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February 2003 Vol. 18, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bayman Bay Owners Pursued

after several years of not delivering for divers

from the February, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

At last the American owners of the Honduras Bayman Bay Club are being called to account for what has been the longest running diver rip off in the Caribbean.

According to an article by Michael Ottey in the January 21 Miami Herald, the Florida Division of Consumer Services is investigating their Florida-based company -- Terra Firma Adventures -- that booked trips. The Florida attorney general's office is awaiting the outcome of that investigation and may launch its own. The Honduras Institute of Tourism has sent letters asking the company to stop giving Honduran tourism a bad name.

For several years, Undercurrent has reported on the miserable conditions, lousy food, and rundown diving operation. Now, a dozen people have come forward with complaints that they were hoodwinked by Thomas and Linda Fouke of Plantation, Fla. The Herald article says:

* * * *

Judy Alexander, 48, a nurse from Cedar Lake, Ind., and her husband, Russell, 51, said they "experienced maggot- and moldridden food, odors of decay permeating the air both day and night, no electricity for most of the day and all of the night, no refrigeration, no cold drinks or ice, no clean towels, filthy mattresses and pillows, no toilet paper, no hot water for showers, army ants and cockroaches parading through the restaurant area, and a staff that was rude and uncaring of our discomforts.'' They and other guests cut their stay short, overwhelmed by the conditions.

Another guest, Frank Cope of Hungry Horse, Mo., said, "I have lived and worked in Africa and India. The conditions were much worse at Bayman Bay."

Thomas Fouke, 59, ran the resort in Honduras, while his wife, Linda, 56, took bookings through Terra Firma, which she owned. He acknowledges that conditions at the resort were difficult, which he blames in large part on the lingering effects of Hurricane Mitch, which hammered Honduras in 1998.

In e-mail messages with two unhappy customers, Linda Fouke offered her regrets: "Apologies cannot reduce the disappointment and anger you rightfully feel, but I will do everything I can to make amends for this experience. Please know that this trip went forward on my understanding that the resort was delivering its services to guests. In the meanwhile, we are not sending guests there until all is right again. You will get a refund and, once we have refurbished and rehired, we will offer a comp trip on us should you care to ever set foot on the dock again. Again, I am so sorry."

Since that e-mail, the Foukes have shut down Terra Firma and the company's website and have cut off all communication with their former guests. That has only further inflamed the customers.

In a conversation with The Miami Herald, Thomas Fouke said the Honduran government has reneged on promises of financial assistance to help him repair damage from Hurricane Mitch and that he has closed the resort until assistance from the government and his bank is forthcoming. However, officials at the Honduras Institute of Tourism maintain there was no such promise of aid and that bank officials, not Fouke, shut down the operation because Fouke defaulted on two loans.

Despite what was said in that e-mail, Thomas Fouke is not planning to offer any refunds. "Not right now," he said. "We'll try to work out some arrangement with the people."

They charged divers up to $900 for a seven-night package that included airport transfers, three meals, a beach barbecue, two dive-trips daily, and use of ocean kayaks. Former guests of the resort say they were forced to wait for hours at the airport and to find their own way to the resort, often paying extra to hitch a ride with a local. One couple from Spain complained they were fed only cereal all day.

Guest Ryan Coovert said a generator supplies power to the resort, but it was turned off frequently because the resort lacked the fuel to run it. Without electricity for refrigeration, food spoiled and conditions became unbearable, he said. Coovert, 26, and his fiance, Amanda Barber, 23, of Columbus, Ohio, said there were rats in their cabin, little food, and no water to drink. They got food poisoning.

The nearly $4,000 trip was supposed to be the couple's honeymoon, but Barber's father was in a motorcycle accident, which forced them to postpone the wedding. Barber said she called Linda Fouke to explain the situation and to ask if they could push back the date of their excursion, but she refused, so the couple took their honeymoon before their wedding.

* * * *

I visited Bayman Bay in 1992 and complained about its food and upkeep. Serious complaints began to appear in our Chapbook in 1996, detailing many of the problems reported above, so we forewarned our readers, and they traveled elsewhere. But Hurricane Mitch seems to have been the death knell. Former employee Malinda Horn told the San Francisco Chronicle that the Foukes allowed their storm insurance to lapse before Mitch, then were unable to recapitalize.

And Judy Alexander, who appeared in the story, let her subscription to Undercurrent lapse. She recently e-mailed us and said, "I wrote you at length a few months ago about our trip from Hell. ... I intend to subscribe to your newsletter again to avoid another such experience!" But, because of all the turmoil she and her husband went through, I'm sending her a subscription with my compliments.

Ben Davison

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