Saturday, 24 May 2014

Roatan, Honduras - Scuba Diving from West to East

I decided that I should not spend my last three weeks like a bump on a log in one small part of Roatan so I decided to take a mini trip to the east end of the island to see if the diving and scenery were much different.  The drive from West End to Oak Ridge was only about a half hour (Roatan is only 30 miles from one end to another) and I spent the trip chatting in my limited Spanish to my driver, Francisco.  The Reef House is on a caye a short hop from the mainland...literally 500m but a small boat picked me up from the dock where the cab stopped.  I got a great deal to stay and dive at the Reef House Resort, $100 USD/day for 3 dives, 3 meals, and accommodations (really nice room with AC, hot water, TV, and WiFi).  I head back to West End tomorrow after 3 lovely days and nights here.  When I arrived there was only one other guest staying here, Joan.  Each day starts with a lovely breakfast at 8am, we head out at 9am for two dives, return for lunch then go out for our third dive at 2pm then the rest of the afternoon can be spent lazing in the sun, visiting with the charming parrot, Polly, enjoying a beer, and visiting with eachother and/or the staff.
The dive boat 
Colorful houses on the mainland, viewed from the narrow channel between the caye where the Reef House Resort is and the mainland

The Reef House Resort is in a lovely spot, right on the ocean.

Room with a view

Pier right out in front of the resort

Polly and I became fast friends.  He is allowed out of his cage to wander about and he waddles along the ground and follows me... how sweet.

Polly loves to have his neck scratched!  He leans in and closes his sweet! 
Joan getting a little sugar
He has also taken to sitting on my shoulder in the evenings.  He is a real performer loving to mimic laughter and wolf whistles, he also clucks like a chicken, says "hello", "pretty bird", speaks a little Spanish, and makes a number of clicking and cooing noises.  He is a definite highlight of this place and I look forward to seeing him each day.
Diving here is similar to the West End but there are many more soft corals and sea fans here.  Our excellent divemaster, Davitt, is amazing at spotting all sorts of critters for us and he really puts on a show.  He is doing his part to protect Roatan's reefs from the invasive Lionfish which are not native to this part of the world and are outcompeting other marine life.  Davitt always brings a Hawaiian Sling (type of spear) with him on dives and any Lionfish he comes across get speared and either taken up to the boat for Davitt's dinner or fed to other marine life on the reef during the dive.  On one dive Davitt fed a lionfish to a black moray eel with white spots and on another dive he held the lionfish out in front of a toadfish (a type of ambush hunting fish).  In both cases, the moray, and the toadfish gobbled up the lionfish like a little treat!  It was really cool to watch.  Besides the bloodsport, Davitt was able to spot a few seahorses, tiny moray eels, shrimp, crabs, and even an eagle ray.  He is a great spotter!
Joan doing a Giant Stride entry
Schooling blue tang
Flamingo Tongue (a type of colorful cowrie)
Colorful soft corals
spectacular hard corals too!
A very well camouflaged little filefish

Davitt with his spear and a lionfish on the end of the spear
Luring a moray out with a free lionfish lunch
This crazy French Angelfish followed us for the whole dive 
Joan with the crazy Angelfish.  Unbeknownst to her, the angelfish was playing in and biting her bubbles

Well camouflaged juvenile trumpetfish
Lovely soft corals and Gorgonian fans

Neck Crab - so cool and well camouflaged
Long nosed seahorse
Sadly on my final day here I woke up with a horrible crick in my neck that extended down into my upper back that hasn't gotten better at all despite 2 aleve and a few rum and cokes.  I had to bail out of the third dive today because I was in so much pain and it was a struggle to turn my head enough to read my pressure gauge.  I spent the afternoon hanging out with Polly, reading a book in the sun.  Not a bad plan B.  Tomorrow I head back to West End for some more diving and to spend my last week before travelling home to Calgary!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Ciao Costa Rica...Hola Honduras!

I have once again fallen behind in my blog (sigh) so I will catch you up to today in one fell swoop by covering my fifth and final week at the School of the World in Jaco, Costa Rica, as well as my first week here in Roatan, Honduras.  Ambitious...but I will let the photos do the talking for the most part.

A typical "soda".  These restaurants are all over the place in Costa Rica and are where the cheap, local, typical Tico (Costa Rican) food is to be found.  This one also had a football field attached.  Que Tico!
The view of the hills behind Jaco on the "main" street that runs from the highway to the beach past the smaller street where the School of the World is located. 
Surf, Sand, Costa Rica...boom
A la playa in Jaco
Some of the students from the School of the World - such a great place to meet a community of like-minded people.  I miss it!  Kara in front then working clockwise; Reid, Rodin, Elle, David, and Amanda 

Sunset, surf, beer....boom

Playa Jaco

Kara getting the surfboards into the school's van for the second surf class of the day at Playa Hermosa.  The School is the ivy covered building in the background...gorgeous.

2nd Surf at Playa Hermosa

"My" bicycle and the covered parking spot for Eric's car at the homestay
My home for 5 weeks in Jaco was upstairs in this green house 
Some of the people who made this house a home.  Gabrielle, me, Ines, and Aimee.  What a great experience living with a Tico family and practicing my Spanish with them!
One of my last Spanish Labs.  Each Jenga block has a question in Spanish on it.  You have to ask the question the the person to your left then ask another question of a different student. get to play Jenga.

I will miss the fruits of Costa Rica too.  Guanabana, aka Soursop in other countries.  A strange soft fruit but it makes amazing fruit smoothies and is believed to prevent cancer.
Niki posing with one of my favorite fruits.  Inside this threatening pod are delicious white furry seeds.  You can eat the sweet white furry part but there's a big black seed inside each fruit.  Lots of work but worth the effort.  Que Rico!


On my last night in Costa Rica it was one of the surf instructors, Alonso's, birthday so he threw a house party/BBQ and invited all the students to celebrate with him.  It was a great chance to practice Spanish a bit more, hang out with the other students and some locals, and have a few (ahem) drinks.  SALUD!
I left Costa Rica on a flight destined for Roatan, Honduras on May 11th via Tegucigalpa (pronounced "Teh-goo-cee-gal-pah") Hondu ras.  I flew business class for the first time in my life, not because I'm fancy but because the seat was actually cheaper than economy when I booked.  What a treat.  I was the only one in business class, the whole plane was pretty much empty so I got very good service, a comfy seat and felt like an underdressed queen for a short while.  Plus I didn't have to pay extra to lug my second checked bag full of scuba gear as an added bonus.  My first impression of Honduras was in the airport at Tegucigalpa and I am impressed.  Everyone (including the customs and security staff) were incredibly nice and friendly and quick with the smiles.  After another short flight I arrived on the island of Roatan.  This is to be my final vacation within a vacation so I plan to relax here for the final 3 weeks of my trip and do a lot of scuba diving.  I had aspired to travel to South America but after nearly a year of travelling I found my eyes and mind full of new experiences.  I also felt travel-weary and daunted by the cost and effort to plan a trip on short notice to South America.  So here I am, the diving is beautiful, the people are extremely friendly and welcoming, and I'm so happy I made the decision to come to Roatan!  I've been welcomed and found an immediate social group with the staff and guests at Coconut Tree Divers, which is run by PJ, his wife Gaynor (Gay) with some help from their son and daughter.  It's like a family :)

While in West End Roatan I am staying at the dorm that the dive shop runs.  As long as I'm diving with Coconut Tree Divers, I get to use this basic but functional dorm for only $5USD/night.  The deal is even sweeter because I'm the only one in the dorm!  So yup, I have a $5/night huge private room and private bathroom within steps from the dive shop.  Can you tell I'm pretty proud of myself?

West End Roatan.  This is the view from the dock right in front of Coconut Tree Divers

Some colorful scenery on the street

"70% of the earth is covered by the oceans, why aren't you?".  I agree, everyone should go get their open water scuba diver certification.  You don't know what you are missing!

Sunset from Sundowners Bar
The diving in Roatan does not have the diversity nor the abundance of marine life that you can see in Southeast Asia...BUT... the visibility and topography are amazing.  Most of the dives I've done so far have crystal clear, koolaid blue waters with visibility well over 40m.  All the colors on the reef pop because nothing gets in the way of the light coming down from the strong Caribbean sun.  The reef surrounding the island is cut by deep channels and swimthroughs and the outer edge of the reef drops away in spectacular walls.  This all makes for spectacular underwater topography.
Divers swimming through the main channel at "Hole in the Wall" divesite

Hole in the Wall
Juvenile Drumfish.  These flamboyant babies wiggle their long fins around, very similar to Juvenile Batfish in Asia.

Arrow Crab - I think of these guys as spiders of the sea

Spectacular light in some swimthrough caverns.

With the great visibility and clear blue waters here, you never have to worry about finding the boat, just look up!
"Flamingo Tongue" a small and colorful type of cowrie.  Yes, there's a shell inside that colorful mantle.

Hawksbill Turtle and the Queen Angelfish he attracted with all his hungry munching which breaks up coral/sponges and releases delicious tidbits for the Angelfish. 

Neck Crab.  Very cool and difficult to spot.  The red fuzzy thing is it.  yup.  subtle.

French Angelfish
Midnight Parrotfish

On a few of my recent dives I got fascinated with the geometries, colors, and textures of the corals, sponges, and fans that comprise the reef.  Here is a sampling of my photos.