About 6 Months ago we decided we wanted to start Scuba Diving. Don’t ask me why… We bought a book on the best diving sites in the Caribbean when we moved to Costa Rica about 18 months ago (It was marked down to next to nothing), and the fact that my sister started diving at the beginning of the year or so all probably nudged us until we made the decision.
Right from the start we decided that if we’re going to learn, we’ll do it somewhere spectacular, and after looking at flights to the popular destinations nearby we settled on Roatan in Honduras (A trip to Belize which is next door to Honduras would have cost twice as much!)
I do not regret this decision for a moment. The only thing I would possibly have done differently is to have stayed longer.
Getting our PADI open water certification
We did a huge amount of research upfront and finally decided on West end divers to do our PADI open water certification. Eventually after Taca having overbooked our flights and us having to leave a day later, we got to Roatan without incident and started our course a day later. It is quite a bit to fit into 4 days, but we didn’t really have any issues with that. At the end of the day we finished the academic part and the confined dives in the first 3 days and then on day 4 we did the last 2 open water dives. We also paid a bit extra and did another 2 openwater dives on day 5, and then some snorkelling on the last morning (Before flying out in the afternoon).
By the way, speaking of confined dives, that’s the beauty of doing the certification somewhere like Roatan. Even the confined dives were in the ocean, and the last 3 were in about 8ft of water. We saw Sailfin blenny, a variety of Jacks, snappers, butterflyfish, Goby, Trumpetfish, Needlefish, a pair of Great barracuda and even a Spotted snake eel on the confined dives.
The main point of this blog post though was for me to document what we saw.
What we saw diving
There is an amazing amount of life on the reefs. If we went 60 seconds without seeing something move, it’s a lot. Before getting to my list, there’s a few things that stand out, so I’ll start with those.
Getting friendly with a Nassau Grouper
Apparently the Nassau Grouper might be somewhat interested in divers. On our second dive, we had one that took this to the extreme. This guy would not leave us alone – He literally got right in our faces and looked us right in the eye. Whenever we tried to move around him, he would just calmly swim right back in front of us.
Eventually our dive instructor attracted it’s attention and tried to scare it off using a squirt of air from his alternate regulator, but this made no impression at all. He then got his fins between himself and the fish and tried chasing it off by waving his fins at it, but I think the grouper actually saw that as a courtship ritual. Luckily at that point a snapper got a bit close and the grouper decided to chase it off, otherwise I think things might have gotten a bit intimate…
We actually heard lots of rumors of a Whale shark when we got back from our 5th dive and the dive company decided to move the second dive to a different site and an earlier time to try and spot the shark. Before we got to that though, some of the dive instructors noticed a bunch of boats racing off full of snorkelers, so 13 of us grabbed masks and fins and chased off after a Whale shark
As it turns out, it was about 2 minutes out from the shore with tons of snorkelers marking the spot for us. We all piled out of the boat and 11 of us got to see a whale shark.
Hawksbill Turtle breaking pieces off the reef
Our main goal for our last two dives were actually to try and see Turtles. For our last dive we were at a site called Turtle Crossing, so that seemed like a good start.
About halfway through the dive we saw a Green turtle (With 2 Remora attached) swimming above the reef, which was quite awesome, but nothing compared to the turtle we found at the end of our dive. Under a big section of pillar corals we saw a huge hawksbill turtle breaking pieces off the reef – It must have been close to a meter in length (3 ft). We watched it as long as we could, but unfortunately, we were already fairly low on air when we found it.
Red or Common Lionfish
Unfortunately we saw one to two of these on every single dive. While they are pretty cool fish, they are endemic to the pacific and are actually invading the Caribbean at a frightening rate. They eat any fish up to 2/3 their own size, and they have no natural enemies in the Caribbean. Even though Grouper and Moray Eels can catch and kill them, they don’t know it.
The divers have been fighting back though, with everything from a simple catch (or at least kill) Lionfish on sight to teaching Grouper and Morays that they are pray by feeding Lionfish to them. Apparently they make nice sushi and can be cooked the same as any other white fish, however the poison stings do make them difficult to catch.
List of fish and creatures we saw
Each of these are linked to a photo. We didn’t take these photos, but I tried to find photos showing them in a similar way to what we saw.
- Great Barracuda
- Sailfin Blenny
- Spotted snake eel
- Horse eye jack
- Spotfin butterflyfish
- Flat needlefish
- Caribbean reef squid
- Blue tang
- Ocean surgeonfish
- Blue parrotfish
- Stoplight parrotfish
- Stoplight parrotfish
- Neon Goby
- Fairy Basslet
- Arrow Crab
- Spiny Lobster
- Sand Diver
- Nassau grouper
- Green moray eel
- Sand tilefish
- Black grouper
- Creole Wrasse
- Green Turtle
- Hawksbill turtle
- Queen Angelfish
- Grey Angelfish
- Spanish Hogfish
- Bar jack
- Sargeant major
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