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March 1997 Vol. 12, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
What's this?

Resorting to Alternatives

Contents of this Issue:
All publicly available

Bayman Bay Club, Guanaja

Bargain Diving: A Caribbean Sampler

Resorting to Alternatives

Great Whites Winter in Florida

Hot Flash: Substrobe 200

Travel Notes

Looking over the Edge

DEMA: BOBS, Yes; No Bubbles, No

Flotsam & Jetsam


www.undercurrent.org

Editorial Office:

Ben Davison

Publisher and Editor

Undercurrent

3020 Bridgeway, Suite 102

Sausalito, CA 94965

Contact Ben

The Great Guanaja Margarita Chase

from the March, 1997 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

I, too, made a trip to Bayman Bay in December, and for the same reasons as C. J., our In Depth/ Undercurrent correspondent: it was the best tropical dive bargain around. Bayman management tagged my name as an In Depth writer from a visit years ago. Our policy is to remain anonymous, so I deferred to C. J., who was there the week after me, to write the report on Bayman.

I can, however, back up C. J.'s report. Like C. J., I was surprised by the meagerness of the fish population. And also like C. J., I had a good time. I met two dive buddies there, and we told tall diver tales while playing pool on the tree house's oversized table; we toasted the sunsets from both the balconies and the kayaks; we enticed most of the single women to go skinny-dipping off the end of the pier with us each night; and we went diving every day. In short, it was good trip. I love the tropical ambiance of Bayman.

What I can offer as my own report is the Great Guanaja Margarita Tasting Contest, an event I concocted as cover for hiring water taxis to take me around the island to check out the reports of six new resorts springing up on Guanaja. If every one of these resorts had actually served margaritas, I would have ended up regretting this project. However, as it turned out, my liver was never in harm's way.

 

Manatee Resort

Manatee Resort

Taste One: No One Home but Us No-See-Ums

Through the man-made canal and just past the rickety stilt town of Bonacca was the resort everyone called Italia but whose official name turned out to be Bahia Resort. It did boast Italian cuisine, and the 11 private cabañas, swimming pool, and manicured grounds looked European.

It also looked empty. "Sorry, no bartender, no one here until next week." Sitting in the shade under a large tree overlooking the ocean, I studied the Bahia's brochure, trying to make out the print beneath a line that had been painted over with whiteout. My concentration was repeatedly interrupted by voracious biting insects. I dipped into my travel pouch and applied more eau de Honduras (a.k.a. DEET), but the insects, unfazed, kept up their attack. I discovered that holding the brochure up to the tropical sun gave me X-ray vision. Beneath the whiteout I read, "Directly beneath it sits our pool with all of the advantages of a beach view without the disadvantages of the no-see-ums." Truth in advertising via whiteout -- not a bad idea.

It was obvious that the Bahia's main clientele were European, but the manager did say he booked Americans now and then. Their all-inclusive package runs $795 for seven nights and includes two morning boat dives a day. Although the Bahia is an attractive resort, I don't see it as a good choice for the U.S. market unless it's a group that would like to have a resort to themselves. The manager did say if enough people wanted three dives a day they would do it.

Taste Two: Rum Margaritas for Outlaws

Further down the coast, our water taxi slid into a small, quite tropical cove and idled back to the dock. Manatee Resort, our taxi driver explained, had opened up a year ago and was to be a dive resort. They were still working on the dive part. In the meantime it had become THE local bar to park your boat and drink.

Inside, the bar had a real jungle frontier ambiance. Peter Lorre would have been right at home here. I sat on a wooden bar stool and inquired about their margaritas. The bartender, a gnarly, tattooed German expatriate in a dirty muscle shirt, replied, "We're out of rum." No problem.

An inquiry about the diving brought Klaus, who was in charge of Marco Polo Diving, to the bar. Klaus explained that he was in the process of building the dive shop on the grounds at this very moment; however, they were taking out divers. He translated a price sheet from German to English and explained that they would do custom diving -- he would show experienced divers the best sites and they could set their own profiles.

Upstairs, over the bar, are five rooms -- clean, plain, and simple, no hot water, no AC. I would recommend the Manatee if you're hiding from the law or looking for a place to drop out, drink, and dive cheaply. The price for a room is $45 a night, meals included; a beer at the bar is 80¢, a ten-dive package $300. There was one other plus. As we walked along the dock back to the boat, I saw a seahorse bobbing beside the pier.

Taste Three: The Hacienda and the Monster Margarita

We pulled up to the spiffy dock in front of Posada del Sol. I was familiar with the Posada from a 1991 visit. Beautiful grounds, Spanish-style stucco buildings, lots of tile, swimming pool surrounded by a wooden deck, and an excellent bar that served margaritas -- glass stemware, salt, lime, the works. It would be a winner hands down (it was the only entry for the day.) The bar also attracts passing yachties and is an excellent place for socializing.

The dive operation at Posada is a slick, covered boat dock with well-kept dive boats, and it's well run. If you leave out the smaller resorts and try to make a choice between Posada and Bayman, it's a tough call. Posada is more upscale, Bayman more tropical jungle. Readers split about fiftyfifty on the two resorts. A plus for Bayman is its laid-back atmosphere and the shore diving -- which is not spectacular, but there is a reef, and night dives can be easy and rewarding. Shore diving at Posada is limited to a small sunken boat in the sand flats, but there are its posh surrounding, its swimming pool, and its well-run, well-maintained dive operation.

If every one of these
resorts had actually
served margaritas, I
would have ended up
regretting this project.
However, as it turned
out, my liver was
never in harm's way.

Taste Four: Hideaway Diving

Posada del Sol

Posada del Sol

Nestled against the rising green hills a hundred yards from the ocean is Nautilus Dive Resort. This small, quiet place was discovered by Ben Davison during a 1992 trip to Guanaja. He likened it to a bed-and-breakfast with three square meals a day. Four rooms are in the main house, three in an adjacent building. The main house is just that -- a house. Upstairs, sliding glass doors lead out to a long, narrow porch with hammocks and chairs. Here I found one of the only two guests at the resort. The guest proclaimed that she was more than content with her stay at Nautilus. She did seem a little starved for company and eager for conversation; obviously this is not a place for party lovers. Down the path by the water and the dock is a small building with compressors and tanks. A 36-foot Delta dive boat makes three dives a day. I would recommend the Nautilus for divers seeking to get away from the crowds, dive, read, and kick back in a hammock.

Taste Five: Serious Diving

 

Island House

Island House

The day was fading into another tropical sunset as we rounded the island back on Bayman's side. We slid past Bayman, admiring the way the small lights that line its paths lit up the jungle like fireflies, and continued down the coast to a beach where the trail leads up to waterfalls -- a hike that most resorts try to offer at least once a week.

The boat pulled up alongside a dock on the palm-lined beach. Back among the trees sits a tall wooden building -- Island House, a small resort run by longtime Bayman divemaster Bo Bush. Little by little, he has built this resort by himself. It now holds eight people. Island house is a bit of maze, a place for families or groups that know each other well. Some rooms have their own baths and kitchenettes.

Bo's spiel is that he wants to show divers the best of what Guanaja has to offer in diving. In Island House fact, he's willing to run divers over to nearby Barbaretta (45-60 minutes) to find pristine dives. He also boasts of having two or three secret sites on Guanaja.

What Bo is shooting for is a laid-back but serious dive service. If anyone on the island can do it, I'd say Bo's the one. Island House is the probable choice for small groups of budget divers who want a relaxed atmosphere and custom diving. The price for a two-dive package with accommodations and food is $580 week; additional dives, $15 each. Bo has a fast new outboard that he plans to put a sun cover on soon.

Roughing It

The great margarita cruise was over for the day. Still left was the small, three-room Stress Free, another resort run by a German expat. And on the west end, for $28 a day, you can rent a tent or pitch you own on a three-mile stretch of beach at West Peak Inn. You get three meals a day in the bargain, but the diving is extra. I might check it out next time, but I'm almost sure they won't have margaritas.

J. Q.

Bayman Bay: Seven-night package $699, 800-524-1823, fax 954-572-1907

Bahia Resort: Seven-night package $795 (two dives a day), 011-504-45-4212 (phone and fax)

Manatee & Marco Polo Diving: Sevennight package $615 (two dives a day), fax 011-504-45-4188

Posada del Sol: Seven-night package $965 (three dives a day), 800-642-3483 or 407-848-3483, fax 407-624-3225

Nautilus Dive Resort: Seven-night package $635 (three dives a day), 800-535- 7063 or 512-863-9079, 011-504-45-4389

Island House: Seven-night package $580 (two dives a day), fax 011-504-45-4146

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