Roatan's fringing coral reef is still one of the most beautiful and unique in the world, and at just a short swim from the shore, easily accessible. There are 38 dive sites within the West End Marine Reserve, all within 15 minutes boat ride, and they are all different. There are lots of very shallow snorkeling areas and the coral reef is perfect for everyone, as the top is about 40ft, allowing snorklers and novice divers to glide along in shallow water. While the more advanced are down below, all visible to each other because of the wonderful clarity of the water. With deep drop-offs, caverns, swim throughs, canyons and an abundance of marine life, Roatan offers something for everyone. The West End is on the leeward side of the island, so the water is always calm.
Look closely at the rocks while approaching the entrance for the tiny Lettuce Leaf Sea Slugs and other Nudibranchs, even a Spotted Drum. Swim over forty feet into "cathedral-like" Bear's Den, where sunbeams scatter shafts of light that dance around on the sandy bottom. Lie on the sand and relax while watching Glassy Sweepers swim back and forth amongst the light beams. Then it's time to head back for yet still more swim-throughs and canyons just past the mooring, keeping a close look at the Gorgonian Soft Corals as they provide shelter for rare Seahorses and Neck Crabs, usually only visible to the trained eye. The cavern is best seen in the mornings, as the sun's angle is perfect for the light beams in full effect.
THE WRECK, EL AGUILA (THE EAGLE)
We begin by dropping 110ft straight down to the stern and onto the sand where a field of Garden Eels sways back and forth from their little holes. Big Groupers sometimes come right up to your face while laid down watching the Eels. The propeller shaft and stern are raised out of the sand as we plunge head first through a window and into the wheelhouse, causing disorientation as the angle of the boat is twisted. Pockets of air trapped on the ceiling look like pools of liquid mercury as we exit through a beautiful rectangular opening out into the deep blue and toward the middle section.
The middle section is not really enclosed but offers a variety of swim-throughs while looking up at the mast piercing the water above. Then it's off towards the bow where you can swim through a doorway, then exit through a large hatch on the bow. Look over the edge and down to a coral patch at the base of the bow that is home to the famous Green Moray Eel that is not afraid of divers. He often comes right up to you looking for food. A pair of Translucent Blue Parrot fish feast on the algae growing on the bow. Groupers and Dog Snapper follow the divers around. Oysters and Clams are prolific all over the boat but sneak up on them or they close too quickly!
Often an Eagle Ray comes gliding along the wall as we head to shallower water after about 20mins on the boat. The wall has nice canyon formations and a cavern in 15ft with a roof exit in 5ft that gives shelter to Bristle Worms and Glassy Sweepers. Drift along at 30ft towards Pillar Coral dive site where many fish like Sergeant Majors, Grunts, Blue Tang, Chub and Parrot Fish dance on the top of the wall.
Look out for eagle rays and turtles, and it's not over yet! After swimming for 10mins and upon reaching the top of the wall it's time to head towards the shallows where the 'swiss-cheese' rock formations provide another fabulous journey down, round, up and over swim-throughs, caverns, and canyons while "off-gassing" in 20ft of water.
Keep an eye out for marble-eyed Spotted Scorpion Fish lying amongst the rocks on the bottom, and finish off with a visit in the last canyon where Glassy Sweepers and Silversides (seasonal) jostle for the spotlight as the sunbeams through the cracks. For the adrenalin seekers there is a dark and silty cavern at the end of this canyon, which has several passages that one could quite easily get lost in, so of course do not do this without an experienced guide. The view coming out of the canyon is an amazing gradient of greens and blues with silhouetted rock formations. A perfect dive and a perfect profile.
HALF MOON BAY
MANDY'S EEL GARDEN
SELECT SOUTH SIDE DIVE SITES
VALLEY OF THE KINGS
INSIDIOUS REEF(SHARK DIVE)
But that's not all, no, wait until you switch your light back on and you will be in for a surprise. There are thousands and thousands of tiny pink worms that are attracted to the light, so stay still and watch them swarm. Move slowly over to a patch of perhaps Brain Coral where if you put the light about a foot away from it, the worms will collide, and then caught by the open polyps, which excrete a protein that causes the red worms to explode!!!
Other night time creatures such as Basket Stars, Tigertail Sea Cucumbers, Brittle Stars, and Lobster are plentiful. And, of course, there are plenty of Octopi to watch hunting.
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