The Underwater Delights Of Roatan

Roatan is a huge destination for US divers, and it didn’t take long for Stuart Philpott to see the attraction of this small Caribbean island.

Roatan lies approximately 65km off the coast of Honduras and is the largest of the Bay Islands (Utila and Guanaja are the other two islands in the archipelago). A large portion of the coastline has been designated as a marine protected reserve, which makes it extremely attractive for visiting scuba divers. Sitting next door to the second largest barrier reef in the world should also boost my marine life sightings. With such a promising Caribbean pedigree, I had high expectations.

Based in the Sandy Bay area at the west end of the island, Anthony’s Key ( is probably the most-established dive resort. There’s a courtesy bus that ferries guests to and from the airport. Journey times take around 15 minutes door to door. The resort opened in the late-1960s with just ten rooms and was mainly used as a stopover for passing sailboats. This has now expanded to 56 bungalows or en-suite rooms and been kept fairly ‘rustic’ by guest request.Advertisements

Photographs by Stuart Philpott

My hillside key standard bungalow was set back in the trees and connected by a series of raised wooden walkways and stairs. Most of the accommodation has been built on a picturesque little island located a few hundred metres from the main reception area, bar and restaurant. This is accessible via a free 24-hour shuttle boat service.

There is a huge swimming pool at the centre of the complex, including a bar, BBQ area and sunbeds. Sandy beach frontage is limited. The best beach is located at Baileys Key via the shuttle boat route.

Roatan is an extremely popular destination for American divers. During my stay there were at least three big groups visiting from Colorado, California and Georgia, as well as individuals and couples from other Caribbean islands and mainland Honduras, not forgetting the solitary Brit contingent. Everybody turned out to be really sociable, and we openly chatted about everything from gun laws to Donald Trump.

I wandered down to the jetty which reminded me of the set up at Stuart Cove’s on Nassau. There were separate wooden buildings for the PADI training centre, underwater photography and video studio, snack shop, locker room, kit and compressor room as well as the all-important dive centre complete with a row of chalk boards telling everybody which boat they had been assigned to, as well as a huge air-conditioned shop selling T-shirts, beach wear, local products, etc, with a new toilet block attached.

Photographs by Stuart Philpott
Photographs by Stuart Philpott

Anthony’s Key Resort turned out to be an extremely well-oiled diving machine. More than six dive boats went out every single day. Diving Manager Kevin said he was so busy organising logistics that he hadn’t been diving for nearly two years!

There are three daily dives on offer. Dive boats usually depart at 8.30am, returning to the dock for a half hour’s break followed by a second dive at 11.30am. After a leisurely lunch and a short siesta, the boats leave again at 2pm for a third dive and return around 4pm. Night dives are also regularly offered twice a week – Tuesday and Thursday.

For my initiation dive, I was taken to a site called Green Out House Wall. During the briefing, dive guide David showed me some pictures of a bright yellow frogfish the size of my little finger and another even smaller white froggie he had found at one of the pinnacles. It didn’t take him long to find the same yellow frogfish at the dive site.

When the other divers had finished, I spent a good five minutes taking pictures. Unfortunately, the white froggie was nowhere to be seen, so for the rest of the dive I kept myself busy with French angels, green morays, barracuda, grouper, parrots and Creole wrasse.AdvertisementsAdvertisements