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Trip Report: Roatan, Inn of Last Resort


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#1 divegirl

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 12:44 PM

For those of you who have read my trip reports before know that my husband and I are in love with the island of Roatan. The diving is easy, reefs teaming with life, photo opportunities especially macro everywhere and now I can say easy to get to. On May 20th we left home for our 7th yearly trip to Roatan staying at the Inn of Last Resort.

Each year we debate how to get to Roatan. In the past getting there was always the hard part. Some years the traveling was harder and longer than others, some even with a few tears (FYI: I was really upset, but it did help get us seats). This year we took the new Delta flight out of Atlanta and were wonderfully surprised. The Atlanta airport is 100 times better than Miami or at least the Delta terminals are. We had several hour layovers and the airport supplied us with plenty of space to walk, art and cultural exhibits to see as well as lots of restaurants to choose from. The flights were uneventful with all luggage arriving with us. The one draw back to the bigger plane is longer lines to get into Roatan. They have a very slow immigration process and the Continental and Delta flights arrive back to back. As we waited in line, I just had to remember that we had arrived and paradise was waiting for us.

The Inn of Last Resort is a small all inclusive dive resort of the Leeward side of the island in the Sandy Bay – West End Marine Park. The resort itself sits on a cove called Gibson Bight.
The owners Donna and Andy Arcaya live at the resort and are involved with it’s day to day operation. Andy was at the airport to meet our plane and get us on our way to our home for 2 weeks. The staff at ILR is always friendly and accommodating. If you need something just let one of the staff know and they will do there best to help you out. Year to year some of the staff at the resort changes, familiar faces from last year were: Ed - manager, Wait staff - Derry, Edison, Randy, Kessner, Cook - Teddy had been a waiter last year and Boat Captain Luther and Danny who had also been a waiter.

The resort is composed to 4 buildings in a rectangle with tropical plantings in the middle. 3 of the buildings are guest rooms and one is the lodge that houses the restaurant, bar and recreation area. The guest rooms are large by my standards. Each room has a queen size bed and 2 twin beds. Rooms are all air conditioned with 2 ceiling fans. Bathrooms are small but functional with plenty of hot water. One whole wall is an open closet with 2 sections, each with an area to hang clothes as well as 4 deep shelves. On top is an area to put your suitcases. The first thing we did was to unpack and get settled in the room, spreading camera and video gear out on the spare beds. We then of course we took a nap after a long day of travel . . . not on your life, we did a shore dive.

The Delta flight allowed us to arrive early enough to get in the water before supper. ILR has a lagoon that is shallow (2 – 8 FT) and if full of life. We always do a night dive just in the lagoon. As you reach the reef edge the resort has a white buoy that marks a shallow cut in the coral, inflate your BC and head through (make sure you are wearing a skin or wet suit) and you are out on the reef. Here you can either just head down and out and end up on the reef or head towards the boat mooring ball marking Fish Den. Either way, you’ll have a great dive. I can’t tell you how many times we have dove this particular site in the 7 years, but we still never tire of it. It is very easy to navigate and full of life. Since this was our travel day we kept it shallow and relatively short, 53 minutes, but it was great to be suspended is the warm tropical waters surrounded by the reef creatures.

The lagoon is also a great place to watch the sunset. My husband and I spent every evening sitting on the dock watching the sunsets. I came home with dozens of pictures of beautiful sunsets. ILR was in the process of building a new deck and pier in the lagoon. One of last year’s hurricanes took down the old one. It was under construction while we were there, so next year it will be a surprise what they actually built, but they usually had tables and chairs for the weekly BBQ on the lagoon as well as hammocks to just relax in. The finished product will be something to look forward to.

The meals at ILR are all sit down, no buffets here. There is a board in the lodge where they post the menu for the up coming meal. It is a fixed menu, so only one item is offered, but they are great at special dietary requests. I know this from personal experience. Just let them know when you arrive if you have any special food issues. The food is good with a healthful size portion. If you are a big eater, you can always ask for seconds. Breakfast is a typical American Fare, Eggs, Omelets, Meat, Toast, French Toast, Pancakes. They have been serving a table fruit plate as well as fried donuts before the meal. For us those donuts are a real treat. Lunch is typically a one-plate affair, Soup and Sandwich, Enchilada’s with rice and beans, Pasta Salad with tuna and veggies, Stir-fry over rice, Fish Pockets and coleslaw etc. There is a dessert served as well. Dinner on the other hand is served in courses. First is Home made bread or rolls, YUMM. Then is a home made soup, Egg Drop, Carrot Cumin, French Onion, Borsht, just to name a few. Next is a salad, Marinated Corn, Cucumber Salad, Tossed Salad, Tomatoes and Onions. Then the main course, meat, starch and veggie, Beef Kabobs over rice with Zucchini, Grilled Fish with rice and squash, Sweet and Sour Pork with rice, Chicken Imperial over noodles and Broccoli. Of course there is also dessert served. Are you hungry yet !!!

Now onto the diving. ILR has 3 boats all approximately the same size that hold up to 20 divers, but for this trip we had between 2 (private dive) to 20 divers, mostly 12 – 15. The boats are roomy with under bench storage as well as a flat area over the engine cover. They also have a dry box where they store towels and you are welcome to put t-shirts, books, whatever you need to stay dry. Each boat has 2 built in rinse tanks off the back. One is designated for camera gear only. Entry is Giant Stride with the boat captain helping you in and out of the water. This years Captains were Danny, Luther and Al. Watch out for Luther he is so strong he can lift you right out of the water one handed. All the captains are always ready to help photographers with their camera gear. The boats have 2 ladders on the back to get back on board. Gear is store in the dive shop that is a stones throw from the boats. The DM’s and Captains will take care of your gear after your first set up if that is you desire. This year we had 2 Great DM’s Juergen and Martin, both knew how to balance safety and diver independence.

The boats leave the dock for 3 single tank dive daily at 8:00, 10:30 and 2:00. The dives are guided, unless you want to stay under the shadow of the boat. The DM will brief the dive and dive you max depth and generally dive time was up to 60 minutes, give or take. The only dive that they enforce a dive time is one of the deep wrecks, otherwise they have you back under the boat by 45 – 50 minutes and then you can play. All of the sites they go to are within the Sandy Bay- West End Marine Park, so there is no touching, taking or molesting of the reef life. They also encourage no glove use. Their hope is that no gloves, means no touching. The sites are generally a short boat ride away, usually between 2 and 15 minutes. Occasionally, the ride might be up to 25 minutes long. The dives for the day are posted in the lodge either the night before or at breakfast time. We stayed for 2 weeks with 12 ½ days of diving, did 42 dives and clocked over 43 hours of bottom time. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The life on the reefs of Roatan is plentiful and healthy. People ask us why we don’t get bored, but if you really look there is too much to see. Each year we go, we see something that we have not seen before. The resort has a very beat up copy of Humann’s Fish and Creature guides, but we always bring our own. We enjoy trying to identify the creatures that we see. So what will you see?? All of the typical tropicals, Parrotfish of all kinds and sizes, Squirrelfish, Blue Tang, Grouper, Damselfish, Butterflyfish. Take a good look and you’ll see those that like to hide, Scorpionfish, Flounder, and Sand divers. Look close to the coral and see a wide variety of Blennies (one of my favorite), Gobies, Slender Filefish, Lettuce and Harlequin Sea Slugs, Flat Worms and I could go on. I love the macro life. One of my favorite dives is a shallow sandy bottom. Just hang on the bottom, hold still and watch the life come out, Yellowheaded Jawfish, Corkscrew Anemones with Pederson Cleaner Shrimp and Snapping Shrimp, Giant Anemones with Spotted Cleaner Shrimp, Squat Anemone Shrimp and Banded Clinging Crab.

So what if you are not a 3-4 dive a day person?? What else is there to do?? Well, at the resort not much beside read (bring your own book or borrow one from their paperback library), relax, get some sun and did I mention relax. If you want to venture outside the resort, the staff can set you up with some things to do. How about a Canopy Tour (We love it), Dolphin Snorkel or Dive at AKR, Shark Dive, walking into West End to shop or have lunch or renting a car to see the entire island. We pretty much stay underwater, but we do walk into West End to shop on our dry day before departure.

Leaving for us is always sad. We always enjoy our stay and this time was no exception. We met some nice people and had the opportunity to sit and chat with them about things other than diving in the Roatan airport. Donna suggested that since Delta does not issue boarding passes during the week that we get to the airport early. We did and there were no lines. We did wait in the departure lounge, but not waiting in the lines made it worth it. The flights home were uneventful, Delta, Roatan to Atlanta and then home to Connecticut. We look forward to our 2007 trip.

If you have not tried Roatan before, be sure and put it on your short list of dive places to visit. Make sure that you check out and stay at ILR. Tell Donna, I sent you.

Please check out my photo galleries

Feel free to email me if you have any question. I’d love to answer them for you.

Leslie

Roatan Photo's 06

#2 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 01:55 PM

Hi Leslie,

Great report and loved the pictures. Roatan was already on my shortlist and that list just got shorter. For us we'll need to take two days going to the island or take a red-eye flight. Not attractive but it sounds like it's worth it.

Bart

PS1: I see this is your first wetpixel message. Welcome and what a great way to start!!!

PS2: Do you always go around May or have you tried different times of the year. If so what do you think works best. I'm contemplating mid-december (getting back before Xmas) but in the past we've had bad weather in Cozumel at that time of year.

Edited by Glasseye Snapper, 10 September 2006 - 02:33 PM.

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#3 divegirl

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 01:28 PM

We have always gone to Roatan in the end of May to Mid June. The weather tends to be hot (?90's) with very little rain. Water tends to be flat on that side of the island, generally. We have had a few days of choppy water, but never enough to stop us from diving. When we go I believe that they other side tends to be alot rougher. I believe that late fall to winter is Roatan's rainy season. They still dive from what I understand, but there are times when they have to shuttle you to the other side of the island, so the diving is not as easy.

Thanks for the nice review. It is just a great place that my husband and I have made our second home.

Leslie

#4 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 02:48 PM

Thanks Leslie,

Perhaps we should wait then. We went to Cuba last May and had much better weather than our earlier trip in November. Also more juveniles then I remembered but that may be just my memory. Apparently, British Columbia is at its best in the winter months so maybe we should take a shorter break there, learn to dive in dry suits and get used the a whole cast of new scaly characters.

Bart
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#5 cdoyal

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 11:25 AM

For those of you who have read my trip reports before know that my husband and I are in love with the island of Roatan. The diving is easy, reefs teaming with life, photo opportunities especially macro everywhere and now I can say easy to get to. On May 20th we left home for our 7th yearly trip to Roatan staying at the Inn of Last Resort.


Leslie-
My wife and I stayed at ILR two years ago. Luther was our boat capitan and is a great guy. The two dive masters, Monica and Arturo, must not be there anymore. We found the diving to be awesome but many guests found the food to be lacking. The best way I can describe it is poor Americanized fare. I was all ready for fish but Donna actually said to me "We found that divers don't like to eat fish." Huh?
And beef stew for lunch when it's 95 degrees?
I had heard that there was a shark dive on the island but Donna told me I'd have to talk other divers into it and I was on my own to arrange it.
All this to say: The accomodations are good, diving great, dive shop great, food and customer service....not so great.
Chris
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#6 ce4jesus

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 06:41 PM

Hello Leslie,
Welcome to Wetpixel. Nice photos! Roatan is on my list but as you mentioned in your write up..the trick is getting there. While flights are available, they're generally quite expensive. If you don't mind sharing, what was the adult fare to the island from Atlanta?
Gary
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#7 rzphotog

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Posted 27 November 2006 - 03:14 AM

Nice photos!!
I was wondering when the best time of year to dive here is and what the best prices are.
I don't mind roughing it.

I hope you won't mind... I did a very quick Pshop job on your Juvenile Drum Trio.
Forgive me if I have overstepped my bounds.

John

Nice photos!!
I was wondering when the best time of year to dive here is and what the best prices are.
I don't mind roughing it.

I hope you won't mind... I did a very quick Pshop job on your Juvenile Drum Trio.
Forgive me if I have overstepped my bounds.

John

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  • Juv_Spotted_Drum_Trio.jpg


#8 TomR1

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 08:16 PM

You won't get better rates than ILR. Try June.

Tom Reynolds

#9 diverdon

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Posted 27 May 2007 - 08:00 AM

Leslie-
My wife and I stayed at ILR two years ago. Luther was our boat capitan and is a great guy. The two dive masters, Monica and Arturo, must not be there anymore. We found the diving to be awesome but many guests found the food to be lacking. The best way I can describe it is poor Americanized fare. I was all ready for fish but Donna actually said to me "We found that divers don't like to eat fish." Huh?
And beef stew for lunch when it's 95 degrees?
I had heard that there was a shark dive on the island but Donna told me I'd have to talk other divers into it and I was on my own to arrange it.
All this to say: The accomodations are good, diving great, dive shop great, food and customer service....not so great.
Chris



Chris

I am with you on the food. I stayed there about five years ago and I could barely choke down enough of it to keep up my diving energy. I lost seven pounds in one week and I do not go on vacation to loose weight. I did see my first whale shark while with them. But it was just a quick glimce while snorkleing.

Don
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