Another overnighter later and we were in the Bay of Islands in Honduras. This group of islands are a good stop off en route to Guatemala giving us a break in the journey and the opportunity to visit another country.
We first called into the island of Guanaja which was devasted by a fire a few weeks ago. They lost over 700 homes and their infrastructure was also seriously affected. We only stayed the night and then headed to the main island of Roatan. It was not the best of sails, motoring most of the day but we are still in the rainy season so the winds are fickle. We dropped anchor in Little French Key off the resort (now closed) of Fantasy Island. A delightful South African cruising couple who got stranded here during the COVID lockdown have stepped up and are running a cruising bar at the resort which everyone in the bay goes to for a beer at the end of the day. They also have movie nights and a bbq on Saturday nights.
The bay hold a about 30 boats and so we decided to spend most of our time anchored here and hire a car to explore Roatan. Apart from our own cruisers bar, we could go snorkelling off the dinghy here, visit a very nice resort, go to a sloth farm and also an iguana farm. Enough to keep us busy for a while.
After a couple of days Ian and Diane from SV Blue Infinity came in and anchored so we had some buddies to explore with. The first few days the weather was rubbish so we mainly stayed on board doing boat chores and enjoying the socialising at the cruisers bar in the evening. On the third day we went snorkelling and saw an amazing variety of fish including lion fish, lobsters and heaps of conch. Because it’s a marine park there are very strict rules about taking anything from the water so all the beautiful conch shells litter the bottom.
It was Ian’s birthday that week so Ian & Diane, myself and the birthday boy decided to treat ourselves and enjoy a big birthday lunch at the Little French Key resort. Because the cruise ships have slowly started returning, they had opened the resort to accommodate those cruise passengers who wanted to enjoy a hotel resort for the day and we were welcomed to come and use their facilities. We had long lunch and then explored the island. All the bars were open but only a few tourists were there so we felt very lucky to have the place so quiet. Little French Key is an island resort so there are many small beaches and all sorts of entertainment. Horse riding through the water, water sports, lots of different bars and restaurants, swings, hammocks and even their own small zoo. We were as a disappointed to see a lion and a jaguar in tiny cages along with exotic birds and monkeys. It marred the day for us, especially when we realised the noises we heard as we lay in bed at night were the sounds of the lion and jaguar calling out in their tiny prisons.
We also visited the Iguana farm in the bay. After having seen the monkeys and birds all in cages at Little French Key we were expecting a similar experience so were very pleasantly surprised when we discovered that we were literally walking among them at this farm. There are over 4,000 of them and they have no fear of us as they are protected. We met the owner who was very welcoming and pleased that we had come from a private boat rather than the cruise boat and he even gave us a discount from the gift shop when I bought Ian his carved walking stick for his birthday.
We hired a car for a few days to explore further. The first day we headed east to a small town called Punta Gorda, the oldest inhabited town in Roatan. It was founded by over 3,000 Garifuna from St Vincent who were left here by the British in 1797 and the people look very much more eastern Caribbean than Honduran. We went on a Sunday as they have local dancing and live music where the whole town seem to turn out. It’s loud, raucous and fun and all the kids seem to have a blast.
We also visited a few of the beautiful bays on the south east coast where we found a yacht club that served up a hearty lunch…. much appreciated after all our exploring. We met some American ex-pats who found this little piece of paradise 20 years ago and they swear they will never leave!
The next day we went down to explore the west end which is where all the best diving is and where most of the backpackers stay. The weather was really disappointing – very wet and overcast so we didn’t see it at its best but we loved the vibe – very Caribbean and laid back. We bought a pizza from a guy who convinced us that he sold the best pizzas in Honduras and if we didn’t like it we could have it for free… sounded like fun, so we sat down and waited for a gastronomic treat. Unfortunately our opinions of fantastic pizza must vary enormously because this soggy, doughy, mush arrived with a few bits of processed ham and way too much cheese! He kept saying how good it was and ‘wasn’t it the best pizza we’d ever had’…. We didn’t have the heart to tell him any different so he still thinks Aussies love stodgy pizzas!
Every place tries to add some originality to their premises – this makes wandering around fun as we each notice something. It may be an enormous turtle on the roof or chairs made out of tyres – their imagination is huge.
There were many bars to choose from, most waterfront or just off which is a great way to spend a wet afternoon but eventually we got bored and started driving around. We found some cute little bays, with very few tourists. The Americans are slowly coming back and the cruise ships are sailing again but with 2 seasons of no income most of the tourist places are looking very run down.
After a week or so we decided to head to Utila- one of the other smaller bay islands. It was with heavy heart we bade goodbye to Ian and Diane from Blue Infinity – we had travelled with them since Curacao and had many adventures together but they were heading for Belize and we were heading for Guatemala.
We had one last night with Tony and Robyn at the cruisers bar in Fantasy island and set off the next morning for Ulitan.
When we arrived in Ulitan the heavens opened. It was such heavy rain that we were boat bound for the rest of the day. We were not sure we were going to be able to even get off the next day as the sea was so rough but in the early afternoon we were able to scramble into the dinghy and get ashore to have some lunch, wander round the town and hopefully check out. Ulitan has no cars…. so it should be really safe on the one road it has but people drive their quads and motor bikes so fast that we really thought we would get run over! There’s one main strip with all the dive shops, bars and restaurants and up the small side streets tend to be the small hotels – a typical small backpacker island that has yet to see any form of mass tourism. I love these little places and could spend days here but as always we had to move on if we were going to get to Guatemala. Check out was easy, both customs and immigration next door to each other – and so we sorted out all the business side of things, had one last drink and headed back to the boat for an early night as we were leaving at the crack of dawn