keepin it real Roatan

Published: July 25th 2011
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Saturday was a chill day with two dives at French Cay Bank and CocoView Wall with the Prince Albert wreck to finish off. Unfortunately there was a cloud of stinging nettles at the end of the last dive that I swam through. The worst sting was on the lip, that really hurt. Otherwise, that night we watched the traditional dancing of the Garifuna, the first large settlement of people on Roatan. In 1797 the British left them here at what became the town of Punta Gorda after deporting them from San Vicente (an island in the Caribbean), where they had originally arrived there due to the African slave trade. Most of the dive boat captains and dive masters at Fantasy Island Resort live in Punta Gorda and are of Garifuna descent.

On Sunday morning we dove Calvin’s Crack, a swim through in the reef similar to Mary’s Place. It was a chill dive with nothing terribly exciting. We dove Missing Link next and swam among the thousands of schooling fish once again. The afternoon dive started at Crab Wall and ended at Too Tall Too Small, again a chill dive with nothing out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, we got skunked on turtles today.

In the evening we decided to venture out to Punta Gorda as we had word of a local street party. The town is extremely colorful with a wonderful laid back island style. Even though us gringas stuck out like a sore thumb amid all the dark skin, no one paid much attention, we weren’t treated any differently. Dinner was at Restaurante La Perla, a hole in the wall type of place, where they brought us each a parrotfish fried whole! We were so freakin stoked! While we picked the fish clean and drank the local Honduran beer (Port Royal and Salva Vida), we got the low down on life in the real Roatan from our new friends from the dive shop. Everyone is family in Punta Gorda, the sense of neighborhood community is unbelievable. Pedro told us of the devastation from Hurricane Mitch in 1998 when many people lost their lives and homes in an 18ft storm surge. It’s true, no one is spared from the fury of the hurricane. I was relieved to hear reggae music blaring from the stereo as I have become pretty tired of the Spanish/American pop music they play every night in the lobby here at the resort. We danced with some new Garifuna friends in the streets before hopping in our taxi and went to bed that night feeling excited for finally having found the non-tourist side of the island and loving it. Booming thunder and lightning from a gathering tropical storm lulled us to sleep.

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