I believe the small island you are referring to in Cayos Cochinos is Cayo
Chachahuate. A couple of years ago (March 2000), we did an overnight to
this island with Capt. Alex (out of West End). Since Capt. Alex is also a
Garifuna, he knew some of the people and arranged for us to spend the
night there in someone's hut. We fished on the way over and Alex made
arrangements with another local women to cook up our catch (a delicious
barracuda and hot coconut bread) for dinner and make us breakfast in the
morning. (The best scrambled eggs I've ever eaten.) It was quite an
experience and one that will live on as one of our more memorable Honduran
It is our understanding that the group of Garifuna who stay on this
particular island come and go. We found that the island appeared to run
some what like a commune. Everyone seemed to share, espeically when it
came to the fish and food supplies. The men are fisherman. Since there is
no electricity on the island (or wasn't when we were there), the island
turns in shortly after sunset and rise very early. Then men were up and
getting ready to head out about 4:00-4:30 am, to be out on the water
before sun-up. They were returning with their catch by around 9 AM. Then
the women went to work unloading the catch, cleaning it and prepared it
for storage. I believe these people spend some of their time here on
Chachahuate and some time on the mainland. When the island needs
supplies, they take some of their catch back to the mainland where they
either sell it or exchange it for rice, flour and other things that they
need. They also appear to make money by selling beer and soft dri!
nks to those Cayos Cochinos visitors who stop by.
The children of school ago are taken by boat in the early morning (around
6:30) to the big island where they attend a school. When we were there, we
noticed a sign for "Save the Children - London". I assume this island is
or was part of this world organization. Since we encountered no one here
that spoke English, it was difficult to get all our my questions answered.
And yes, when the storms come ... they take on water. The good thing is
that the island is so low, pratically at sea level that the water
literally just flows across the island. During big storms, the island
acquires extra sand. The houses are airy and all have sand floors and few
belongings, so the winds and rain can blow through them. In 1998, during
hurricane Mitch, the island of Chachahuate acquired a ton of new sand and
some of their boats were lost (to be replaced shortly thereafter by a
couple of nice motor boats and Yamaha engines donated by some Japanese)
Some of the roofs were lost or damaged, but they were easily replaced or
repaired. Some of these people may have also taken shelter on the big
island. All in all, as bad as Mitch was, this island surprising survived
with little permanent damage - mostly because it is so low.
Our favorite part of visiting Cayo Chachauate was the young children. At
first, they were shy and very guarded. But it wasn't too long before they
warmed up to us and then the questions just didn't stop. Unfortunately, we
didn't understand everything so you 'wing it.' We hated to leave.
I hope you enjoyed your visit as much as we did.