Even before landing on the island of Roatan, your imagination starts to soar.  Visions of  crystal clear water, multi-colored sponges and corals, occupied by dazzling tropical fish come to life when you look out of the airplane window and view the island.   The light turquoise water turns dramatically to a deep royal blue where the reef forms a wall and separates the shallow bays from the drop-off into the unknown.You can’t help it; you are seized by the desire to put on your mask, jump in  and explore the wonders that await you.

Roatan from a plane

Dive operators out of Fantasy Island Resort make it easy for you to satisfy your craving for an underwater experience. The captain’s boat handling skills, local knowledge and friendly charm will put you at ease as he navigates through shallow areas and close-set hazards to set you right onto your target area. Between dives, you’ll be treated to the comfort of fluffy towels and bathrobes while you indulge in freshly cut tropical fruits and melons.

The boat crew is equally as impressive as the captain. Their marine knowledge and underwater navigation skills will amaze even the most advanced divers. Want to swim with a giant moray eel? Need to photograph a nudibranch? Yearning to see a seahorse? Just ask the divemasters — they’ll point them out with such nonchalance, you may think that the ocean is more like their living room than a realm of unknown.

Dive-Master Derry McLaughlin helps diver to take a picture

On average, the visibility is about a hundred feet, although this may drop to 80 feet during the rainy season or a spawn.

At the depth of over 80 feet.

In the warmer months expect the water temperature to hover in the low eighties; during January and February it will fall to the high 70s. While this may sound bathtub-warm, you will still need some sort of thermal protection as you will be spending up to an hour submerged, and could be exposed to cloudy or windy conditions during your surface intervals.

Dive Locations

The area surrounding the island is divided into 4 distinct dive zones. The lagoon starts right along the shoreline. Sandy bottom coupled with shallow coral reefs make for fantastic snorkeling as this habitat is home to many juveniles. Reef squid, small lobsters, angelfish, butterflyfish and barracudas are all common here and enjoy the shallower water and protection from the larger predators.

Spotted right near the shore line

Swim a little further and you’ll encounter the reef crest. This is where the rolling waves hit the top of the coral structures and appears as a line of breakers. Taghorn and elkhorn corals send out their arms parallel to the surface in an effort to avoid exposure, gorgonian sea fans wave gently as if to beckon you further and deeper

At Forty Foot Point

If you follow the lure of the sea fans and venture deeper, you’ll find yourself on the fore reef. Lettuce corals and staghorns intertwine and form a protective stony mesh providing shelter for octopus, squirrelfish, fairy basslets and damselfish.

Privacy, privacy, please!

Barrel sponges are home to brightly colored crustaceans like the arrow crab, banded coral shrimp and spotted cleaner shrimp. Echinoderms like the brittle star, poke fuzzy legs out of azure vase sponges posing for you — a photographic masterpiece waiting to be captured

Turtles are common here as they feed on the sponges and seek hollowed out lairs to take a snooze in.

Good Chain Reef. Roatan

Swimming deeper will put you right over the edge of the wall — the main attraction of the scuba-oriented visitor and what most of your dives will be along. It forms the border of the Cayman Trench, that plunges anywhere from a few hundred, to thousands of feet below. The abrupt change from deep to shallow allows the sightings of pelagic marine life and it is normal to see large grouper, barracuda and ocean triggerfish. It also allows an opportunity to swim with whale sharks, although this is much less common. We spent quite some time exploring this site and if I ever return to Roatan, Good Chain Reef this dive spot would be one of the first on my list to revisit.

Deeper into abyss

On the wall, plate corals grow outward forming shelves that overlap and layer downward. They create valleys, deep cuts and caves; havens for juvenile drum fish, king crab, moray eels and the invasive lionfish.

Common seahorse

Look up and you might be privileged to capture a view of schooling fish swimming lazy circles around your bubbles; the sunlight illuminating a blue shimmering backdrop above you.

During the slow ascent into the world above, you’ll undoubtedly realize that this island is indeed paradise found.

Valley of the King. Roatan

Of course, there is much, much more to experience than what is described here, but revealing everything would be like giving away the ending to a good movie, right? You need to go and be a part of this underwater fantasy world to find out for yourself how the vibrant marine life, skilled dive staff, agreeable climate and excellent dive conditions make Roatan a scuba and snorkeling destination you’ll want to return to again and again.