Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
This blog outlines our diving experiences in Roatan. Link to a separate blog providing general information on Roatan can be found here
Getting Open Water PADI diving certification – By Rodora
What can I say? It’s up there as one of the scariest things I’ve tried to do. Toby convinced me it would be cool if we both get our Open Water Certification, then we can go diving together (as you need a diving buddy). So it would be useful for the future, and I didn’t really have an “awesome” experience last time I tried diving. As we were both fighting the end of colds we decided to wait a few days before we did our first dive and ended up just watching some of the instructional DVD’s. Next we had our first day in the water, in the shallows of the beach in the bay.
The first time trying to dive was really strange, as I had to teach myself how to breathe again. I kept forgetting to breathe as I was freaked out by being underwater. It’s also really strange submerging yourself underwater. As an avid snorkeler I’m used to being on the top of the water (not below), so it took me awhile to submerge below the surface without panicking and going back up for air (even though I had my regulator in my mouth).
The next difficult step to learn was equalization. Luckily I did this on my first crash dive course in Egypt so I already knew how to do this. I was surprised on how much my ears hurt and needed to equalize in the shallows. We were less than a few metres deep, but they say equalization is mostly needed in the first 5-10 metres and gets easier the deeper you get.
Now for the worst bit; taking off your mask and letting water into your mask while you’re underwater, then putting it back on again. My first attempt was a horrific experience to the point I think I have a permanent phobia of it. So much so that every evening when my instructor “Eddie” said you will have to take your mask off again under water tomorrow, I would not be able to sleep properly all night knowing what was ahead. My first attempt to take my mask completely off underwater was horrible. Getting water in my mask took a while as I had to breathe in and out slowly quite a few times to have the courage to fill it up. When I eventually had the courage to take it off, unfortunately, I panicked as I couldn’t see anything as my eyes were covered with water. I yanked my mask off but way too hard and ended up breaking off the tube from my regulator (the mouth piece). So now, not only could I not see, but I also was not able to breath and I gulped in a mouth full of salt water. Hence panic spread (I forgot all about my alternate regulator) and swam as quickly as I could to the surface. Let’s just say he is an awesome instructor as he is super patient. Anyway, after coughing up water for about 5 minutes, I refused to try again because I was tormented by this incident. Eventually, after lots of practice and Eddie convincing me I could do it, I was finally able to achieve the taking off the mask underwater move. Yay! Thank goodness I have my PADI Open Water certificate so I don’t have to do it again unless my mask falls off or gets kicked off.
After we finished our second lot of shallow water exercises we were finally ready to go for our first dive. At first I was freaked out as the thought of going down deeper (not shallow anymore) was scary. Our first descent involved holding onto the boat tie up line and every time we moved our hand we were told to equalize. This was weird going down so deep and trying to get to the bottom (it may have taken me awhile). However, as we went closer and closer to the sandy floor, I realized why people do this. We were surrounded by beautiful coral and fish which you don’t really see when your snorkelling. They were also swimming right up to my mask curious on who I was and taking a closer look.
Our third dive was the best dive though as we got to see a shipwreck and a turtle! It was so cute. We followed it for about 5 to 10 minutes until it stopped and started eating coral. When another group of divers came along, we swam off. It then decided to swim again and followed us – which was absolutely amazing. We followed it for about another 5 minutes before it disappeared out of sight.
Going for Advanced Diving status – By Toby
Who knew diving could be quite so fun and easy? Admittedly, this now adds another expensive hobby to our list, along with snowboarding. With the Open Water certification done, this usually gives you access to dives that are a maximum depth of 18m (60ft). Completing the Advanced Open Water Status increases this to 30m (100ft) and therefore allows a much greater variety of dives to be achieved. From our discussions with other divers, these don’t appear to be strictly enforced around the world. The general concept is this gives a dive shop a quick knowledge of what you have been trained to do but your confidence will count for a lot more.
I chose to get my Advanced because we’d decided to extend our stay in Roatán and most of the dives needed for the status were things I wanted to do already. The minimum requirement is to complete 5 total dives from a choice of about 15 available. There are two compulsory modules; a deep dive; I think this is anything up to or around 30m (60ft) and the underwater navigation module. Each requires a quick read of the chapter in the book, a quiz and then the practical dive with possible tasks to complete. Just about everyone I’ve spoken to has suggested I also do the buoyancy module as it is meant to make you a much more efficient and more controlled diver.
Deep Dive – Hole in the Wall, Roatán
Max depth: 120ft/31m
Time: 60 minutes
This was a really awesome dive for a couple of reasons. The initial piece is getting to the entrance to the hole which is more of a canyon or trench. It’s fairly narrow and quite high. You swim through and keep heading down until you reach your maximum depth of about 31m. You’re only there for about a minute before you start ascending to a more normal depth of about 25m.
Wreck Dive – El Aguila (The Eagle), Roatán
Max depth: 110ft/33m
Time: 55 minutes
We did the shallow dive as part of one of our open water dives where we got to see the top part of the wreck only due to the depth. The full dive gives you about 20 minutes swimming in and around the wreck. Since it is on a sand bed at about 33m depth, you use a lot of air and to maximise dive time, you shallow up. This was a 75m long dual deck cargo ship that was purposely sunk in 1997 to provide an area for divers to swim in. In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch broke it into 3 pieces, making it even more interesting to dive in.
The start of the dive you go straight down onto the wreck. We followed our instructor/guide through a range of various passageways. There is an eel garden on the floor surrounding the ship, but for some reason I was looking elsewhere and not paying attention to them. The wreck is totally safe to swim though as most of the dangerous things that might catch you or cut you have been removed. After swimming the wreck, we then found some interesting caves and channels to swim through. I found them lots of fun. Right at the end of the dive, you’re also on top of a very active reef with a large number of black groupers hanging around amongst many other fish.
Night Dive – Moonlight Reef, Roatán
Max depth: 37ft/11m
Time: 51 minutes
For anyone thinking of doing this; make sure the moon is as small as possible. The less light shining naturally into the water, the better your dive will be. This is one of only a couple of places in the world where the water has natural bio-luminescence. This means that in the water there are glowing things you can look and play with. We all sat on a sandy base and buried our lights/torches to reduce as much light as possible. Our dive was too bright due to the moon to see the “string of pearls”; which is meant to look a bit like the matrix. Rodora and I had fun by high-fiving each other and doing other hand and leg movements to see these glowing things in the water. We also got lucky and saw an octopus. It was only small at maybe 1ft/30cm in length. Still, it was quite interesting to watch for a few minutes.
There are no real skills needed with the dive except to stay closer to the group since visibility is reduced. Hand signals are also transformed into light/torch signals.
Drift Dive – Black Rock to Texas, Roatán
Max depth: 70ft/21m
Time: 60 minutes
The only skill needed for the drift dive is to stay with the group. The boat drops you at a place, but instead of mooring, it follows you along your path and picks you up at the end. The current for our dive was very calm, so it was quite easy to stay together. Continuing our luck of spotting turtles, this one had two turtles to watch. Eddie took his camera and got this great close up.
We also came quite close to a large Eagle Ray. There’s a short video of it, which I’ll try to upload and link. It was just so beautiful to be able to watch it in such a natural environment.
Underwater Navigation Dive – Blue Channel, Roatán
Max depth: 68ft/21m
Time: 55 minutes
As I mentioned earlier, this was a compulsory dive. I’ll be honest; it wasn’t a particularly fun dive. We spent about 30 minutes doing navigation skills. This involved using a compass and natural navigation. Great skills to learn and certainly something you should know, but not a lot of “fun” involved. We did get lucky and found a free swimming Green moray eel that we could watch for a few minutes.
Some useful diving information for Roatán
If you read post #5 of this forum at the following link it has a lengthy description of the diving zones around Roatán and therefore where you might want to stay.
Simple map of the dive sites
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/