Elegant Eagle Ray Glided By Us as We Exited Spooky Channel

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El Aguila Dive Site

Today we dove a wreck site called El Aguila. I agreed to go on the deep, wreck dive in an attempt to be open minded, to try once again and to not spoil Danielle’s and Cat’s fun, but honestly I’m not terribly fond of deep dives or wreck dives, and this was a combination of both! Wrecks aren’t my favorite probably because I’m afraid of running into sharp, rusted objects, and I’m slightly claustrophobic. Deep dives are more dangerous should equipment malfunction and from a photographer’s point of view, they are dull as there isn’t much marine life or color to shoot. Having said that, another dive shop chums the waters so we did see some big grouper and a free swimming eel. But I don’t really agree with feeding the fish either, so I was challenged from that aspect as well. Adding on to that, my mask kept filling with water and my camera on the wrong setting and jammed for part of the time, so needless to say I was rather unsettled!

But the dive did offer variety from our typical reef dives, and Cat and Danielle had never been on a wreck site, so it was fun for them. They also had to get their deep dive certification, so they did a math test at the bottom of the ocean. For those who do like wrecks, this one was large. The boat was sunk for divers, thus there isn’t any history to it as it relates to how it ended up on the bottom of the ocean. The ship was intact when it was sunk, but it did break apart. I believe it was the first time I have ever swam inside a wreck. Usually I tend to hover around the outside, but Dani likes swim throughs, so he took us through a porthole and a door in the stern, and then we crossed over the middle section to the bow and repeated the same thing. Carla followed up in the rear.

After investigating the wreck and the garden eels on the the sandy bottom, we moved to the reef, but not before we spotted a hogfish and two enormous eagle rays that zoomed by us. That was a treat! At the reef, five or six very large groupers and several small tropical fish surrounded a dive group that were feeding them. When they finally stopped, the fish came to see if we had any treats. Frankly, I felt like all the fish were in one area, with the hand who fed them. Admittedly, it was cool to get an up close and personal look at the grouper when they darted around us, though it was a bit unnatural.

Toward the very end of the dive, Dani hand signaled asking us if we’d like to go through a tunnel in the coral. While I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, being in the back of the pack, I followed along after our fearless leader, Danielle and Cat, and was supported by Carla who was sweeping. I suppose my FOMO (fear of missing out) always overtakes my unexplained fears of claustrophobia or perceived danger from feeling like a weak swimmer. The swim through was a zig zag with the 10 foot zig being 90 degrees to the 15 foot entry tunnel and the 6 foot zag being 90 degrees to the zig but upward toward the surface (like a bent out of shape 3-dimensional paper clip).

I was stopped at the end of the entry tunnel that was rather dark while Cat and Danielle were bunched at the corner of the zig and the zag. It looked like a dead end. I couldn’t see the exit. Logically, I knew Dani wouldn’t take us through tunnel he hadn’t already explored. I trusted him implicitly. He was very professional, nice, funny, always turned to check on us (all the dive masters did), and he was very good at spotting critters. Illogically, however, my claustrophobia really wanted me to be able to see the exit, so I didn’t feel trapped, despite knowing I could just turn around. Thankfully, as I turned the corner I was able to see some light and Dani squeeze upward through the exit, thus the full-time conversation in my head quickly ended. He helped guide us through the small, tight opening. It was another one of those, “we can’t take everyone through this” episodes!

(On a side note, I think the divemasters liked diving with us because we followed directions, were small, and got a full 60 minutes in on a normal dive profile, so they could do a lot of things they couldn’t do with everyone like go through tight crevices!).

We all successfully maneuvered the swim through, but needless to say, that part wasn’t my favorite either. The good news is I faced all my minor irrational fears underwater at once and conquered them, at least momentarily. I tried the things I’m not fond of once more to know I have yet to change and didn’t spoil the new experiences for Danielle and Cat, so they could decide for themselves what they prefer in the future! In the end, if the worst part of my day was SCUBA diving, then that’s not so bad, especially since I had another dive (more my type) to look forward to in an hour after our surface interval at the hotel.

Spooky Channel Dive Site

Our next dive was at Spooky Channel. It got its name from the murky waters of the channel. The name was appropriate as the visibility was very poor as we swam the channel area which included huge rock and coral reefs to maneuver. Most of these swim throughs were not fully covered or we could see the exit, so I quite enjoyed these, as the formations were beautiful. Not to mention, a burrfish was tucked into the rock below. The dive only improved from there as we exited the channel to the outside of the wall just when an eagle ray glided by in the deep blue. It was so close and didn’t even alter its course. Three flaps of its wings, and it was in the distance. It was truly fantastic to be close enough to see its facial features.

The visibility on the outside of the wall was superb…the best we’ve seen in the last two days. The sponges, sea fans, brain coral, and elk horn coral were gorgeous. The reef was peppered with sea life…of course lobster, a spotted drum, parrotfish, french angelfish, a solitary hydroid, christmas tree worms, and even a giant parrotfish. It was really lovely! So lovely, that we added on a final dive for the morning!!

Sundowners at the West End

After our dives, we got lunch at the hotel restaurant before heading to the West End for the rest of the day. We started out at Sundowners, a popular bar because they have free beach chairs and our things were safer there if we wanted to go snorkeling. The girls ordered daiquiris as we prepared to chill under the palm trees. One of the guys working there after seeing my back asked, “Are you wearing bug spray?”

“Yes,” we all replied.

“Well they can get infected. Be careful,” he responded.

Ok, so now I’m feeling a bit self conscious!

Relaxing on the beach in West End was a bit of a misnomer. Dogs seem to be everywhere and gravitate toward us. One took to the shade beneathe me, the other jumped up on Danielle’s and Cat’s chairs. In addition to the dogs, we had a few young girls come play in the sand next to us. They showed off their limberness and practiced Spanish with us eventhough now we understand that despite the national language of Honduras being Spanish, the natural language of Roatan is English. We also had several vendors visit us. About every ten minutes or so we were asked if we wanted a massage, a bracelet, or our hair braided. We chirped our broken record response, “No, gracias,” until finally Cat changed her mind and bought a bracelet.

Paddleboarding and Snorkeling at West End

When we got up from the lawn chairs to cool off in the ocean we found Keith and Vanessa from diving sitting at the table right behind us…kind of funny. After chatting for a while and trying their salted green mango, we strolled down the beach to the ice cream store that rented paddle boards for $10/hr. With only two available, Cat and Danielle paddled while I snorkeled. I still wanted to find that bearded toad fish. While the toadfish eluded me, I found the green mantis thing again that no one for sure knew what it was. I also found a rock full of green cleaner crabs, an eel, more lobsters, a variety of juvenile fish, and a conch.

After an hour of playing in the water, we strolled back to our beach towel covered chairs at Sundowners just in time for the sunset. Sundowners was the place to be on Friday night. It was packed, and rightfully so as its deck and dock offer a perfect view of the the sunset!

Creole’s Rotisserie Chicken

Tonight we had planned to try Creole’s Rotisserie Chicken again which was at the opposite end of the strip as Sundowners. We passed by the street carts of food, vendors, discotecs with blaring music, a variety of restaurants, and shared the two lane street with taxis, buses, pedestrians, parked cars, crabs, and motor scooters. We arrived at the all woman run restaurant just at the right time. Just after we ordered our quarter chickens with fried plantains, coconut rice and beans, potato salad, carrot salad, and a cinnamon roll, there was a line. Only one waitress handled all the tables on the outdoor deck and the sand below. She had a jump in her step…rare for island time! Our meal was tasty, and I’d recommend the place, though I can’t say it was the best chicken or cinnamon roll I’ve ever had, as Kent described to us.

We took our walk back down the strip toward the round-about to get our taxi. By now, we learned the rate was basically $1.50 a person during the day and approximately double after 8 pm from the West End to Sandy Bay and taxis are everywhere. It is not necessary for the hotel to call one. Along the way, we passed by some young adults playing musical chairs at the discotecs. When the music stopped, the girl lunged to sit in the chair while the gentleman (or maybe not) pulled it out from under her, and she fell to the ground! Judging from his reaction, he didn’t mean for her to fall. There wasn’t a dry eye around…people were laughing so hard, including them. It was another nice day in paradise. 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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