Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Garen and I playing with our buoyancy
 photo credit: Mike Carson 

It's a good thing that we like seeing a lot of each other because that's basically all we saw underwater. I wish this were a funny exaggeration. It is not. While the people who happened to be staying at the Laguna Beach Resort were well worth meeting, and getting to know, we also assumed that we'd be mingling with some marine life. We were wrong. 

No one was home, or at least this is the eerie impression my week on the island of Utila in Honduras left me with. 
There were folks on our dive boat who had done their research on Whale Shark migrations to optimize their chances for interaction with the world's largest fish. It came down to April being the best month to see them, while narrowing further to the week were were there. And, turns out, there's no other place better than Utila to find these friendly fish. 

As the week progressed and the situation became clear, I resigned myself to the possibility that we'd come all this way one was home. We should have seen 5 or 6 Whale Sharks at a time, according to locals who were dismayed that the Whale Sharks were not around. This was the second season of its kind, being even worse than last year. 

We should have also seen sea birds, gulls, and Pelicans. I saw three Pelicans all week long. Two Terns followed our boat....ONCE. In short, the skies were empty.

Under the water any better? You may be wondering. 
List of animals we did not see, clocking 12-16 hours underwater in total. Oh, and no one else on our boat saw them either. 
1. sea turtles of any kind
2. reef sharks or any kind of shark
3. Whale Sharks
4. dolphins

And the fish population on the reefs (that were also in rough shape) were very low. Our friend said he was surprised at how, "mediocre the diving was." I think he put that lightly. 

I came home with a heavy heart and have been taking the last few days to process our experience. 
Garen and I agree with the locals hypothesis that the absence of life around the Bay Islands is due to the BP Oil Spill. Garen believes that it would take a couple of seasons to see the effects. What those direct effects are could be many. I wonder if the plankton, krill and small bait fish that migrate through the Gulf could have been wiped out by the toxins and oil sludge saturating their waters? 
If so, there's no food off the coast of Honduras for the big guys, the birds, the dolphins....

Whatever the reason, I'm home from our "Spring Break" trip reeling at having witnessed such a degraded marine environment. 

I'm sure the owners of the resort who are slicing open the wetlands to expand their empire and contemplating Lobster Farming are taking their potential environmental impacts into full account. 

I wouldn't go back, I would tell others not to go as well, although it makes me sad for the kind people who live and work there. 

I'm not sure how to end this rather atypically long, and emotional post. I'll leave you with this. 

Mike, Linda, Garen and I spent 15 minutes walking the edge of the property. We filled a wheel barrow that threatened to brim over with single-use plastics. There was that too. I just couldn't bring myself to even take out  our camera to document the Coke, Pepsi, Water Bottles, syringes, aerosol cans, flip-flops and other detritus washing up from the clear blue Caribbean. 

Paradise it was not.