I had the opportunity to spend two amazing November weekends in Roatán! Roatán, the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands, lies on the southern edge of the Mesoamerican Reef System which is the second largest barrier reef in the world. Yes – it was amazing – warm weather, diving, veggie baleadas and TSO!
11/11/11 – Veteran’s Day in Roatán
In a last minute turn of events, I was able to spend this Veteran’s Day with my favorite vet for forty five hours of awesomeness, including a night dive! My other favorite vet, the late great VP’s Poppy, deserves a shout out as well — those who knew him, of course, know that he was pretty awesome. Veteran’s Day is on the 11th day of the 11th month every year – Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
On November 11, 1919 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day (known as Veteran’s Day since June 1, 1954) saying: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
Thanksgiving on Roatán – diving and eating Donna’s (mom’s) pumpkin bread made for a perfect long weekend. However when I was Skyping with my family back home – I did want to grab some pie off the table and give Snoodle a hug!
Interesting note: Norfolk Island, an Australian external territory where a tattoo artist friend of mine – that I met while filming Blood&Ink– now lives, celebrates Thanksgiving on the last Wednesday of November, because the holiday was brought to the island by visiting American whaling ships. Funny side story about this remote place: I received an email from another friend of mine from New Zealand saying that he met someone who knows me. While on vacation on Norfolk Island he got a tattoo from the artist I know and somehow in cultural tattoo conversation my name came up – totally random and awesome.
We dove with West End Divers – excellent.
- Toadfish – I saw a toadfish for the first time, then saw another the next day! Awesome!
- Sharptail Eel – I saw a sharptail eel for the first time on my Veteran’s Day trip and then was lucky enough to see another over Thanksgiving. Its looks like a yellow spotted snake swimming underwater.
In September I visited Roatán as well, specifically for a shark dive; posted here. Four of us ventured over to Shark Dive Roatán for the dive. We suited up and went down to 70 feet as I did before, but this time there was only one very shy shark. While the dive was not a complete bust the operator gave us a full refund – quite impressive customer service. Apparently there is only one time of year that the sharks are not there due to mating. This is usually the first week of December, but this year it came a week early. The sharks are all female Caribbean Reef Sharks that are about 6 to 9 feet long and weigh several hundred pounds.
Dolphins Den, while it has a bit of a sad story around it, is a beautiful dive. I love dolphins and have written about them in the past: posted here. Our boat tied up and we jumped in the water and swam over to the series of small caves and swim-throughs. In the first cave we viewed a dolphin skeleton. We continued the dive through arches and crevices and underwater formations.
Roatán Marine Park
The Roatán Marine Park is a non-profit organization that was formed in January 2005 by dive operators and local businesses united in an effort to protect the coral reefs. Initially, their goal was to patrol within the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve to prevent unsustainable fishing practices. However the organization expanded their scope by adding other programs to protect Roatán’s natural resources, including education, conservation and public awareness.
Lion Fish are found mostly in the Indo-Pacific, but In the mid 1990s they were unintentionally introduced into the Atlantic Ocean and have become an invasive species along the East Coast of the United States and throughout the Caribbean, including Honduras. With no natural predators in the area they have become quite a problem for the reefs.
Dive shops have Lion Fish Hunting programs where you will be given spears and taught how to catch the fish in a safe manor – they are venomous. They are either fed to groupers or eels in hopes they will learn to hunt the fish themselves or they are prepared as dinner for the human fishermen – apparently they are quite tasty. Since I am a vegetarian I did not partake in the activity, but the guys did. Yes, I was diving with seven men with spears – the only comforting thing was that they are all quite skilled in weaponry – or should that have made me a little more nervous….
I read in an interesting article in both National Geographic and Time about the Roatán Marine Park officials and local divers attempting to feed sharks lion fish in hopes that they too will start to hunt them.
Baleadas: Every day I walked to the little yellow shop called Chapi Catrachas to buy my baleadas vegetarianos – frijoles, queso, aguacate y tomate. They are a bit addictive.
Key Lime Pie: Lighthouse Restaurant had key lime pie and vegetarian options for dinner as well!
Smoothies: There is an eco-aware shop called Earth Mama’s that has a wide variety of smoothies. They even have a yoga center! Earth Mamas is a community and environmentally conscious business composting their waste and using bio degradable corn cellulose products for all take away products.
Favorite Quote: “So, I like to moon people”
Come Sunday we had to leave, but I made it to the mainland and stayed for a few days in a small shore side town – tourists – I don’t think they see many of those. Soon I will be back in Utila. Come visit me in Honduras!!
A little YouTube scanning and I found a cool Shark Dive Video and Turtle video…enjoy!