Thursday, September 23, 2010

Isla Roatan
is a small island --33 miles by 4 miles-- located about 30 miles off the coast of Honduras. It is absolutely stunning with the most beautiful clear blue water I've ever seen. Gorgeous soft white sand beach surrounds the jungle interior. It is truly an island paradise for visitors. Unfortunately, its also a very poor island (regularly beaten down by hurricanes) struggling in their attempts to build their economy with tourism being their number one source of income/employment at this time.

Carnival has built their own port/dock area called Mahogany Bay where they own all the stores, restaurants and have a private beach area. Its brand new and very pretty. A cruise ship visitor could easily spend the day there and have a great time! In fact, if we ever return to Roatan by cruise ship, I could imagine doing just that as it would be quite relaxing. But, this time, based on reviews I found on, I booked a private island tour which basically included an air conditioned van, driver and guide to take us wherever we wanted to go! I was happy that we did this to get a true sense of what the island offered.

Because Carnival owns the Mahogany Bay dock/port area visitors who wish to do something other than take a cruise excursion are required to walk off the port area to the main road. Its about a 10 minute walk that includes going over a small hill. If it weren't 95 degrees with what feels like 100% humidity it wouldn't have been that big a deal but wow!!! was it hot. When you reach the bottom of the hill there are large posts on the sides of the road which signify the end of Carnival's property. There we found a crowd of dozens of locals trying to sell their tour services to the day visitors. I was glad I'd pre-booked. We were all sweating profusely and at that point in time getting into the a/c van seemed like it would be the highlight of the day!

The national (I guess) food of Roatan is iguana so, of course, Brett wanted to make sure he ate some! I let our guide know this right away and she said they'd try to find him some. Try to picture us driving around the island seeing the sights and pulling over to a road side stand every once in a while so the driver could roll down his window and yell out to the establishment owner "Do you have any iguana?" Seriously cracked me up every single time he did it. This is just not something that would happen in Rancho Cucamonga!

We went to an iguana "farm" which started out more like a refuge and has become a zoo of sorts. We were told there are about 2700 iguana there. I believe it too as they were everywhere: in piles on the ground, in the trees, climbing the walls, etc. We were given large leaves to feed them. Georgie loved it and wasn't frightened at all which I think most would agree is surprising especially after you see the pix of them surrounding her. The fact that there were so many of them was on one hand neat and on the other kind of creepy but I think we all enjoyed the experience --except perhaps Casey who had just gotten some of his fingers smashed in the van door and was in a lot of pain at the time :-(

Next stop was to play with the spider monkeys. We all just loved the monkeys! They were so cute. I think we could have stayed there all day. Georgie did a really good job handling them gently. They also had macaws you could hold. Super fun!

Our next, and much to short stop, was Tabayana Beach. OMG. This place is beautiful. There was a resort there called Infinity Bay that Bobby and I agreed we would love to return to someday. Sadly, we didn't have time to snorkle there which is a shame as this area is home to a huge coral reef said to be second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Our final stop was at a store called the Cameo Factory where they carve and sell cameos. I'd read about it before hand and seen pix of the finished products online and really wanted to buy one. Before looking into it, I didn't even realize that cameos are made of carved shell and stone. Absolutely amazing. Using small power tools the shell is carved away to show the coloring under the surface and create beautiful designs. A small pendant (think 1" x 1-1/2") takes the artist (and these truly are artists) about 3-4 days to create. The very detailed ones can be quite expensive and even the smaller simpler ones can be spendy. Needless to say, I was the only member of my family excited to go here but, once we arrived, Brett also became a fan... after several hours of searching to no avail for his desired iguana dish... we came across a road side stand with a pot full of iguana right in front of the store!!!

Brett ate, I shopped, Georgie slept in the a/c van = 3 out of 5 happy tourists!

After doing a little damage at the cameo factory we were on our way back to the ship. I have to say that of the 4 ports we visited, Roatan is the one I would most want to return to. For such a small place there was so much to do and --I know I said it before but-- it was GORGEOUS!

View of Carnival's Mahogany Bay from our balcony. The first few shots didn't come out because my camera lens was fogged from the humidity!

Us overlooking the Roatan coastline
At the iguana farm. As you can see Georgie was not intimidated by the reptiles at all. A minute or so later Bobby had to pluck G out of circle of iguana as she had become completely surrounded!
Holding an iguana tail
I love this picture of Brett and G. This is at the iguana farm which, like just about everything in Roatan, is on the ocean.

This picture makes me laugh... just who is afraid of whom here??
The monkeys. Again, we all agreed that playing with the monkeys was a trip highlight. They were so sweet. G's holding 4 month old brothers. The guy who showed us around the monkey place was kind of a dud but whatever. I asked him the monkeys' names and after being told they had none I christened them as Fred and Henry.

They had birds there too including some huge parrots (macaws??) that B and C decided they're rather not hold. They were ok with these smaller ones.
G liked the birds but couldn't take her eyes off the monkeys

This one loved me. He grabbed onto my arm and wouldn't let go. Feeling was totally mutual.
At Tabayana Beach.... paradise found.
Brett with his iguana traditionally served with rice with beans and plantains. I tasted it too. It was shredded and seasoned in a way that made it taste like carnitas. It was actually quite tasty but was filled with small bones. Apparantly, that's the way its served there... iguana is not filleted (sp??) like I would have thought. Instead it is cooked --probably boiled-- then chopped, I'm imagining a machete being involved. I wish I would have taken a picture of the road side stand we purchased this from. Try to envision it: two stools (or perhaps crates) with a 3' x 4' piece of wood on top covered with a few mismatched pots filled with the island delicacies :-) Yes, my son and I ate this food although there was no hand sanitizer in sight... when in rome, er... roatan!

Next post: Belize

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