Canyon Dive, Reef Dive, and Night Dive in Roatan

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Another day in Roatan, another day of diving! I’m not sure I’d come here for any other type of vacation. Admittedly, I’ve hardly explored the island, so I could be jumping to conclusions, but with the second largest barrier reef five minutes away by boat versus days away like the Great Barrier, there are quite a few dive sites to explore. Today we dove Canyon Reef and Gibson Bight. What a variety!

Canyon Reef Dive Site

After breakfast of raw (not instant) oatmeal and bacon which was a deviation from baleadas but also fantastic, we stopped into the dive shop to be greeted by Nuria, the owner. She was planning on diving with us today instead of Dani and Carla. She gave us a choice for our first dive, Canyon Reef or another spot. She kept asking if we wanted to swim through the canyons. She said they were rocky and there wasn’t much life, but then we would end up in shallow water on the reef. In my mind, I couldn’t figure out why she kept asking if we wanted to swim through the canyons because we had been swimming through coral “canyons” for lack of a better word for the last two days. Cat and Danielle were deferring to me to make the choice, because I had more diving experience.

Finally I asked, “Is it covered?”

“Yes, but only for three minutes and you can always see light. You go up and up, so you have to regulate your buoyancy and let air out of your BC, and then there is a hole you turn through and you go back down. I have not gone diving with you, but they say you guys are good. It is my favorite dive,” Nuria responds in her Spanish accent.

After we heard it was her favorite, we all chimed in together, “OK, let’s do something different.”

So we listened to the briefing, grabbed our gear, loaded on the boat with Nuria and her dog, and set out for Canyon Reef. After rolling overboard, we descended and immediately started maneuvering through the canyons. Upon reflection, I suspect Nuria mentioned they were narrow. I know she said we’d be swimming single file and to keep our feet up so that we wouldn’t kick up sand in front of the following diver. I even remember her saying we’ll secure all the gauges so they don’t get caught. And she did ask repeatedly if we were ok swimming through canyons. Perhaps it was my pounding headache that caused me not to realize we were going to be squirming through 100 foot long crevasses! Our arms were hugged around our bodies, we kicked only when necessary, twisted left, then right, ascended and descended past overhangs, and still managed to smack into the rock at least once through every passage, maybe four or more times! Luckily, there wasn’t too much living to kill, but for the coral that was alive and now isn’t…sorry!

I really enjoyed the dive simply due to the concentration it required. I was so busy paying attention to my body and my buddies, I hardly saw many critters, though I did see some shrimp and a lobster. Looking up toward the light while watching the divers maneuver the overhangs was something else. It was one of the few moments I took the time to snap a photo, but I noticed my case had fogged up (I had a few issues on the surface that I clearly didn’t resolve), so it was a dive with a few foggy photos. If I had to be cameraless, it was a good dive to do so, however.

We saw some blennies that I specifically remember because one was tiny and of course the usual suspects flitted around the reef. I won’t list them, since I have no photos to show. Upon our return to the hotel for our surface interval, we commented to Nuria about how narrow the Canyons were, and she commented, “yes, a lot of people we cannot take!” I can believe that.

Gibson Bite Dive Site

Our second dive was nice as well. There was a large variety of marine life which made it fun. We dove with another divemaster, Eva, today. She is from the Netherlands. It’s always interesting hearing everyone’s stories. We have been doing most of our dives with two additional clients Vanessa and Keith from California. This morning, however, we dove alone, and this afternoon we are sharing the boat with, Adrian who is from Spain and is getting his advanced certification with Dani, as well as Bastien, who hails from Morrison, Colorado. What a small world! He decided to get his basic open water certification while he was down here on vacation. Dani was instructing him as well. He is actually the fifth person we have met from Colorado already.

So as soon as we dropped down to the bottom on Gibson Bight, we came across a turtle resting on the reef with three remoras attached to him! Since there are not many sharks in Roatan, the remoras attach to the turtles instead. I snapped a perfect photo with a fogged case…big frown! I will have to see what Photoshop can do for this occasion. Lucky for me, however, my case defogged within minutes?!? I don’t know why or how, but I will take it. We spotted crabs, parrotfish, lovely sea fans and sponges, a golden moray eel, elkhorn coral, lobsters, fairy basslets, sea anemones, feather dusters and worms, but the best find of the day, thanks to Eva, was a lettuce sea slug. It was so cool. It blended in with the algae and was very hard to capture in a photo as it hid between coral heads (so look toward the bottom left in the photo).

Our afternoon was a lazy one! It included naps for everyone. While diving only requires floating, breathing the compressed air creates tired souls. Not to mention, waking with the 5am sunrise was catching up to me. A nap was a perfect refresher, and I was able to sleep off my migraine with the help of Maxalt, a bonus!

Eventually we moved from the couches inside to the lounge chairs outside with plans to go on a night dive at 5:30. About an hour before our dive time, I opted for another snorkel in front of the hotel. I really love the seahorse and needed to admire it once more along with the litter of lobsters. It was mind-boggling to me to see so many together. I was also blessed with spotting an unusual looking puffer. I also found it interesting to snorkel the same area repeatedly as, I learned about the habits of marine life. I knew the seahorse would hang around as well as the crustaceans and bottom dwellers, but I was surprised to see how many fish remained in the same area. I found the same intermediate french angelfish and the same lionfish just to name a few. Roatan has been an educating experience for me!

Overheat Reef Dive Site

For our night dive, we ventured through rough seas (relatively speaking) to Overheat Reef. We were with Dani again who pointed out a variety of critters. I was bringing up the rear, so occasionally I missed out on few finds. On a different note, I spotted a few critters too. We saw two octopi, brittle stars galore, sleeping fish, crabs big and small, a squid, lobsters, and countless glowing eyes belonging to all sorts of shrimp lining the reef. The octopi are fun to watch as the adjust their coloring in an attempt to camouflage themselves.

Being a novice at night photography, night photography underwater proved challenging. I worked my camera appropriately about half the time. I finally figured out it was best to have another shine the torch on the subject from a different location as me, as my light was illuminating particles in the water and attracting the red worms into the capture area. In addition, holding a camera, a torch, and adjusting my buoyancy seemed to require three hands at times!

At the end of the dive, we all kneeled on the bottom, turned our lights into us to darken the area, and waved our arms to create bioluminescence, or blue fluorescent light particles in the water that we watched float upward, cling together, and create strings of pearls. It was cool! As usual, we enjoyed another interesting day of diving and are looking forward to more tomorrow. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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