Roatan, part of the Bay Islands of Honduras, is located in the warm, clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Making up the southernmost portion of the Meso-American Barrier Reef, its fringing reef system sits right on the edge of the 12,000 ft Cayman Trench. Roatan has a diverse underwater landscape and a wide variety of marine life ranging from large marine mammals to rich macro life. While there are over 100 beautiful sites around the entire island, the majority of the diving focuses on two areas.
The Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve largely protects the north side of the island, which is one long reef system separated from shore by a shallow lagoon. The reef starts at about 15-30 ft and slopes off into the blue at varying degrees offering steep walls, gentle slopes, channels, canyons, and caves as well as a great diversity of both hard and soft coral.
The south side of the island is also quite varied and is home to some of Roatan’s most famous sites. Mary’s Place, features a huge vertical crevasse that is entirely encrusted in coral, barrels sponges and gorgonians. Cordelia Banks, another protected marine reserve, is the last place in the Caribbean that abundant living colonies of Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) can be found. This branching coral is known for its spawning aggregations and showing the fastest growth out of all Atlantic corals. These expansive coral banks are highly valuable as “reef builders” and provide a protective habitat for many species.
Francesca is a freelance underwater photographer who has been shooting since 2006. She hopes that sharing beautiful images of our oceans will inspire others to protect our most precious ecosystem. She contributes to magazines such as Asian Diver, Sport Diver and Scuba Diving and is a passionate teacher of underwater photography. To see more of her work or to contact Francesca, please visit her website.