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Roatan Diving Overview   by Laura Radford

Roatan, located about 30 miles off the coast of Honduras, has a reputation as being one of the world's top dive destinations. Roatan is home to some of the most luxurious all-inclusive dive resorts. Roatan also has more budget boutique dive operators than you can shake a bang-stick at.

Cost?

The island, whose economy is sustained by Honduras tourism and fishing, is perfectly equipped to accommodate all of a diver's desires. The backpacker-diver can rent gear and dive from any of the very reasonably priced operators out of the village of West End, on the island Roatan in Honduras.   Most of the operators charge about $25-$35 a dive but lower the price after sevRoatan, Honduras, courtesy of Laura Radforderal dives.

Dive Boats

The dive boats range from small, open ponga-types that hold no more than six divers to larger powerboats. The smaller boats stick close to the west end while the larger boats access the more remote sites.

How About Safety?

Nitrox is widely available as are dive computers. SCUBA courses are offered at nearly every shop, most are PADI, and range from resort courses all the way up to dive master and instructor development courses. Doctors specializing in dive medicine and a world-class recompression chamber are located at Anthony's Key Resort

Gear?  Need to Bring Mine? 

Snorkeling gear can be rented at all dive shops and some restaurants and gift shops. West End also provides other things necessary to divers such as beer and t-shirts.  The shirts sport all the favorites such as pirates, great whites, diver-down flags, and skeletons but some unique designs are also available.  In addition to the very tasty local beer, there is also a wide variety of specialty drinks (try a Monkey La-La).

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The Water Itself

Water visibility is consistently a hundred feet year round although it can dip to about 80 feet at times in the rainy season. Water temperature averages in the low eighties but can dip into the high seventies in January and February.

What Makes It Unique?

Why is Roatan's diving so good? The island, nearly forty miles long and about three miles wide, is actually the top of an underwater mountain range called the Bonacca Ridge. The ridge includes the other Bay Islands, Utila and Guanaja, and the many smaller keys and islands nearby.

Roatan is surrounded on all sides by a living coral reef containing nearly every species of coral
growing in the Caribbean Sea, including several species of rare black coral, and sponges of all colors and shapes. Some barrel sponges located off the east end of the island are the approximate size of large refrigerators.

The Reef

The reef, home to such beauties as seahorses, queen angel fish, stoplight parrot fish, blue tangs, and fairy basslets, slopes gently from shore providing excellent snorkeling and diving from nearly any point on the island. The reef stretches out to sea then drops off. Literally. Roatan is famous for its wall dives and nearly all dives are wall dives if you swim far enough out. Many crevices, chimneys, and caves punctuate the reef creating an impressive and varied topography.

The reef's walls vary from inclines leading to sandy bottom at 30-200 feet, to sheer cliffs plummeting dramatically into the abyss. And I mean abyss. Roatan is on the edge of the Cayman Trench that provides clear water from the depths as well as a variety of pelagic animals such as whale sharks, turtles, dolphin, and rays. The trench plunges thousands of feet right off the west end of the island. In fact, the deepest tourist submarine in the world is located in Half Moon Bay next to West End. For about $500 it will take you to a depth of 3000 feet.


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 Hondurasís natural beauty and fascinating history.

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Many thanks to Laura Radford for her articles and photos on Roatan diving and Honduras.

Laura would be glad to answer any of your Roatan diving and Honduras diving questions.  She may be reached

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