by Laura Radford
Roatan’s reef has been the demise of many ships over the years. In fact, I
surfaced from a night to find strangers on my dive boat. The wet and disheveled
group included a parrot in a woman’s purse, the captain’s drenched and exhausted
Irish wolfhound that was sleeping on my dive bag, and several American tourists
from the Midwest. They had spent the day fishing on a chartered boat out of West
End. On the way home they lost their bearings and turned into, subsequently
crashing onto, the reef off Sandy Bay. Fortunately no one was hurt.
That boat was pulled from the reef, but there
are two excellent wrecks that are regular dive sites, El Aguila and The Odyssey.
El Aguila (the Eagle) is a 230-foot cargo ship intentionally sunk of Anthony’s
Key Resort (AKR) in 1997. It originally sank off
Utila, then AKR bought it to
use as an artificial reef. It is widely accepted as the best wreck dive on the
island (I have my own ideas- see The
Odyssey). It lies in 100+ feet of water right off the reef. While it is very
deep and you will need to carefully watch your bottom time and air, the end of
the dive can be made by gradually climbing up the reef offering a very relaxing
and leisurely ascent.
Penetrating the Wreck
Thanks to hurricane Mitch, the ship is broken into three main pieces. It is hard
to imagine a better layout. Penetrating the wreck can be done easily in many
locations and a reel is not needed. Ambient light is strong enough to navigate
by but to really enjoy the wreck, you should bring your own light.
The words “giant green moray eel” usually strike fear, or at least trepidation,
in hearts of most divers. However, El Aguila is home to a very friendly giant
green moray. I am sure that he (or she- who can tell?) is fed by some
divemasters, but ours merely banged his tank announcing our arrival. The eel
left his coral head home off the bow of the wreck and came swimming right at us.
He looked at us for a moment, swam right through the group, then disappeared
only to reappear periodically throughout the dive. He even paused briefly for
photographs. I really am not kidding.
Eagle Wreck, as it is sometimes called, is also home to nudibranchs, scallops,
encrusting sponges, and anemones. Large grouper are almost guaranteed and a
colony of garden eels live in the sand just off the reef.
Laura Radford is a writer and a PADI
certified SCUBA Instructor. In 1995 after completing an MFA in Creative
Writing she moved from Alaska to Costa Rica where she taught diving and lead
SCUBA tours. She later returned to her home state of California where she
worked as a high school English teacher.
Currently Laura is working as a
freelance writer and is traveling and diving in her free time, which is most
of time. She was drawn to Honduras by the extraordinary diving off the Bay
Islands but was lured to mainland by Honduras’s natural beauty and
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