Travel and Leisure, Under the Sea — October 19, 2016 at 5:00 am

Diving the Bay Islands of Honduras

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Located between Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras features more than 300 miles of Caribbean Sea coastline. The majestic natural resources of Honduras offer incredible recreational opportunities and grand adventures including some of the best whitewater rafting and finest and least expensive diving in the Caribbean. Divers seeking breathtaking marine life encounters, intriguing wreck sites, reefs, and walls need to look no further than the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Long noted for the variety of dive experiences offered including the massive whale sharks of Utila, the intriguing crack in the reef at Mary’s place on Roatan, and the curious Caribbean reef sharks of Cara at Cara Point, the Bay Islands of Honduras comprise Roatan, Utila and Guanala; all part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef; the largest reef in the Caribbean Sea.

Divers can expect to encounter spotted drums, moray, hog fish, eagle rays, scorpion fish, giant sting ray, eagle rays, crabs, lizard fish, and giant lobsters up to 25 pounds in size. The diverse array of sea fans, corals and sponges are an amazing and beautiful sight to behold.

Roatan

©istockphoto/John Anderson

Roatan
Situated approximately 40-miles off the northern coast of Honduras, between the island of Utila and Guanala, Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands. Roatan, formerly known as Rattan or Ruatan, is about 48-miles long and only a half-mile wide at its widest point. There are two small towns, Jose Santos Guardiola on the east and Roatan/Cayos Cochinos on the southern end of the west side. The majority of the reef line lies close offshore, following the contours of the coastline. Inquisitive divers can explore the wreck of the 300-foot Odyssey, sunk in 2002 off Roatan’s south shore. The wreck plays host to impressive schools of parrotfish, barracuda, and jacks. The bow is at 70-feet, with the stem resting on the ocean floor at 110-feet.

Another popular Roatan dive site is Mary’s Place, marked by a cut in the wall, that at certain times of the day, allows light into the crevice, creating an eerie, exotic ambiance. The cut is up to 12-feet wide in some spots.

Utila

©istockphoto/MaxTopchij

Utila
A mighty mountain rises from the seafloor off the southern shore of Utila, stopping 35-feet short of breaking the surface of the sea to become an island. Black Hills is an attractive starting point for a dive that takes you around the mountain and back towards the tor. Another enchanting dive is Duppy Waters on the eastern edge of scenic Turtle Harbor. At Duppy Waters, explore the giant barrel sponges that grace the reef.

In all of the Caribbean, Utila is the prime location for sightings of Caribbean whale sharks. The largest fish in the sea, whale sharks congregate along the northern banks of the island. When diving Utila, you have a good chance of spotting a whale shark anytime of the year. However, the largest concentration of these stellar rulers of the sea occurs March dependably through May as well as August through October.

Utila, the smallest and flattest of the three major Bay Islands, is the closest to the mainland. The tiny island is a mere 9.5-miles long and 3-miles wide.

Weather And More
Softened by ocean breezes, daytime high reach the mid-80’s, dropping to the mid-60 at night. Water temperatures vary from the low 80s in summer to high 70’s in winter with an average visibility of 80-feet unless a recent storm has riled up the waters. The rainy season is from July through January. Visitors to Honduras are required to have a passport valid for six months from the arrival date in the country. A tourist visa is issued upon arrival. Experienced Caribbean divers report the best time to dive the Bay Islands to be April and May when the weather is pleasant, warm and dry.

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