42. Roatan (Bay Islands) (Part Two)
Our main reason for visiting Roatan was to get our scuba diving certification. Throughout our travels we had met many tourists who talked about the incredible diving they had experienced or were planning to undertake, and our guide books often mentioned the underwater paradise that was waiting for us out there. We felt like we were missing out. So a couple of weeks before arriving in Roatan we looked up courses, emailed a few companies, booked with the one who bothered to respond and here we were. As an added bonus, Honduras was apparently the cheapest place in the world to be certified, so we had no excuses not to go for it.
We were a little anxious turning up for our first lesson, as we had no idea what to expect. There was absolutely no need to worry though - things could not have been more relaxed if they tried. Instructed by a British expat and a French Canadian divemaster-in-training, we were given a brief overview of the equipment, shown how it went together then hit the beach. Diving already? This was awesome. Both of us picked up the basic skills pretty quickly, so we headed off to the reef for our first proper diving adventure. It was surreal. The reef was beautiful, with vibrant colours, plenty of fish and eels, and intricate coral formations. The effects of the light on the underwater life from down below was mesmerising, nothing like what we saw when snorkeling. I could have stayed down there for hours. Unfortunately a little thing called oxygen stopped us from doing that, so it was back to the surface for a lunch break.
Lunch with a view. Life is tough sometimes.
The afternoon was spent in the classroom, watching videos and answering questions. I was tired from the morning's dive, so I struggled to stay awake - I was pretty sure I did not take in most of it. We unwound that night with drinks at a beach bar, perusing the PADI manual that we were supposed to read before starting. It turned out that these two activities could not be accomplished at the same time.
The next day was much the same: skills in the shallow water (I am no good at front or back flips underwater), one hour dive at a different reef, theory in the afternoon. This second dive was just as amazing, however I spent so much time watching our instructor that I didn't pay attention to everything around me. It was only when animals were pointed out to me that I even noticed that they were there. With the theory completed, we took the written exam (and passed!) and immediately wondered when we could sign up for another course. We congratulated ourselves by spending the night at the beach bar again. Danny ordered the local specialty, the "Monkeylala": Vodka, Kahlua, Baileys, coconut cream. Way, way too rich for my liking.
After drinking that mega-calorie concoction I thought it best to go for a run the next morning. It was so unbelievably hot and humid that I could hardly breathe. My pace was a little more than a shuffle and I had sweat pouring off me. I am aware that I say the same thing every time I go for a run, but I could not get used to how different the climate was to Australia. I didn't know how people lived here and attempted to exercise regularly. I was glad the rest of the day would be spent in the water, as I was pretty sure I needed that long to bring my body temperature down again.
It was a struggle, but there are worse places to run.
Two dives on the final day to finish off our course. The first involved some basic compass skills, but I was more fascinated by the turtles swimming with us than which way the needle was pointing. Another group of divers saw stingrays, which also would have been cool. After a quick nacho lunch we headed out to another reef, but no big and exciting animals to see this time (except for a mean looking crab). Then we were done, officially certified divers! It was cause for celebration. How could we celebrate.... hmmmm....
The beach bar called our names one final time. While we were there we were privileged enough to see one of the most amazing sunsets since Fiji. This time it wasn't the colours or patterns in the sky but the size and vibrancy of the sun that was incredible. I wish I had a job where I could travel the world and photograph sunsets. Once mother nature had finished her dazzling display we headed back to the hostel, where Danny cooked up a wonderful veggie stew. We devoured our dinner with a small bottle of German sparkling wine with gold flecks floating in it (found at the local minimart). It was a little sweet and not as nice as we were hoping, but we did feel very decadent drinking it (straight out of the bottle). Now it was time to plan our next diving adventure.