Roatan’s Best Dive Sites: El Aguila Wreck
Max Depth: 100ft/33m
EANx Mix: EANx32
Difficulty: Advanced Open Water
More Info: CoconutTreeDivers.com
El Aguila (The Eagle) is a 63m/210ft cargo boat that rests on a deep sand basin between two large coral outcroppings. The ship was intentionally scuttled in 1997 by Anthony’s Key Resort to make for a new premier dive site. While originally settling intact and upright in 30m/100ft of water, the fury of Hurricane Mitch severed the ship in three in 1998. In October 2005, Hurricane Wilma scattered the debris into its current arrangement when the midsection completely collapsed. Presently the bow section remains upright in its original position, the midsection is a tangled mess of collapsed walls and swimthrus, and the stern rests 90 degrees on its starboard side.
The fish are extra friendly around the wreck. Two curious massive green moray eels have taken up residence on the wreck; it is quite common to see at least one of them free-swimming through the midsection. Huge black groupers, blue parrotfish and dog snappers trail dive groups down the wall and around the wreck. Look for king crabs living in the bow portholes and fields of garden eels behind the stern hull.
While many of Roatan’s dive sites have suffered over the past few years due to the tourism boom, El Aguila Wreck remains an exception. With more than a decade’s worth of sponge encrustation and soft coral growth, the wreck is beginning to rival other more well-known Caribbean ship wrecks for its natural beauty. The ship’s interior was stripped clean prior to meeting her watery grave, making this site an excellent training ground for aspiring wreck divers to practice their wreck penetration line skills. For expert divers only, the wreck is an absolutely haunting night dive: lobsters, crabs, and hogfish scurry about the bottom while the ghastly structure of the ship looms just on the fringes of your dive torch.
While the wreck itself continues to get better with age, sadly the same cannot be said for the immediately adjoining reef wall. Whether it be Anthony’s Key Resort, the overdevelopment of Sandy Bay, or just the sheer volume of divers this site sees every year (and I honestly don’t know who is to blame), the reef has suffered major degredation to the point that very little living coral remains. Conditions vastly improve as one drifts to the south towards Pillar Coral or to the north at Mike’s Place, but unfortunately the wall adjacent El Aguila is one of the most damaged on Roatan.
Despite the sad state of the reef wall (thankfully, the big fish still reside there… for now), El Aguila remains on the best dive sites on Roatan and will continue to get better as time passes.