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January 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Villa on Dunbar Rock, Guanaja, Honduras

a tranquil “round the rock” dive spot in the Caribbean

from the January, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

The first time I dived the island of Guanaja was November 1998, a week after Hurricane Mitch devastated the Bay Islands. The operation in Roatan I was diving with motored us nine miles over to Guanaja because Roatan's north side was still too rough and my divemaster thought Guanaja's south side would be better. While Roatan was relatively spared, Guanaja had been denuded of anything green by the 180-m.p.h. winds of that Class 5 hurricane four days prior. Bonacca, a town built on stilts around a sandbar in Guanaja Bay, was damaged but still standing. But what I remember most was that the diving I did, at a bare sandbar called Southwest Cay, was great -- some of the best I've done.

The Villa at Dunbar RockExactly 20 years later, I stepped off one of Dunbar Rock's boats to revisit Southwest Cay, covered with greenery once more. I looked down at Afternoon Delight's multiple beds of colorful healthy hard corals and fields of purple sea fans at 40 feet. Eagle rays and three-feet-across Southern sting rays flew by, while barracudas eyed me from a distance. Schools of just about every species of Caribbean reef fish -- queen and French angelfish, surgeonfish and Bermuda chub -- were moving everywhere. A hawksbill turtle swam between my buddy and me. The highlight: a white mantis shrimp my divemaster Raynel coaxed partially out of its hole.

Unfortunately, much of the sea around Guanaja has been heavily harvested for decades. If you've ever eaten at a Red Lobster restaurant, your dinner probably came from Guanaja, as their fisheries supplies that restaurant chain. About three years ago, the locals realized that needed to change, and Guanaja now has a marine park encompassing most of the island and still enlarging -- lobster boats now have to go 100 miles off to the east. All divers going to the marine park pay a $10 fee. While I can't compare the health of Guanaja's reefs immediately before the park's institution, I can say that marine life density on its north side is better than at sites on the other Bay Islands.

I went to Guanaja with my long-time dive group and the 21 of us rented out the Villa on Dunbar Rock, which can be best described as a four-story, white stucco hotel built atop a big granite rock in the Caribbean. I felt like I was staying on a permanently anchored liveaboard. It's on Guanaja's south side, nearest Bonacca Town, which has less marine life. But it was easy to get to dives on the north side through a canal cut through the middle of the island, a 20-minute boat ride....

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