Honduras: Snorkeling And Diving Adventures

By: Alex J Smith

Honduras is best known for its underwater riches, particularly its vantage point to the world's second largest barrier reef. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best (and cheapest) places to learn to dive or complete your dive-master training. Your dives will show you coral reefs, yawning underwater caves, wrecked ships, and the docile whale sharks. But after you have had your fill of snorkeling and diving, you'll find out that there is more to discover in this beautiful country.

Honduras is the second largest country in Central America, but it remains largely undiscovered by the mainstream tourist. Though it has gained some renown for its pristine coral reefs and warm tropical waters - both in its Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean sides - the country also boasts of impenetrable rainforests, and rivers meandering through largely unexplored jungle areas.

Its northern Caribbean coast sparkles in miles of white sand beaches, lush greenery and rich cultural diversity. Just 30 miles away from the north coast are the Bay Islands, famous for first-class diving off the barrier reef that extends northward as far as the Yucatan Peninsula. You can also visit the Hog Islands and, farther east, the Swan Islands.

Nature and Wildlife

Those who want a more terrestrial nature experience can visit the country's extensive park system, which covers almost a quarter of its total area. You have the opportunity to trek up to cloud-forests (mountaintops covered with clouds or rain for more than 70% of the year) and rainforests, home of elusive wildlife like the jaguar and giant anteater. Its coastal wetlands provide the habitat for monkeys, manatees, alligators, and dozens of waterfowl species. This gives many opportunities for kayaking or canoeing through mysterious mangroves, but the more adventurous should conquer the world-class white-water rafting rapids of Rio Cangrejal near La Ceiba.

The northeastern Honduras is occupied by the Moskitia (literally, mosquito), an area of 8,500 square miles. It holds one of the largest still-intact rainforests on the isthmus, sometimes referred to as the Central American Amazon. Moskitia is not accessible by road: you can only use a plane or small sea vessel. But those who go there are well-rewarded with experiences of tropical wildlife, open coasts, estuaries, river valleys, flood plains, fresh-water swamps, lagoons and mangroves.

Bird-watchers should visit the inland Lake Yojoa region and the area surrounding the coastal city of Tela to spot nearly 400 of the 700 species of birds, native and migratory, that fly through the Honduras. The ancient Maya ruins in Copan, an archaeological World Heritage site, remind you of Honduras' long and ancient history. You can puzzle over the hieroglyphic stairway in Copan and the scientific enigmas in the 2,500-year-old Talgua Caves. The ancient city is found in Los Naranjos Archaeological Park.

When to Go

Like most tropical countries, Honduras has a rainy season and a dry season. In the interior, especially the west and south, the rainy season is roughly from May to November, with rains coming in the afternoon and lasting an hour or so. On the north coast and the Bay Islands, the rainy season comes later in September to December, but anytime outside these months is perfect for your diving and snorkeling.

Travel is easier during the dry season, especially for scuba diving and trips to La Moskitia. February and March are good months, because the weather is fairly stable in most of the country; the roads and trails are drying out but the trees and underbrush are still full and green.

Planning Your Trip

Honduras is an inexpensive country for travel, though the diving will be expensive. Your next biggest expense will be for lodgings: there are luxury hotels, but the average hotel should cost you up to $25 a night and there are budget places that go for $12 in the more popular destinations. Food for most travelers costs up to $8 per meal inclusive of drinks, taxes and tip. Budget meals at street vendors and no-name eateries might cost $5 or less.

Hiking, trekking and biking are very good in Honduras, so do prepare for these; if you can, bring your own bike. Canopy tour - where you slide from treetop to treetop - is an exciting thing to do in La Ceiba, Rio Cangrejal and the Roatan.

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