Roatan lies about 40 miles (65 km) north of Honduras in the Caribbean. Roatan, Guanaja, and Utila make up the Bay Islands, with Roatan being the largest. It is 48 miles (77 km) long and less than 5 miles (8 km) wide at its widest point. The island is an exposed ancient coral reef rising 890 feet (270 meters) above sea level. It is located on the southern edge of the Meso-American Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea and in the northern hemisphere, and the second largest in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Roatan hosts 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of molluscs, and more than 500 species of fish.
We dove the Bay Islands in 1995 aboard a liveaboard dive boat. See the Guanaja and Cayos Cochinos pages for more images.split-crown feather duster, Anamobaea orstedii
Caribbean spiny lobster, Penulirus argus
Stoplight parrotfish (terminal phase), Sparisoma viride
Porkfish, Anisotremus virginicus
The Prince Albert wreck, the DC-3 wreck, and two near-vertical walls are a shore dive away with well-marked chains and buoys.
Wreck of the Prince Albert:
Snappers: mutton snapper, Lutjanus analis, schoolmaster, Lutjanus apodus, and yellowtail snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus
French grunt, Haemulon flavolineatum
Angelfish: gray angelfish, Pomacanthus arcuatus, rock beauty, Holocanthus tricolor, queen angelfish, Holacanthus ciliaris, and French angelfish, Pomacanthus paru
Butterflyfish: foureye butterflyfish, Chaetodon capistratus, and spotfin butterflyfish, Chaetodon ocellatus
Surgeonfish: blue tang, Acanthurus coeruleus, and ocean surgeonfish (two color phases), Acanthurus bahianus
Trumpetfish, Aulostomus maculatus
Sea basses (groupers): black grouper, Mycteroperca bonaci, rock hind, Epinephelus adscensionis, graysby, Cephalopholis cruentatus, harlequin bass, Serranus tigrinus, and tobaccofish, Serranus tabacarius
Fairy basslet, Gramma loreto
Green moray, Gymnothorax funebris
Puffers: sharpnose puffer, Canthigasgter rostrata, spotted burrfish, Chilomycterus atringa, porcpupinefish, Diodon hystrix
Gobies: neon goby, Elacatinus oceanops, barsnout goby, Gobiosoma illecebrosum, and masked or glass goby, Coryphopterus personatus/hyalinus (impossible to determine which)
Blennies: arrow blenny, Lucayablennius zingaro, spinyhead blenny, Acanthemblemaria spinosa
Damselfish: threespot damselfish, Stegastes planifrons (two adults, one juvenile), bicolor damselfish, Stegastes partitus, and sergeant major, Abudefduf saxatilis
Stoplight parrotfish, Sparisoma viride (left: initial phase; right: terminal phase)
Wrasses: pearly razorfish, Xyrichtys novacula, Spanish hogfish, Bodianus rufus, yellowhead wrasse (juvenile, two intermediate), Halioceres garnoti, slippery dick, Halichoeres bivittatus (intermediate phase), and Creole wrasse (initial phase), Clepticus parrae
Longspine squirrelfish, Holocentrus rufus
Peacock flounder, Bothus lunatus
Inshore lizardfish, Synodus foetens
Chub, Kyphosus spp. (may be Bermuda chub, Kyphosus specatrix, or Yellow chub, Kyphosus incisor)
Mojarras: silver jenny, Eucinostomus gula
Saucereye porgy, Calamus calamus
Jacks: bar jack, Caranx ruber, and horse-eye jack, Caranx latus
Spotted drum, Equetus punctatus (juvenile)
Goatfish: yellow goatfish, Mulloidichthys martinicus, and spotted goatfish, Pseudupeneus maculatus
Hamlets: barred hamlet, Hypoplectrus puella, and indigo hamlet, Hypoplectrus indigo
Yellowhead jawfish, Opistognathus aurifrons
Atlantic spadefish, Chaetodipterus faber
Lionfish: an Indo-Pacific invasive species, now found all over the Caribbean, red lionfish, Pterois volitans
Spotted scorpionfish, Scorpaena plumieri
Slender filefish, Monacanthus tuckeri
Smooth trunkfish, Lactophrys triqueter
Large eye toadfish, Batrachoides gilberti
Longsnout seahorse, Hippocampus reidi
Shrimps: banded coral shrimp, Stenopus hispidus, and Pederson cleaner shrimp, Periclimenes pedersoni
Scaly-tailed mantis shrimp, Lysiosquilla scabricauda
Worms: Christmas tree worm (single, colony), Spirobranchus giganteus, magnificent feather duster, Sabellastarte magnifica, and spaghetti worm, Eupolymnia crassicornis
Flamingo tongue cowrie, Cyphoma gibbosum
Sand dollar, Clypeaster subdepressus
Sponge brittle star, Ophiothrix suensonii
Tiger tail sea cucumber, Holothuria thomasi
Crabs: yellowline arrow crab, Stenorhynchus seticornis, neck crab, Podochela spp., hairy clinging crab, Mithrax pilosus, white speckled hermit, Paguristes punticeps, unidentified crab
Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus
Hawksbill turtle, Eretmochelys imbriocota
Lettuce sea slug, Elysia crispata
Folk dancers performing dances from diverse parts of Honduras:
Ironically, we had originally planned on returning home on Monday, March 16, but flights on March 17 were so much cheaper that it was more cost-efftective to stay one more day. Or so we thought, anyway. Honduras went into lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 16. Roatan had no COVID-19 cases on the island (it still has none as of now, April 18), but with limited medical facilities there, it could quickly have become overwhelmed. Roatan closed its airport and ports, allowing no one to land or take off from the island. Restaurants, taxi service, buses, ferry boats, and rental cars were shut down. A curfew and many other restrictions were imposed.
The United flight from Roatan to Houston that Monday, which left Roatan four hours late, was the last flight out to any American city, or anywhere else for that matter, for several days. Having heard no communication from United, we checked with United by telephone that evening and were eventually told that our flight would come in empty to take American customers back to Houston according to the original schedule. However, when we got to the airport Tuesday it was deserted, mostly closed, and mostly locked up, with no United representatives around, or anyone else, for that matter. So we went back to the hotel.
Unable to tie up the phone there on hold with United for hours to try to figure out how to get home, Paul texted one of his sisters back in United States. After several hours on hold herself she was able to rebook us on a flight ten days later. So we were stuck. The beaches closed, the dive shop closed, and we were confined to the hotel compound. We quickly made arrangements to get prescription medicines filled on the island and got a few other supplies like toothpaste we would need for ten more days than we had planned for. As it happened a dive club group from our local area was stranded with us. We were stuck in a relatively expensive place to be stranded, but at least it was safe, clean, had potable water, food, air conditioning, generator power, security guards, and people who spoke Spanish and could therefore translate the government mandates and announcements better than we could.
Meanwhile, three different Canadian airlines quickly brought planes in empty and repatriated all the Canadian guests, but no American carriers did so for several days. A couple of American customers who really had to get home booked themselves onto a very costly charter flight and got out via Miami. The Czech Republic even got a flight in and brought their citizens out via a roundabout route. So the hotel got lonelier and lonelier as people managed to get out and get home.
There wasn't much to do. It was lonely, boring, and frightening all at the same time. The dive shop was locked up, the dive boats sat at the dock, the empty beach was cordoned off, we were confined to the hotel compound, and the strict curfew meant people so inclined could not hang around at the hotel bar and watch movies. We read a lot of books from the bookswap, edited the underwater photos, worked on software, and messed around on the internet on our computers when the internet bandwidth was good enough. We got very tired of that hotel room. I even spent a bunch of time photographing a woodpecker excavating a nest in the palm tree right outside the window. Our wedding anniversary came and went sadly without our usual celebration. We just hoped that the repatriation flights that were scheduled would actually fly, and were happy when the first of them left for Houston on schedule. Our repatriation flight back on the 28th was surreal, to put it mildly. We were in the last group to get out of our hotel, so they closed up when we left. The last repatriation flight out of Roatan was on March 31st.
I was never so glad to see a 737 come in and land safely as I was that empty plane! Applause rang out in the waiting area in the airport as all the anxious, stranded customers saw that we had a good chance of actually leaving at last. After we had all boarded, which was immediately since the plane had no arriving passengers, we had another scare when the pilot got on the PA system and announced that the plane had a mechanical issue and our departure was going to be delayed. There was a problem with the pitot-static system, which would mean that the plane had no working airspeed indicator. We feared that United was either going to have to bring in a different plane or a mechanic to fix that one, but after an anxious half hour we were able to depart. We arrived in Houston with no problems and only about ten minutes late. Houston was deserted, so we quickly were able to clear customs and connect with our almost-empty flight home.
When we got to Boston, the airport was almost completely empty, but our airport shuttle van ride home, which we had rebooked once we were relatively sure we would be able to get home, was faithfully waiting for us outside baggage claim, and we finally got home for our mandatory 14 (more) days of quarantine. So I made us face masks. Strangest DXpedition in our careers to date!
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Last modified 16 January 2021