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  • Writer's pictureSteven Hopkinson

After doing some amazing sailing all over Roatan

We’ve been having an amazing time sailing, around Roatan from the east end of the island to West Bay, to Cayos Cochinos, to Guanaja and back, all with very little engine use, doing it with sail power on our sleek monohull sailing vessel, City Dogs. Now that the easterly winds have us tied into our home base, tight with as many lines as we can spare to the docks, we’ve got a chance to reflect a bit on what it means to still be working in the charter business as we head full steam into the second quarter of the 2023.

One of the things we've discovered is that, living on Roatan, we have become ambassadors, advocates not just for this 'little big island', but for all of the Bay Islands of Honduras. Part of living here is being a reluctant cheerleader. The only thing that beats showing someone Roatan, Guanaja, Utila, or Cayos Cochinos for the first time is taking someone who has been coming to the Bay Islands for years, and showing them places, and things they've never seen before. Either way, experiencing all that the islands have to give, both above the waterline, and below, with our guests is uniquely gratifying.

Somtimes, it's hard not to see the islands through the eyes of our guests, especially when they're exceptionally well travelled, or are intimately familiar with the marine life on the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef. It's hard not to notice how stressed some of the coral on Roatan is these days. Sure, the Bay Islands of Honduras still have some of the best, most diverse, dynamic snorkeling and SCUBA diving in the world, Roatan is routinely listed as having some of the best reefs in the world, but some species of coral are suffering, like pillar coral (dendrogyra cylindrus), and other hard corals that are being ravaged by diseases like Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. What this means for most visitors to the islands is instead of seeing furry, live, happy zooxanthellae-infused coral polyps dancing on the fingers of pillar coral, people see nothing at all, the dead coral just fades into the background, part of the visual noise of the reef.

Between rising ocean temperatures, acidification of the oceans, and the huge amounts of nutrients being dumped onto the reef, is it any wonder that the good, live colonies of delicate, fragile coral are starting to vanish, moving from the critically endangered list to list of ones that have gone extinct in the wild? Looking at the best, most vibrant places to snorkel and dive in the Bay Islands, the ones with the best looking coral, and the most healthy reef, with the biggest schools of fish, it seems like most of them are far away from the big developments, off the cruise ship paths.

Of course, with the ferry running to Guanaja now, and the big news media writing about the Bay Islands, like some kind of underwater El Dorado, it seems like the time to see the pristine parts of the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef is now, while Roatan, Utila, Guanaja, and Cayos Cochinos are still teeming with life, before disease, stress, and development put a breaking strain on these diverse marine ecosystems. Thankfully some areas, like the Cayos Cochinos marine preserve, are protected from further development, because the future of the Bay Islands lies in ensuring that generations from now, there are still live, viable biomes in these crystal clear aquamarine Caribbean waters.

Thankfully, there are organizations in the Bay Islands working to help restore some fast-growing species of coral like staghorn and elkhorn. And coral outplanting programs allow researchers and organizations around the world to show community led success stories. Hopefully examples of successful programs like those in Placencia, Belize will help increase funding, fueling additional research, and expanding campaigns to increase the size, support, and enforcement of marine protected areas, the only real way to ensure the safety of any section of reef. If you're looking for a way to help out, take a look at some of the good work that the Roatan Marine Park is doing to help educate the next generation of Bay Islanders.

If you're thinking about taking a much needed break, and hopping down to the western Caribbean to slip into the eighty-degree tropical waters, let us know how we can help you achieve vacation nirvana. We're booking summer, fall, and winter dates now, so let us know your plans and we'll put together a customized itinerary designed to fit your unique needs.


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