Roatan's Deep Dives

When you first start learning to scuba dive with PADI’s Open Water Course the training and knowledge you gain will allow you to scuba dive in the ocean to a depth of 60 feet. Certainly deep enough for any rational thinking individual, but as you progress in your diving and become more comfortable underwater, you may start to realize that there is a whole gob of ocean that is deeper than 60 feet, and it may call to you.

Because this seemed like a good place for a mermaid picture.

Because this seemed like a good place for a mermaid picture.

Increasing your training with PADI’s Deep Diver Specialty Course will give you the knowledge and skills needed to scuba dive safely to a depth of 130 feet, which is under a whole bunch of water by anybody’s estimation! Here the diver enters into a world that is darker, more sedate and very ethereal. For some divers adding the dimension of Nitrogen Narcosis (taught in detail in your upcoming Advanced Open Water class), which is a natural euphoria induced by breathing nitrogen under pressure that may feel quite pleasant, can be an added plus.

Without any doubt, and for reasons too numerous to go into here, these dives carry an increased risk and would be foolhardy to attempt without the proper training. We at West End Divers can provide the training you will need to dive deep and safe. Please contact us with any questions you may have about scuba diving and PADI training.

Let me introduce you to three pretty awesome deep dives in West End, Roatan.

HOLE IN THE WALL – 130 feet

hitw 1.jpg

This is one of the signature dives here in West End rivaling (we think) the famous “Mary’s Place” on the south shore. The dive starts at about a depth of 40 feet on a down sloping patch of white sand that leads to the lagoon side of the reef. Descending and approaching the reef a hole appears (in the wall) and you continue your descent through it. You exit the reef still following the downward sloping sand (now quite steep) at about 110 to 120 feet deep into a large notch in the reef between two descending coral ridges which plunge vertically in to the abyss. Here your Divemaster will signal that this is the maximum depth and you will spend most of your no-decompression time looking about the coral for organisms and oddities, or out in the blue for a passing pelagic. Reaching the dive time limit, you return to the shallower portions of the reef via a second hole adjacent to the first. 

The fun is not over, for many the real draw to Hole in the Wall are the almost endless swim-throughs, tunnels and caves at 40 feet and less that are explored while “off-gassing” making for some fun follow-the-leader. This area known as “Swiss Cheese” is also a great snorkel site.

And now for something a little deeper……

THE CROSS – 150 feet

This is an invitation only dive. Sorry, no exceptions. Even though this dive only exceeds PADI's Deep Diver Certification depth recommendations by 20 feet, we will not underestimate the potential consequences and will only take divers with us who we are absolutely comfortable with their training, experience, and underwater competence by diving with them many times.

The Cross is a memorial to a popular diver in West End called Bugsy (?) who made his last dive here about 25 years ago. Constructed by grieving friends, it is a four foot tall crucifix type cross made of concrete which was transported and leaned up against the reef at a depth of 150 feet near the site of the accident. 

The depth of the water here is enough to filter out much of the light’s spectrum, and most everything there is viewed in drab hues of brown and gray, adding to the somberness. However with the dual retina-searing strobes of shop friend and avid deep diver Chris Baird, after 25 years the monument explodes in the bright colors of string sponges and corals, seriously suitable for framing.

THE JOSIE J. 180+ feet

We have a couple of sunken ships we dive on regularly; the “El Aguila”, and the “Odyssey”. Both lie on sand patches with the keel at about 110 feet deep. Although actually sunk on purpose as artificial reefs, they are popularized in the village as “The Wrecks”. We certainly consider these deep dives.

However, we have an actual wreck in the area; the “Josie J.”, originally a freighter plying routes between the mainland of Honduras and Roatan. Around 2003 the Josie J ran into mechanical problems with on-board pumps and ultimately sank in about 200 feet of water just offshore on the west end of the island. You can see a video of the sinking taken by the local high priest of underwater photography Mickey Charteris by clicking here.

This is a technical dive. We don’t really mention it much. To dive this with us we need to see proof of technical certifications, log books, and make numerous dives together to assess ability. This is a very extreme dive requiring redundant air supply and equipment, and experience in technical decompression diving.

Just a bit about wreck diving, especially inside wrecks, with the disclaimer of “in my opinion”; this has gotta be one of the most dangerous types of scuba diving. Ships, being designed to float entirely supported by a cushioning sea, can be structurally compromised by rolling, sinking, plunging, and crashing into the sea floor. Now sitting out of level, the ship’s own tons and tons of weight bear down on the points of the hull that are in contact with the hard bottom, and in a short time these forces along with salt water corrosion, storms, and currents start to disintegrate the ship. Cargo, pipes and cables strewn about can easily cause entanglements. These dives must be approached with the utmost caution, training, and planning.

Not deep enough? Alrighty then.

Karl Stanley - The Roatan Institute of Deepsea Exploration

For an even deeper experience you will need to shed your scuba gear. Local personality and submarine legend Karl Stanley of the Roatan Institute of Deepsea Exploration  here in West End, offers undersea expeditions in his submarine the Idabel to depths that can exceed 2000 feet! Karl, captain and inventor of the Idabel, has logged over 1000 expeditions carrying guests the like of National Geographic, Time, and the Harte Institute. This is an amazing experience that would be hard to come by anywhere else, as vehicles with this ability are usually associated with the military, or large universities.

My photo of something really damn deep!      (flytrap anemone and a brisingid starfish)

My photo of something really damn deep!      (flytrap anemone and a brisingid starfish)

I have personally gone on one of these expeditions, and can say that it is a most amazing experience. The world you view is dark and alien, with almost everything you  see being unlike anything you've seen before. I imagine this is the closest I will come, to the experience of visiting another planet.