Today we visited an island off the coast of Honduras called Roatan. We docked at Mahogany Bay, where Carnival has built a beautiful port with shops and a ski lift down to the beach. Unfortunately, we did not have time to check out that, but we did have an amazing day. We left out almost as soon as we docked for Gumbalimba Park. This is an animal sanctuary where they rehabilitate and breed animals. We traveled 45 minutes in a van with 3 other couples and our guide to the park. We were offered lockers for $5 USD and told a little bit about our trip. There was a gift shop and small restaurant that offered basic American food like hotdogs and burgers. There were several photo opportunities as we arrived and the view was absolutely gorgeous. We were steps away from a white sand beach and the Caribbean Sea. After everyone had put their things in a locker and gotten situated, we headed to our tour.
As we started towards our first stop, we saw iguana's, humming birds, and even their only sloth, Sammy, that they have on the property. They do not cage any of the animals in at Gumbalimba, but found that once they released the animals to the wild, they always came back. Since they feed the animals regularly, they stay close by and have made Gumbalimba their home. Our first stop came at the insectitorium where they house a local scientist work on the study of insects across the world. There were many preserved varieties of butterflies, beetles, scorpions, and even a few spiders. We continued our tour into the cave system that they have dug out and placed historical murals, artifacts, and information about their culture. As we exited the cave, we were told we could either decide to take the rope bridge across to the next location or take the "Chicken Walk" on the sturdier bridge.
We were feeling adventurous and decided to cross the rope bridge. I was the first one to cross and it was a little scary to be wobbling around in the air, but we made it safely across. I was told to go down the stairs to the left after crossing the bridge, so down I went. As I came to the bottom step, I heard a noise and looked up in shock.
There were 3 macaws sitting on the ground just a few feet away. I approached slowly to get some pictures, trying not to frighten them away. I kept getting closer and closer, thinking any moment they were going to run. It never happened. Apparently, these macaws are so used to humans, that they will walk right up to you. There were more that were caged to our left with younger ones and even more walking around as we walked towards the trainers. They had a photo opportunity where they have trained these birds to pose with people for pictures. This was amazing, I had one on my shoulder and got to hold one like a baby while my husband had 2 on his shoulder.
A person in our party with a hat on even had one pick off the button on the top of his hat. These animals like to play. After everyone had finished taking pictures with the birds, we were told we were going to the monkey area and given some precautions about the monkeys. They also like to play, so we were warned to let them take anything they tried to grab and the trainers would get it back for us. The monkeys are prone to bite if they are grabbed. These warnings only deterred us until we got into the area and found these monkeys to be the coolest part of the whole day. They were just jumping from person to person, posing for photos, trying to get their next treat. Never minding where they landed. I had one land on my arm, my shoulders, wrap their tell around my neck to hang on, and even use my head as a landing pad and jumping off point.
This was by far the most exciting thing we had done on the trip and there were smiles and laughs all around. We got one last look at the sloth on the way out and grabbed all of our stuff to await our transport to Tabyana Beach.
We got to the beach and were very disappointed to find out that the last bus was coming in only 45 minutes. If we were going to snorkel, we were going to have to rush. I ran down to the beach and threw down my stuff and asked the nearest person where I could rent a mask. $10 and 5 minutes later, I was in the water swimming out to the reef. Tabyana Beach is 70 feet from the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef, the world's 2nd largest reef only to the Great Barrier Reef. I swam out and it was only a minute until I saw the first fish and another until I started seeing coral, and it was everywhere. As far as I could see in both directions, the reef was there. I swam around for a bit looking at all of the different varieties of fish until a couple from my group caught up to me with a guide. He had a bag of food and would feed the fish to make them swarm around. The fish were swimming with me before they showed up and I was shocked because I had never seen fish act this way. It made more sense after seeing the guide feed them, the fish expected every human to carry food and came up to them waiting on it. The guide took us out to a first break in the reef where a group was doing a shallow dive. I swam around looking at everything to see and got away from the guide for a minute. I looked up and he was waving me over. I swam that direction and as I approached, it was like everything just ended. The reef just dropped off, apparently 90 feet deep at that location. It was just insane to see. It was everywhere around us for 360 degrees and then it was just deep blue sea. It was just an incredible experience and I could have stayed out there for hours exploring more and more. However, sadly, it was time to go. We made our way back and collected our things and headed back to the port. Roatan, Honduras is definitely a place I want to come back to and spend a week or two, or maybe even a lifetime!