by Amy B, Spring 2009
Background: Our family (family of 4
boys ages 7-15- Milo below - & sister-in-law and her 2 girls ages 13 & 16)
visited Roatan for the first time this past April (2009) due to our draw to
snorkeling in a large living barrier reef and a desire to learn how to dive. We
succeeded in our mission, and had a wonderful experience learning the Bay
Island. It happened to be the week of the Island's most celebrated holiday,
Semana, so it was more crowded than usual.
We stayed in First Bight in a house called Far Tortuga (beautiful, unbeatable
assistance from the property managers, Kevin and Claire, isolated from the
masses, wide-open layout, infinity pool, kayak for going around the Bight, and
snorkel equipment provided for wonderful snorkeling RIGHT IN FRONT of the
house). (For information on renting that home see VRBO.com and type in Roatan
and First Bight). We rented a car at the airport (prior to getting there via the
internet with assistance from the owner of the house) to get us to the grocery
store (Eldon's in French Harbor was THE best, but certainly not the best stocked
grocery store according to US standards) and around to other places. It was a
diesel pickup which, much to the dismay of US laws, held our kids in the back
bed. It also held the voluminous hitch-hikers who would hop in/out as we slowed
down; a thrill for all involved since we do not experience that in the States.
We visited Turquoise Bay, a beautiful resort beach, for a day of visiting the
newly-constructed water pen that held stingrays, green turtles, hawksbill
turtles, and a recently acquired loggerhead turtle, and a little time on jet
skis (I am personally opposed to them, but the kids nagging got to me). One
thing to keep in mind while at any beach in Roatan is to come prepared with bug
spray...the no see-ums can be vicious! It appeared that the gentleman who was
“running” the pen didn't fully know all about the animals he had
accumulated for the pen, but felt he was doing the animals a favor since he
bought them from local fisherman who had caught them in their fishing lines and
were going to eat them. We also managed to organize a dive trip with Subway
Sports, the diving center on the property of Turquoise Bay, for the following
day. Subway Sports was a professional, organized operation in whose hands we
felt completely safe.
We had made prior arrangements (again with assistance from the owner of the
house) with a boat operator out of West Bay to take us to Utila for a day to
snorkel with the whale sharks (an experience not to miss!) and have lunch on the
island. Utila was much smaller than Roatan, and had more of a backpacker feel to
it gathered from the minimal time spent there.
Another day was spent traveling (about a 40 minutes car ride) to West Bay to
hang at the beach, and to visit/walk around/catch the sunset in the West End
(about 10 minutes from West Bay). Although the West End was more crowded than
where we stayed, it was fun to experience the restaurants, shops and fresh air
markets selling fresh shrimp/fish/veggies/fruit. It felt like a place that those
who don't enjoy staying “off the beaten path” would enjoy.
One place that is in all the tour books, but I recommend NOT visiting, is Arch's
Iguana Park. It is basically an overpriced
to animals in too-small cages, without any of the admission going to education
or conservation. The animals include about 20 free-roaming iguanas (too stuffed
from being fed by patrons to even move), parrots, a hyper squirrel, a spider
monkey, a coatimundi, 2 squirrel monkeys, and a shoreline pen of fish. It takes
all of about 30 minutes to walk through, and is not worth the time or money.
Since we were looking for quiet time as well while we were there, we also stayed
around the house to snorkel, kayak, read and lounge on one of the days.
Overall, Roatan was an easy island to get around, the people were friendly, and
it offered great diving. Other than a short history by the house manager Kevin,
I don't know much about the history of Roatan, except that the original settlers
(Caribes?) do not get along well with the Hondurans who have settled there from
the mainland. I did not notice any tension during our visit, but was only told
about such from some locals. I was made aware that the island depends on tourism
to survive, and the current economy was not treating them well.
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Many thanks to Amy B for her Spring 2009 article on Roatan