Enjoying the West End of Roatan

by Glen

Tuesday-Thursday 22-24 Mar, Honduras day 20-22, West End Roatan: Scooter trip, gardens walk, servicing dive gear, making friends with sloths.

Our days in West End of Roatan soon all merge into one. So far, this anchorage has been our favorite in the Bay Islands. The West End village, in the north of the bay, has a wonderful atmosphere with many low-key places to eat, and fairly quiet on the tourist front. And the West Bay area, to the south, has a superb beach but very much set up for tourist and particularly those coming for a beach-day from the cruise liners.

Anchoring is not allowed here so we are on a mooring ball ($10/day, $50/week) with about 15 other yachts in the same mooring field. With the leeshore situation, dinghying into the town is very easy and with the fairly strong easterly trade winds blowing we don’t get wet. This factor, plus apparently lots of things to do onshore here has got us quite excited.

Whilst in this bay we also decided to take our dive gear for major servicing. There are numerous dive shops and we have heard prices are much cheaper than even the USA. West End Divers has an authorized ScubaPro technician, named Courtney. Despite our tight timeline, she agreed to services both our ScubaPro regulator sets (6 pieces to service). And late one evening, while strolling the town, we spotted her alone in the workshop working on our gear! That’s dedication.
At the Mares dive shop, we managed to replace both high pressure hoses which have started to leak; had new valves put on our tanks; the tanks themselves internally inspected and pressure tested, and bought a fancy wrist-worn dive computer. All in all, we are now happy that our equipment is all up to spec ready for diving in the Pacific next year, where repair centers will be few and far between.

We spent quite some time with our friends Paul and Babs during these days. Them on our boat, us on theirs and days and evenings in town exploring various bars and restaurants. We particularly like Sandy Buns breakfasts (I’ve been fantasizing about eggs & bacon for some time now!) and also Ginger’s where they served us superb seafood.
On the first day out with them, we headed off in a local bus towards Sandy Bay, where we visited Carambola Gardens. There, we were greeted by an elderly American gentleman who turned out to be the creator and owner, having arrived to the island some 30 years ago as part of the Peace Corps. He rather over-enthusiastically showed us every plant and tree, telling us stories at length about each. To the point we thought we would never get away from him! Finally, after about an hour where I swear he didn’t take a breath between sentences, we were “allowed” on our way. From there we walked up a shady narrow path through jungle-like vegetation, up to a lookout point with a view over the north coast.

Another day, we persuaded Babs and Paul to join us on a day-out riding a rental scooter. Clearly we are quite used to riding a motor bike, but not them. And they were pretty good sports to agree. The 2 bikes were small 100cc scooters with just about enough seat-room for 2 people on each one. I told them I would not lead them off road or anything challenging, but within 20 minutes we found the paved road ending and turning into dirt road, then worse still, to a sand road that was in fact the beach! But they managed it just fine.
The highlight of the day was a visit to Manawakie Eco Nature Park. As we arrived, it didn’t quite look like the images on Google. But we were soon smitten by the wonderful staff and guides. First there was a huge parrot who immediately put on an act as we arrived next to her tree. Its grand finale was hanging upside down hanging on by just one leg. Next, we were in a cage full of the tiniest and cutest moneys which crawled all over us, jumping from one person to another. We didn’t like seeing them in cages, but we were quite heartened when the guide told us that during weekend they let them out and they disappear off into the jungle, only to return a day of so later and wander back into their cage!
And lastly and most impressive was a visit with a pair of sloths. What amazing creatures. Apparently, they sleep for 18 hours a day and only come down from their tree once a week to poo! Each of us took a turn to hold them. It was just like holding a little baby, snuggling up to the holder with eyes half closing as if going to sleep. Once back on the ground, they moved at a pace of a tortoise back to they perch. And even then, they had to rest every 30 seconds or so. No wonder the nickname for a lazy person is “sloth”!

The route on the scooter took us along the north coast, across the island then back through the main town called Coxen Hole. Not a very nice place frankly. Very similar to most capital towns in Caribbean islands it was run-down and shabby, and we were happy to drive out the other side back onto the coast road to West End.

Another day we visited the West Bay area, just south of our mooring. This Bay has a wonderful white beach, backed by palm trees with turquoise water in front all the way out to the reef. That describes its natural beauty, but in fact it is totally developed for the tourists with all the usual bars, hotels and tour kiosks jammed behind the palm trees. We couldn’t find anywhere to leave the dinghy. The two small jetties were crammed with tourist tripper boats, so we ended up beaching it and locking it to the head of one jetty, hoping it would all still be there when we returned.
We walked from one end of the beach to the other, popping into each hotel to have a stroll around. Some were nice enough, others in desperate need of a face lift.
The beach itself was very busy but we found the far end much quieter and more pleasant. There, we spotted a local guy standing in the water with his tatty canoe. On the canoe he had set up a bar, to specifically make pineapple drinks. We couldn’t resist. With a machete he cut off the top of a pineapple then dug out all the fruit, placing it in a container. Then he removed the hard stem of the pineapple which was discarded. The fruit was then mixed with some ice (goodness knows how he had ice?), some juice added then the concoction placed back into the pineapple and presented to us complete with cocktail umbrella! He was such a nice guy, and boy-oh-boy did it ever taste good. That became the highlight of our West Bay beach walk.

We had 3 nice days of fun and exploring, then the weather was set to change. A “norther” is forecast to arrive tomorrow, and it looks like we will need to be bunkered down for the next day or so.

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1 comment

L. Ames April 21, 2022 - 1:53 am

It was interesting reading about your stay at Roatan. I often forget the other things to do there – like your scooter trip – since our main goal is always the snorkeling. In a way though, I am a bit sad that you didn’t scuba or snorkel there yourself. That calmer, less populated part of West Bay that you mentioned is calmer because of the coral formations that come right up to the surface with deeper chasms between them, providing gorgeous areas for snorkeling. Even the West End has surprisingly interesting snorkeling. It may not be as flashy as some areas, but the creatures are numerous. When we go, surprisingly one of the highlights of our trips is usually snorkeling right under the docks. We have lunch at one of the local, on the water spots then dive right in. We’ve seen mantis shrimp, giant hermit crabs, moray and sharp tailed eels, shrimp and goby fish pairs, octopuses, parrot fish, angel fish, sponge decorating crabs, and the highlight… seahorses! (Which I am told are very rarely seen anywhere.) There’s more, but I’ve already listed too many.

Though the coral might not be as flashy as some places, the number of creatures to be seen in Roatan is special (and I’ve been snorkeling in Mallalo, Fiji – also great, but no seahorses seen there.) I hope if you ever return to Roatan that you might consider snorkeling there. It’s a great place to see the “little creatures,” and the locals can tell you where to look.

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