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Come on down to Roatan

25 Sep

Ahhh, the scent of autumn is in the air. The leaves on the trees getting ready to put on a show of glorious colours of crimson and gold, before falling to the ground leaving a stark landscape of grey until the spring buds appear again.

It’s time to pack away flip-flops, t-shirts, and bathing suits, to be replaced with winter boots, sweaters, and long-johns. That’s okay though, as my summer tan fades I’d rather cover as much of my pale skin as I can.

It is still warm enough to spend the majority of my time outdoors without having to take the extra time to put on gloves, a hat, and scarf. And when inside, the windows can be wide open, with no need for an extra blanket on the bed, socks or slippers on my feet, or a Snuggie (you know the blanket with sleeves) while I watch TV.

Wait a minute…I live on Roatan! The tropical Paradise Island nestled in the Caribbean Sea.

Sounds like I’m bragging, doesn’t it? That’s not my intent…really!

Living on Roatan for more than three years now, I do miss the changing seasons—the fall colours truly are glorious. I used to have a few favorite sweaters and a pair of suede boots that I was happy to see again after being tucked away all summer. And even though I’m not a fan of cold weather, nothing is as beautiful as that first blanket of snow sparkling across the landscape.

I must also admit that I’ve become accustom to not wearing shoes or socks, at any time, or the weather being chilly enough to wear a shirt that has actual sleeves. I love waking every morning to a Caribbean sunrise peeking through the lush jungle foliage, while listening to birds singing their morning song through the always open balcony doors and windows. Well, I’d rather the roosters didn’t join in, but you can’t have everything.

Sounds like I’m bragging again, doesn’t it? Really my intentions are pure. The reason for this story is to entice YOU to take a break from those things that will elude you this winter and come on down to Roatan!

It will soon be that time again when getting to Roatan from Canada (well, Toronto and Montreal) is easier and cheaper than any other time of the year.

Starting Dec 13 until May 2 Sunwing offers a direct flight every Monday to Roatan from Toronto, and Dec 20 until Feb 28 to Roatan from Montreal.

The rest of the year requires no less than one connection when flying to Roatan from either of these locations.

The price is pretty good too!

If you opt for the flight only option it is almost half the price of flying to Roatan with commercial carriers. And the extra savings can be huge if you take the chance and wait to book. Last year, the week leading up to each flight—every 24 hrs closer to the date of travel the price dropped $100. Now, I have no way of knowing this will be the case this year, and all-inclusive packages don’t drop that drastic.

All-inclusive offers a few choices for accommodations, but there is some confusion too.

If you sign up for all-inclusive “Roatan Roulette” you will be booked at one of the following resorts:
Paradise Beach Club
• Las Sirenas
• Henry Morgan
• Mayan Princess

The roulette is that you don’t get to choose and you don’t know which one you’ll be staying at until a few days before your trip, but you save some money.

If you’d rather know for sure which resort you will be staying at you do have the option to choose. This is where the confusion comes into the picture. In addition to the resorts listed above, for this option two more are available:
Turquoise Bay
• Media Luna

While Turquoise Bay is known, nobody has heard of Media Luna. I looked into it and apparently it was scheduled to open in-time for last year’s charter season…but it didn’t. The scheduled open date is now October 31, 2010.

All the other resorts have websites you can check out with details of what they offer. As for Media Luna, it sounds great, but I have no idea if it will be open or how accurate the information (so far) is.

I want to note that I have no affiliation of any kind with Sunwing or any of the associated resorts. I’m pretty sure they don’t even know or care that I’m posting this.

I’m sharing this to entice you to visit Roatan!

Family and (close) friends you know you are welcome to stay with us. I can’t wait to hear people’s definition of close. And for everyone else you will just have to suffer through staying at a resort on one of the top ten beaches in the world!

The Roatan Road

19 Sep

The Roatan Road

Question #3 for the Tiny Buddha Book of Wisdom asks, Why is there suffering in the world? My answer, (in 140 characters or less), Suffering is one of life’s lessons for the person experiencing it and for the person who can help ease it.

While it is an enjoyable challenge to impart my thoughts on all ten questions being asked by Tiny Buddha (for possible inclusion in a book being released next year.) I also see it as an opportunity to expand on my answers from a Roatan Vortex point-of-view.

Recently I watched the movie The Road—adapted from the novel of the same name, written by Cormac McCarthy. I had read the book on one of my return flights (after visiting family and friends) from Ontario, Canada to my home on the Caribbean Island of Roatan, Honduras.
I was intrigued when I read the book, even though, at times I struggled to follow Mr. McCarthy’s writing style. But, I remained detached from the situations father and son found themselves enduring in this tale of a post-apocalyptic world—it was too far removed from anything I could comprehend as plausible.

Then I watched the movie…

It is the story of a father and son in search of the basic necessities to sustain life; food, water, and shelter. There is no electricity, no resources for clothing, shoes, or transportation. What time it is, the day of the week, or even the month of the year doesn’t matter.

The relevance to Roatan?

There is certainly none in the scenery. Father and son wander through a bitter cold world of solid grey skies that the sun is unable to penetrate, a bleak landscape of dying and dead foliage, vehicles abandoned on over-passes, and burnt out skyscrapers. When they reach the shoreline they encounter a body of water reflecting the steel grey sky.

Roatan on the other hand offers a world of endless sunshine and warmth, with lush tropical foliage from the shore to the highest ridge. There are no over-passes or skyscrapers. And the Caribbean Sea surrounding this tropical paradise reflects every shade of blue imaginable. Something I had previously thought only possible in re-touched photos.

But yet for a father and son who live on Roatan, I can simply copy and paste this (previous) paragraph to describe their lives.

It is the story of a father and son in search of the basic necessities to sustain life; food, water, and shelter. There is no electricity, no resources for clothing, shoes, or transportation. What time it is, the day of the week, or even the month of the year doesn’t matter.

I met this father and his son last week at the library in French Harbour. It was a time of day when the library normally would have been closed, but I was there painting. The father knocked on the door, and asked if he and his son could come in. I explained that the library wasn’t officially open, but they were welcome. While I continued to paint, the man picked out some picture books for his son to look at—the father couldn’t read and the son was only 2 years old.

The father then shared their story with me.

He was looking for work and was open to doing anything, for any wage offered, so he could take care of his son. The son was well behaved while the father searched for a job, but needed some relief from the heat and tedium of following his father around. The air conditioned library with colourful children’s books lining a few shelves was the father’s treat to his son.

When they left the library, the father smiled and his son waved goodbye. I watched them walking away, hand-in-hand, and I wondered where would they go next? Has the father found a job? Do they have access to the necessities of life?

What I offered the father and son was minuscule. What they offered me was a huge reminder that suffering comes in many forms and magnitudes and by being aware of it—I can help ease it.

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On the side bar section of this page, scroll down and you will find YOU CAN HELP with links to organizations on Roatan doing what they can to help ease suffering.

Cruising to Roatan?

15 Sep

Prior to moving to Roatan in 2007, I had taken cruises to various Caribbean Islands and enjoyed them all. Part of the fun was anticipating what each port of call would have to offer. But at the same time I also wanted to have some insight into what I would find before I arrived. I would search for information and try to absorb the details I could find. But there was never enough out there.

Now I live on Roatan, and I find myself on the other side of the equation. When I go grocery shopping, or to the hardware store, or even to pick up the mail, chances are I will see a cruise ship or two, docked at one or both of the ports here on Roatan. I observe visitors, in tour busses and taxis, or strolling through one of the towns exploring the unique hidden gem of Roatan.

The first time I saw a cruise ship sailing away from Roatan was at sunset on West Bay Beach more than three years ago. I was relaxing on a lounger, sipping a glass of wine, as the ship faded over the horizon. My thoughts were with those on that boat, knowing from personal experience that many were leaning on the rail at various levels of the ship, gazing back at Roatan.

They would soon be getting ready for dinner, or perhaps to catch a live production in the grand theatre. They would be recalling and sharing the Roatan they had been introduced to—most for the first time. As the daylight waned, and the twinkle of lights dotting the Island began to appear, some would feel the pull of the Roatan Vortex.

A lot has changed since that first encounter in 2007. I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at Port of Roatan when my husband Dave was one of the musicians playing for the expansion of that port, and I followed the progress as the second port of call, Mahogany Bay, was developed.

At least twice every cruise season, friends (or friends of friends,) announce that they are visiting Roatan on a cruise and I take great pleasure in showing them around the Island. But I am always surprised to hear how little information they have about the port they will be arriving at. Or worse yet, their concern that it isn’t safe on Roatan!

So here is a little inside info on Cruising to Roatan!

I wanted to include a detailed map of Roatan, but an on-line search showed me there isn’t much to choose from. Even the Google Earth map is missing key information (West Bay Beach.) The best one I found came from the Town Center website at the Port of Roatan. Needless to say they don’t have a marker for Mahogany Bay, which is located near Dixon’s Cove, east of the airport. Click on image of map to enlarge detail.

Which cruise-line you are arriving with will determine which port your ship docks at. However, even if your ship is scheduled to dock at Mahogany Bay, the weather (high wind) may dictate your ship be diverted to The Port of Roatan.


The Port of Roatan is on the edge of Coxen Hole. The port includes the Town Center and offers on-site shopping, dining, and other attractions, but there is no beach. You can however walk from the ship in to Coxen Hole. When you exit the port you will find a stretch of local shops offering souvenirs, food & drink, and excursions (if you haven’t pre-booked one already) to other areas of the Island.

Inside info on Coxen Hole

I live in Sandy Bay directly across the Island from Coxen Hole. I usually drive into the town a few times a week, whether it is to get some groceries, stop at the hardware store, pharmacy, the bank, to get the oil changed on our vehicle, pay property taxes at the Municipal Building—all kinds of normal day-to-day activities. I’m involved with the Roatan Hospital and the Day Care both of those bring me to Coxen Hole regularly too. The first time I parked at the municipal lot and walked through town I admit I felt a little intimidated. As a blond haired, fair skinned woman I didn’t exactly blend in. The public areas were far different from what I was use to in Canada. But I quickly learned I had nothing to fear. Oh sure I still get asked if I want a taxi or tour guide, annoying at times, but certainly nothing threatening.

View from Grocery Store Parking Lot

The port at Mahogany Bay is quite different from The Port of Roatan. It is in an area that it is not possible to walk to a town or community. There is on-site shopping, dining, and a private beach (for cruisers only.) I have no personal pictures to share of the beach or other amenities and couldn’t find that they have a website, but here are some pictures I found on-line.

Making arrangements to meet family and friends who arrive at this port can be challenging. From the main road to the gate is a winding, steep, long path. I have some people coming for a visit in October and there are too many of them to fit in my vehicle so I will be renting a van for the day. The only problem is that it will be perceived that I am an independent tour guide and won’t be allowed through to the pick-up area. This means my guests will have to climb the hill to the main road where I will wait to meet them…definitely a challenge to coordinate.

Inside info on this area

Like I said previously, I don’t have personal pictures to share from this port because it is not an area that is easy to access. But I do drive past the main entrance (at the top of the hill above the port) regularly to go to French Harbour. That is where our insurance agent’s office is, the vet that takes care of my dog Mona, and my cat Baby. This is also the location of another grocery store I like to shop at, the print shop, and the library (that has recently moved and will be re-opening soon.)

While visiting Roatan, you may be taken back (at first) how under developed it looks compared to where you are coming from. But you will be awed by the breath-taking scenery, the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, soft white sand beaches, and tropical lush foliage extending to the highest ridges. There are many tourist attractions to participate in—if that is your cup of tea. Or perhaps lounging on a perfect beach or a driving tour of the Island is in your plans.

Whatever you choose, you can experience, first-hand, a unique to you way of life, and you will meet friendly people that will welcome you to the Global Village of Roatan.

Enjoy!

Note: I forgot to mention, Roatan time and cruise ship time are not necessarily the same. Be sure to confirm what the time is on the Island when making plans. Quite often the actual time on Roatan is 1 or 2 hours earlier than the ship time. Confused? I was when I picked up friends at the port and they thought I wasn’t coming, when I knew I was right on time.

Frog Rescuer

4 Sep

I moved to Roatan, Honduras for a few reasons, one of them because the Roatan Vortex was pulling me here…of course. Another reason was to embrace a simpler lifestyle, surrounded by the beauty that only nature can supply. The challenge everyday is to live in harmony with the glorious wonders of Roatan, while doing the least amount of damage to the natural balance. That might sound corny, but let’s face it pretty much everything made or introduced by humans for the comfort of humans does far more damage than good.

My sister Laurie chose the same idea, different location. When we were kids, for a period of time, my knick-name for her was Duh. I once locked her in a suitcase…well, she agreed to get in it, not like I forced her to, and she believed me when I said I wouldn’t lock it, hence the name Duh! She got wise to my evil ways and I couldn’t call her that anymore, but thirty odd years later I’ve come up with a new knick-name for her—Frog Rescuer.

Laurie aka Frog Rescuer hasn’t visited me on Roatan yet. Some things about it appeal to her, but for the most part she is content hanging out in Canada with her husband Glen and their two cats. A few years back they decided to move to a new subdivision in Guelph, Ontario, the biggest attraction for them was to be next to Guelph Lake, with meandering paths nearby to stroll or go for a bike ride. They weren’t alone with this desire to live closer to nature while still having the advantages of being in the city. The building lots quickly sold and one by one new houses sprang up around them.

In a recent email she shared with me a crusade she had begun. It would seem that living closer to nature—while nice for the humans—it wasn’t working so well for the critters.

My sister’s home has window-wells around the basement windows, as do all her neighbour’s homes. One day she noticed some frogs trapped in one of the window-wells. Now, Guelph frogs are not like Roatan tree frogs. They can jump, but not high enough to get out on their own, so she climbed in and rescued them. Doing an inspection of the other window-wells surrounding her home, she found more frogs needing help, and a few that it was too late to rescue (they had dried up and perished.)

A daily routine of checking for frogs began. But what about her neighbours, did they know that frogs may need to be rescued from their window-wells too? Just in case they didn’t know she made a poster and taped it on the community mailboxes.

SAVE THE FROGS!!!
Please save me from your window wells…a lot of us are dying out here as we jump in and can’t get out!
You will be glad you take care of us, because we take care of your gardens by eating the bugs that eat your plants… so please cover your window wells with plastic covers….or check for us every day and free us from them.
Sincerely, your local frog population

And she didn’t stop there, next up was to talk to the building company to ask them to cover the window-wells on the show-homes. That request was met with blank stares and snickering.

So she contacted a local newspaper and told them what was going on. Guelph Tribune

I’m proud of my sister. She can’t save all the frogs from the invasion of people, but I’m sure the ones she does rescue on a daily basis from a grizzly death are grateful. Besides, it’s not gratitude from a frog that inspires her to do this. She moved to the area to be close to nature and all it has to offer her sense of being—shouldn’t she take ownership of helping protect it?

No matter where we choose to call home, shouldn’t we all?

Rescued any critters today? I’d love to hear about it.

What do you do with leftover salad?

9 Aug

After dinner at a friend’s home here on Roatan, as the table was being cleared, I was asked, “What do you do with leftover salad?”

I glanced in the bowl, where wilted greens clung to the sides and bottom, sharing space with an assortment of soggy tomato chunks, tidbits of sweet peppers, and slivers of garlic, swimming in a puddle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and spices that had escaped being grabbed by the salad tongs during the meal.

Now, it wasn’t a complicated question, but I did pause before answering, considering that some sort of a punch-line would follow. Or perhaps it was a trick question. Why would anyone ask that? I do the same thing with leftover salad that everyone does…I throw it in the garbage.

“Isn’t that what you do?” I asked.

“No, I flush it down the toilet.”

Another guest joined in and added, “I save it in the fridge and eat it the next day. I don’t mind soggy salad and won’t let food go to waste.”

An interesting debate ensued. Each of us defended our choice of what to do with leftover salad. Each of us referencing what our parents did with leftover salad. I was fascinated to realize that our decisions with how to proceed with even the simplest of tasks was determined more by the culture we were raised in and what we had been taught to do rather than something tweaking our senses to do it.

And defend our choices we did! There were certainly no angry words or fist fights of any sort, but we all felt compelled to stick-up for our ways. Our very identities were at risk. What belonged to each of us was being challenged.

I recently wrote a story commemorating the anniversary of the earthquake that “hit” Roatan. I put the word hit in quotations because a similar debate ensued when I used that word to describe the event. Someone who wasn’t on Roatan the day of the earthquake corrected my reference stating that from a scholastic point-of-view Roatan was not hit by an earthquake. Many of the people on the Island that earthshaking day joined in to verbally defend the description of the experience, as a hit. Through a simple grammatical correction, what we had gone through was being denied.

So what the heck does that have to do with leftover salad or life on a tropical Island in the Caribbean Sea? (I used to call it the Caribbean Ocean; that too was corrected by the same person. I grew up in Canada, we have oceans around us, not seas…it’s what I’m use to saying.)

I have come to call Roatan home. I brought my traditions, my cultural background (I’m a Heinz 57 so it would be impossible to pin down to anything specific) and my learned behaviours. Once here, I encountered ways of doing things and ways of living that are foreign to me. But what I do is foreign to them too.

Instead of rushing to defend my point-of-view, or feeling threatened by someone else’s. I think I’ll work on appreciating hearing and seeing different way of doing things, and be grateful that there are some things I might want to adopt to enhance my life, my daily existence.

Maybe, I’ll even become more…worldly.

As for the earthquake, it was an experience I hope to never repeat. But it did give those of us who were on Roatan when it hit a special connection to each other, a common thread, a bond.

So what do you do with leftover salad?

East End Tour

26 Jul

View from Paya Bay


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Nothing fancy about this posting. No words of wisdom. No wowing you with my writing style. No freaking you out with bugs…just pictures, lots of pictures.

Spent Sunday on a Roatan Island, East End Tour with good friends,
Enjoy!

All the guys in one vehicle.

La Sirena, Camp Bay

Drinks before Dinner

Cheers!

Joel Escelona Sang & Played

Paya Bay

The gang's all here.

Say Cheese!

Everybody into the pool!

Spartagus sharing with his new friend.

His new friend sharing back.

Davey bobbing along.

Everybody out of the pool!

Joel's tour bus was following ours.

The End!

Canada Day on Roatan!

2 Jul

Canada Day on Roatan!

I’ve always enjoyed celebrating Canada Day with my family and friends. Whether it was in our backyard, at one of the parks in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, or in Toronto, Ontario, at City Hall, the year my Great-uncle Mike was given an award for Canadian Citizen of the Year!
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But this July 1st, I’m in Central America, Honduras, on the Island of Roatan. Guess there won’t be any Canada Day parties?

Wrong!

The place to be was Sundowners, West End, Roatan. The party got started just after noon, Canadians and Canadian wanna-be’s arrived from all areas of Roatan, to join in on the fun.

The sailboats, ready to go. The weather, gloriously warm and sunny. A perfect Roatan kinda day!

Strolling on the beach, at the bar, or in the water, the Caribbean Sea was the place to be!
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Captain Morgan, fellow Canadian and DJ at Roatan Radio kept the Canadian music going and invited Canadians to come on up and say hi to family and friends back in Canada.

Dave, Lou, Tracy and I…all Canadians of course! Got out a deck of Canadian cards and played some EUCHRE! Tracy tried to explain the game to some Canadian wanna-be’s…but gave up. *****************************************************************************

I wasn’t able to celebrate Canada Day with family and friends in Canada. But lucky for me I have family and friends here on Roatan that I did celebrate with!

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Sundowners, West End, Roatan is also where we watched Canada win Olympic Gold. You can read that story here Olympic Hockey Night in Canada, on Roatan!

Snorkeling with the Fishes

20 Jun

Snorkeling with the Fishes

Picture taken from the glass-bottom boat, West Bay Beach, Roatan, Honduras.

Who’s gonna win this race?

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Please Don’t Walk on the Coral

12 Jun

Please Don’t Walk on the Coral

Growing up in Ontario, Canada, I knew next to nothing about the Caribbean Sea, and even less about the second longest coral reef in the world.

Lake Erie Sunset

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, the community I hail from is surrounded on three sides by Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, all part of the chain of five lakes known as The Great LakesThe source of the largest fresh water system on Earth!

Wow! That’s pretty impressive…but I never gave it much thought.

For me, as a kid, it just meant there was a beach within an easy driving distance. Then again…as a kid, I never hesitated to ask, “Are we there yet?”
• The Canadian National Exposition (CNE) every year, marked the end of the summer holidays, but also meant I could watch the Air Show my heart pounding with excitement as planes soared, dipped, and performed amazing acrobatic feats above Lake Ontario.
• Lake Huron, more specifically, Tobermory—the Scuba Diving Capital of Canada, is where I almost learned how to scuba dive.

Over the years I had heard that the Great Lakes were getting polluted, that you had to limit the number of fish you ate from them—too many would make you sick. More frequently signs were being posted on the beaches that it wasn’t safe to go swimming—that too would make you sick.
For me…an inconvenience…but I still didn’t give it much thought.

Now I live on Roatan, my front yard is a dock, stretching into the Caribbean Sea. Only a few hundred feet beyond that, I watch waves break on the world’s second longest coral reef.

• I’ve seen seahorses, barracuda, sting-rays, Portuguese man-of-war, and numerous other sea creatures swimming from the reef toward the dock—gracing me with a closer look of their magnificence. I’ve watched a dolphin leisurely swim by, and marvelled at the detail outline of a starfish.
• I stroll along the shore (especially after a storm) picking up pieces of the reef that have broken off and washed ashore. Sea Fans, black sponge, and finger coral (to name only three, of the thousands of species) each piece, as unique as a snowflake, with a beauty of natural form no artist could ever match.

I’m in awe of all that I see and experience, but just like when I was at the beach on Lake Erie, or watching the planes swooping over Lake Ontario, or doing my first open water dive in Lake Huron…

I don’t give it enough thought!

I don’t appreciate enough the importance of preserving and protecting these marvels of nature and all they have to offer. They have been here forever and always will be…right?

Wrong! It is up to You and Me to educate ourselves about their value to our world, the legacy we owe our children, and how, everything we do, we need to – STOP – and consider the impact our actions might be having.

Fortunately in this era of accessible information, education and action are possible. Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN) and The Roatan Marine Park offer a wealth of insight into the health and sustainability of these bodies of water.


Enjoy the reef surrounding Roatan and all it has to offer…just remember it isn’t a man-made attraction (like Disneyworld) that can be replaced. It is a LIVING, BREATHING organism that will thrive if cherished—and will die if neglected or abused.

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This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly

And will be the topic on The Roatan Vortex Show, Wednesday June 16, 9 AM – 11 AM, Roatan time (MTN) on Roatan Radio

Kraft Dinner and Dijon Mustard on Roatan

21 May

Kraft Dinner and Dijon Mustard on Roatan

Remember that song…If I had a million dollars? You know the one by the Barenaked Ladies, the well known Canadian band.

Who hasn’t let their mind wander, thinking of what they would do if they had a million dollars (with the way inflation goes, probably thinking a million dollars wouldn’t be enough anymore to do what you really, really, really want to do though.)

When you sit back and envision this money that has suddenly appeared, what is the first thing you tell yourself you are going to do with it?

Visit a tropical Island? Or better yet…you’re going to move to a tropical Island?

Perhaps you are a contestant on a game show (Deal or No Deal, comes to mind) and Howie (another famous Canadian) asks you, “What would you do if you won the top prize?” Go to a tropical Island?

The chances of a million dollars dropping in your lap, or winning big on a game show are about as good as winning the lottery…what are the odds for that happening…I think it’s about one in a bazillion.

So you tell yourself, You’ll work really really, really hard. Commute to and from a job (that’s…okay, you guess.) You’ll have no time for anything else right now. But you’ll save up and then retire on a tropical Island! Spending the rest of your days; relaxing and watching the sunset!

So what about those of us who live on the tropical Island of Roatan?

None of us had a million dollars magically appear. None of us were contestants on a game show, or won the lottery. And the majority of us are not yet the traditional retirement age.

Yet, we spend the majority of our time – right here – right now – on the tropical Island of Roatan, nestled in the Caribbean Ocean, with soft white sand beaches, lush jungle foliage and glorious sunsets, because…even without the million dollars, we can get Kraft Dinner and Dijon mustard on Roatan.

Well, that’s nice, but not the reason.

We are on Roatan because – The Roatan Vortex pulled us in…and we never want to leave!

Here’s a few of the other things that pulled me in.

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