one hand we had Utila with supposedly the cheaper diving and living costs of the two but we'd been told that we'd likely not be overly impressed with the diving there as the fish life wasn't that dense. On the other hand we had Roatan with reportedly better diving but it was pricier and there would be higher living costs. Roatan also had some beautiful beaches and Utila apparently couldn't
match it on that score. We wanted to dive, chill out on the beach but also stick to our tight budget as close as possible.
We went back and forth between the pro's and con's of each island and eventually decided that if we were going to spend out to dive we might as well have better diving. We also knew we couldn't afford to do much diving so would need nice beaches to chill out on for the rest of our time in the Bay Islands, Roatan seemed to fit our needs better and, having done a little more research and found out about a cheap place to stay, we opted for there.
The fast ferry from La Ceiba got us there in about an hour an a half as we sped over the blue waters and watched in amazement at the distance the multitude of flying fish could travel over the water.
The cheaper accomodation can be found at the West End section of Roatan so we teamed up with Sarah and Andy who we'd met on the bus from Rio Dulce and jumped into a taxi to travel down the island. We arrived in
front of the pretty palm-lined white sands of Half Moon Bay and knew we'd made the right decision.
Having dumped off our bags we went in search of a dive shop and found Reef Gliders. They had an accomodation deal with one of the cheapest places in West End. Every day we dived with them we'd have a free night of accomodation at the very basic but do-able Valerie's Hostel. This suited us well and we also really liked the feel of the shop, they seemed chilled out but professional and enthusiastic about the dive sites on offer. We signed up for a dive the following day and went off to spend some quality time on the beach.
We'd done some shopping at the supermarket in La Ceiba to keep things cheap (as the shops on Roatan are a bit pricier than on the mainland) so we invited Sarah and Andy over for some dinner before we headed out to a local bar to catch some live music. We'd also managed to meet up with Steve and Mags who we'd met in Rio Dulce so they joined us to watch the music and have a local beer or
Our remaining few days on the island settled into a similar routine. A dive in the morning followed by some time on the beach, sunset and a beer on the beach, an evening meal in with Sarah, Andy, Steve and Mags, ending the day with a beer on the seafront at the cheapest bar we could find, the Jamaica Bar. Although you could definitely spend it up here and live like kings if you wanted to it was also possible to find cheaper options for snacks and drinks making it far more manageable that most backpackers would think.
The diving was really enjoyable with gorgeous clear, warm water, pretty reef formations, swim throughs and plenty of fish. We got to see the always lovely turtles and rays and also saw eel gardens for the first time which we thought was really cool. Small, thin eels peek out of holes in the sandy sea floor and look almost like grass until you swim over them and they all disappear down their holes to reappear when they think the coast is clear.
Our favourite dive was our last where we dived down to see the wreck El Aguila,
the Eagle. As you only swim around the wreck and not through it we didn't need a wreck divers qualification only our advanced course which allowed us to dive deep enough to see it. Originally a German cargo ship it was sunk especially for diving just next to a reef wall, this allowed us to dive around the ship and then finish the dive on the reef.
As we descended for the dive we could gradually see the wreck looming, bigger then we'd thought it would be, from the blue waters beneath us. It was fantastic to explore the area as we made our way from stern to bow and were joined by a large and curious green moray eel. We wish we'd had a camera, the dive was superb!
On our last afternoon we walked along the coast with Steve and Mags (and their hostel dog) to visit West Bay which we'd heard was the "best beach on the island". It was beautiful. With wide white sands, clear turquoise water and amazing snorkelling just off the beach it made for an excellent afternoon's entertainment.
We finished our time on the island with some happy hour beers
at plush Chilli's bar and another group dinner where we all contributed a part. We'd had a great time here and after our initial island dilemma were certain we'd made the right choice by coming to Roatan.
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