West End’s Top Ten Dive Sites

In a previous article I wrote about my fifth favorite dive site on Roatan, the El Aguila shipwreck. It was intended to be a top-five countdown of my favorite sites around the island. Unfortunately, rum and procrastination formed a cocktail of laziness that drown said article into development hell.

Since then, I’ve had the fortune of diving around the Roatan’s south side near Dixon Cove, Fantasy Island/CocoView, and Oakridge. In my 1200+ dives on this island, I thought I had seen everything. I was wrong. Roatan’s south side has a completely different charm than the West End’s north shores: sheer walls, stunning sponges, and minuscule macro life on the south replace the serene sandy shallows, mountainous coral mounds, and swarming schools of fish to the north.

Consequently, I felt that giving an article the title of “Roatan’s Best Dive Sites” was a bit premature. I have a helluva lot of experience diving this island, but I’m just starting to discover the beauty of the island’s more far-flung sites. Therefore, I’ve decided to limit my “expert opinion” to the sites that I dive on a routine basis: West End and the surrounding areas in the Roatan Marine Park.

West End’s Top Ten Dive Sites

#10. Melissa’s Reef

The stretch of reef from Gibson Bight to Green Outhouse makes for quite a nice dive, especially when the current is running over Overheat Reef. Melissa’s Reef gets my vote for its central location on this stretch and its notable deep sections, including two large sponge-covered protrusions at 27/90ft and 21m/70ft, respectively. With a bit of a north-bound current, this wall is perfect for spotted groupers and eagle rays during multilevel drifts.

#9. Black Rock

Do this one first thing in the morning! The sun-drenched soft corals cast a surreal glow over the reef during the early hours. Nitrox greatly improves this dive as you can spend more time playing with the garden eels that populate the sandy patches at 33m/110ft. If you have at least 24m/80ft visibility (quite common in this area), level off at about 33m/110ft in the blue where the sandy slope extends off the wall. When you spot the trail of rebar leading into the abyss, peer down to spot the eerie silhouette of the Josie J , a natural shipwreck that starts at 55m/180ft.

#8. Canyon Reef

Best with a small group, this dive is a must for the swimthru lover. Twisting and turning through the many cracks that extend from the ironshore, you can easily spend a good 20-25 minutes wedged between two canyon walls. Watch you computer and profile carefully: though shallow (18m/60ft), the swimthrus expose you to a pronounced sawtooth profile, so take care that your exploration doesn’t get you bent.

#7. Dixie’s Place

What a wall! Visibility is typically great around the Half Moon Bay Wall area, and nowhere is it more apparent than Dixie’s Place. The massive gorgonian-covered bulges that protrude from the sandy shallows plummit at a breaktaking angle to depts of 50m/165ft. Immediately following the second bulge, a tight swimthru at 21m/70ft forms the perfect transition from deep to shallow.

#6. Tabyana’s

All the fish life of the shallow reef, all the huge formations of the deep. The first wall bottoms out shallow (24m/80ft) and extends in a stingray-inhabited sandy slope to the second wall at 33m/110ft. Several long-running coral fingers divide the sand patch, peppering the place with barrel sponges, barracudas, and nassau groupers. An excellent nitrox dive.

#5. Bear’s Den

While the forereef itself is a bit unmemorable, there’s no forgetting a foray in the Bear’s Den cave. Inside theĀ  tiny, foreboding entrance is a three-chambered, two-storey, naturally-lit cave packed with silversides, glassy sweepers, and lobster. Hovering in the back chamber, illuminated only by a sliver of light dancing through cracks in the ceiling, you can’t help but feel peacefully secluded from the rest of the world.

#4. El Aguila Wreck

Another fantastic Nitrox dive at a depth of 33m/110ft, the El Aguila wreck features plenty of clean, illuminated swimthrus and penetration opportunities. You will come face-to-face with some fat black groupers, buck-toothed blue parrotfish, and grinning moray eels while swimming laps around one of the wreck’s three sections. The wreck is just starting to get some quality sponge encrustation even as storms continue to rearrange her midsection.

#3. Spooky Channel

If there’s one dive that has an OMG moment, it’s Spooky Channel. Starting in the murky green channel waters, you suddenly plunge through a black, seemingly bottomless hole and emerge into a massive 29m/95ft cathedral-like canyon. While relatively devoid of fishlife itself, the alien topography of the channel is more than enough to keep you enchanted– just don’t forget to look up! Huge groupers and “Barracuda Bob” wait for you at the channel mouth.

#2. Hole in the Wall

I describe this site as a “rollercoaster ride” to my customers. Based on the grins I see coming out of the water after the dive, they agree. Start with a 40m/130ft descent through the eponymous Hole, hover over the Second Hole at 55m/180ft, then charge up the narrow sand chute to the shallows. Explore the mouth of a huge cave at 10m/30ft, then spin through tunnel after tunnel in the Honeycomb Swimthrus. If you don’t emerge dizzy, wet, and satisfied, then you probably haven’t done this site correctly.

#1. Texas

It’s all about the fish. Anything and everything can and will show up on this site as prevailing currents from both the north and south whirl together into a rocketing drift dive off the end of the of island. In the right conditions, you’ll be dodging enormous barrel sponges whilst careening through enormous and varied schools of fish. I personally recommend doing this dive beginning at Pablo’s Place so you have enough real estate to see as much of the site as you can before being swept into the blue. Absolutely do this one on Nitrox!!!

Honorable Mentions: Pillar Coral, Grape Escape, Blue Channel, Turtle Crossing Deep, Lighthouse Reef

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>