Scuba Diving Guanaja
Guanaja’s fringing reef is a protected marine reserve—an ideal spot for diving and snorkeling. Top dive sites include pinnacles, vertical walls, lava tunnels and wrecks. Part of a volcanic and coral mountain range called The Bonacca Ridge, Guanaja is the beginning of the second largest barrier reef in the world.
Guanaja (pronounced gwa-na’-‘ha) or Pine Island as named by Christopher Columbus, is the most undiscovered and pristine of the three islands off the coast of Honduras that make up the archipelago called The Bay Islands. The easternmost of the Bay Islands, it lies about 8 miles northeast of Roatan and 40 miles north of the mainland of Honduras (16° 24′ 0″ N, 85° 54′ 0″ W)
The island is the most mountainous of the three and has an abundance of year-round fresh water springs, waterfalls, hiking trails, and beautiful beaches. It is also split in two by a man-made channel that provides access to the airport and serves as the main “thoroughfare” for nearly all transportation, which is by boat. (There is only one road on the mainland and only a handful of cars.)
This remote island has about 12, 000 inhabitants, most of whom live on Bonacca, a tiny, crowded cay right off the main island. The cay has been called the “Little Venice of the Caribbean”—it’s crisscrossed with canals that teem with colorful boats and canoes, navigating Bonacca’s packed streets. Most of the resorts however are either on coast of the mainland, or on one of several private cays that circumvent the mainland.
Reaching Guanaja does take more effort than the other islands, but this is what has helped to keep it so pristine. Once you arrive, it takes no time to realize you are somewhere off the beaten track. You can fly direct from Roatan to Guanaja on Saturday’s only. Otherwise flights route via La Ceba. There is also ferry service available from Roatan to Guanaja.
SCUBA DIVING GUANAJA
Guanaja’s fringing reef is a protected marine reserve—an ideal spot for diving and snorkeling. Top dive sites include pinnacles, vertical walls, lava tunnels and wrecks. Dive sites ring the island, meaning finding a location to dive in the lee of the wind is nearly always possible. In addition to the sites surrounding mainland Guanaja, there are also sites, particularly in the south, off several of a dozen or so cays that are part of Guanaja.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS
There are 40+ dive sites surrounding the mainland Guanaja and in the south at several of its many cays. Here is information on just a few of the sites:
Michael’s Rock: This site is famous for its cracks & crevices. The maximum depth reaches to 70 feet. This is also a good practice dive before you do Black Rock Canyons.
The Pinnacle: This pinnacle is located in a channel, close to Guanaja Island. It stands on a sandy bottom at 135 feet, very close to the channel wall, & rises 80 feet to a point about 55 feet below the surface. Several varieties of black coral are attached to the pinnacle. The wall of the channel has some really beautiful coral, blue bell tunicates and crinoids along it at depths of only 10 to 30 feet.
The Jado Trader: The 240-foot Jado Trader was a refrigerator freighter sunk in 1987 to form one of the richest artificial reefs in Roatan. The Trader rests on a sandy bottom, completely intact and in waters between 80 and 110 feet, suitable for experienced divers. The wreck is now nicely encrusted and the marine life around it excellent. It is one of the most photo genetic wrecks in Honduras. Near to the wreck are several coral pinnacles that can be explored as well.
Black Rock Canyon: Created by volcanic action, this conglomeration of caves, tunnels and deep cracks & crevices is one of the most exciting dives around Guanaja. It’s common to turn a corner, or come out of a tunnel and come across a sleeping shark or a big moray eel lounging in a hole. Expect to see plenty of silverside sardines, glassy sweepers, groupers, and barracudas.
Vertigo: This is a site along the barrier reef wall that has some spectacular drop-offs. As is true along the entire barrier wall, the beauty here is truly unbelievable. The top of the wall is at about 35 feet then drops down to about 160 feet. From here, a sandy shelf juts out 60 feet or so before the wall drops off to oblivion. Black crinoids are found here.
DIVE SEASON: You can dive the Bay Islands all year long, but the tropical, rainy season runs from October to January. The Bay Islands’ southern Caribbean location means that hurricanes sometimes pass by to the north. Hurricane season is June to the end of November.
VISIBILITY: Generally the visibility is around 100 feet/30 meters. During the rainy season (roughly October to January) visibility can dip below the usual.
WATER TEMPERATURE: Ranging from a low of 78° F/25° C in the winter to a high of 84° F/29° C in the summer and fall months.
CURRENTS: Mostly mild, but can vary by location.
WEATHER: Year-round temperatures hover around 85° F/29.4° C with the rainy season starting in October and usually lasting until December or January
ACCESSIBILITY: Dive sites range from a 15 minute ride to 45 minutes for sites off the northern shore.
SKILL LEVELS: Divers of all levels will find the Bay Islands exciting. Most sites offer interesting options at a variety of depths.
FEATURED MARINE CREATURES: There are more than 300 identified fish species in Bay Island waters. Divers frequently see Angelfish, Barracuda, Butterfly fish, Crabs, Lobster, Dolphins, Grouper, Jackfish, Moray eels, Octopus, Parrotfish, Nurse sharks, and Seahorses. Others feature wrecks.
CLIMATE: Prevailing ocean breezes keep the temperature comfortable year around. The temperature is generally in the low 80s, only occasionally getting in to the high 80s during August and September.
The average rainfall is 100 inches a year which helps keep the island lush and green. Guanaja’s rainy season usually begins around October and lasts until December or January
LANGUAGE: English is the first language of all native islanders regardless of race and Spanish is spoken second (whereas mainland Honduras is primarily Spanish speaking.)
ELECTRICITY: 110 volts 60 Hz, US-style three pin plugs are the norm.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: US Dollars and Lempiras are widely accepted everywhere. There is no need to exchange Dollars for Lempira’s. Small bills are encouraged, as generally you will receive change in Lempiras. Banking is limited on the island of Guanaja. There is only one bank, Banco Atlantida, and no ATMs. It is recommended you carry cash, as traveler’s checks are not accepted, and cannot be changed at the bank. Almost all establishments do not accept credit cards.
GRATUITIES: Tipping for good service is customary and encouraged. 10% – 15% is the standard. Visitors should consider tipping housekeepers, restaurant servers, bartenders, cooks, dive staff, tour guides or anyone else who provides good service.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: Internet is available at all of the resorts, however phone service is variable depending on your location. Best to plan to keep connected via the internet.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: All foreign visitors must have a valid passport to enter the country with at least six months remaining validity.
GETTING THERE: Visitors will find it easiest to fly into Roatan, then flying Lansha Air from Roatan either direct to Guanaja on Saturday’s, or via La Ceba on weekdays. The Lansha flights are operated with small 9-20 passenger seat aircraft.
CUSTOMS: You may bring items that are for your personal use including up to 2 liters of alcohol without paying import duties assuming the items are appropriate for your trip. The items may not be for commercial use such as goods for resale. Scuba divers should not bring spear guns. They are prohibited on the Bay Islands and will be held at the airport until you leave the country.
DEPARTURE TAX: Travelers must clear Honduran Immigration to depart the country. Travelers must return the copy of their immigration document or entrance permit (blue paper) they received when entering Honduras before exiting. If you are departing via air, travelers must pay an airport tax of approximately $40.00 US unless it is already included in your airline ticket. The airport tax is payable at the airport in cash in either U.S. dollars or lempiras or by credit card.
More information on Honduras
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