Villa on Dunbar Rock – June 24-July 1, 2017
The name says it all – it’s a resort built on a rock. It’s located off the south coast of Guanaja, just east of Roatan. It’s reached via Air Caribe from Roatan, the flight booked by the resort. Don’t worry if your flight is delayed reaching Roatan, the resort is their major customer, they will wait for you. Don’t worry about your bags, with the resort bag tags, ‘Oliver’ will claim your bags put them through the scanner, place them on a cart, and bring them to the lobby next to the bar, then turn the cart over to the AC manager who’ll take them to the plane. [When returning from Guanaja he will do the same, collecting your bags and taking them to your airline!] All you have to do is, wait in line for an hour to get through immigration. The service continues when you reach Guanaja, exit the puddle jumper, walk through the terminal, to the boat on the pier, and a fruit drink [rum optional], resort staff will bring your bags from the plane to the boat, and on to your room once you reach the Rock. On the way from the airport, you’ll notice several grounded rusting wrecks in the water way and along the shore. Also, there’s another island called Bonaca, covered with houses, including 2-3 deep over the water. There’s a lobster processing factory there [Red Lobster?], it’s home to the lobster fleet, with traps stacked on docks, which were all stacked on boats by the time we left.
We [7 guests, 3 couples & myself] arrived after a 10-15 min trip from the airport, and directed up the ramp, which wraps around halfway around the rock, up to the reception area, given directions to our rooms, to check in, and present C-cards. There’s also a series of steps which goes straight up the rock, which after going up the ramp twice, I found easier to climb the stairs, 49 steps to my room, and the reception area/dining room, billiard room, bar, and infinity pool. The lowest room, the presidential suite [complete w/hot tub] is the lowest room, at 40 steps. There was another room opposite mine, all the rest were higher, including the penthouse suite, at 77 steps from the dock [just under the helicopter pad]. My room was spacious, containing 2 queen beds, a side chair and rocker, which I could comfortably sit, and contained a chest of drawers, and a card table/desk, w/chair. The bathroom had an 8 ft. single sink [?] vanity, and an L-shaped shower area with 2 shower heads. Outside was an L-shaped balcony w/2 chairs & cocktail table, around the corner were 2 chaise lounges [which got the morning sun, but I was diving]. There was also an exercise room/gym [which I didn’t avail myself to], I believe on the 6th level. It reportedly contained a basic weight machine, and treadmill, which one guest suggested should be upgraded. Meals are patterned on a liveaboard schedule and buffet style, alfresco breakfast, 7 am., usually fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon, beans, and tortillas – alfresco lunch, 12:30 pm. or when dive boat returns, - afternoon snack/appetizer, and dinner in the dining room. I’d rate the food as, adequate, I’m sure food prep is especially challenging, since all food supplies must be imported. I experienced a first at this resort, the offer of free laundry service. Due to the verticality of the resort, only adults are allowed to stay, a fall from any level of the resort would be deadly. There are NO “no see’ms” on the rock or Bonaca town, but if you go to the main island protect yourself!
Finally, to the diving, first the boat, could accommodate up to 20 divers [tank racks for 40 tanks], although I’m sure it would be crowded. They do have another identical dive boat, but I believe they were using it to ferry supplies to another resort [family friendly] they’re building on a nearby cay. A 6 inch step over between the boat and dive platform, w/hinged center ladder. As with all dive boats, the lack of adequate camera tanks is a problem. A 55 gal. barrel w/the top cut off will only accommodate one macro setup dslr w/strobes, plus some p&s and go-pros. I’m sure they would’ve added another camera barrel, if requested.
Most of the diving is done on the north side of the island, protected from an almost constant easterly wind of 15-20mph. To access the north side requires a 20-40 min. boat ride past the airport through a channel to the other side. The sites in this area, are dotted with caves, cracks, and tunnels, some quite spacious. Within these you’ll find clouds of silver sides to swim through, and notice the tarpon and grouper waiting for a meal. On the center northern sites, you’ll be accompanied by a friendly nurse shark [must hear the approaching engine of the dive boat], it’s waiting for Raynel, dive guide, to feed it lion fish from his spear. Typically, the boat moors in 10-20 ft., swim to a wall down to 60-80ft. then return at 30-40ft. and spend however as long as you want below the boat. Between the slopes of the walls are the sandy patches, with varying coverage of sea weed, but containing macro life, mostly jawfish, and several species of blennies. In fact, I would say the macro life was much more prolific than the numbers of reef fish. I think this is due to the fact the marine park surrounding the island is less than 2 years old. Many of the hard corals are covered w/algae, due to prior over fishing and/or infestation of lion fish. There are some small colonies, of what appear to be healthy, staghorn & elkhorn corals, probably reborn after the island was devastated by hurricane Mitch in 1998. Also observed, were an eagle ray, a pod of dolphins following the boat, but sadly no turtles. Some of the larger fish seemed to be unconcerned with divers, possibly from the limited exposure to large groups and those who want to pointlessly chase them. The highlight of diving the south side, is the wreck of the Jado Trader, purposely sunk, but sitting on its starboard side in 115’ fsw, w/top at 75’. It is penetrable, and inhabited by a green moray, a large grouper, and a cloud of silver sides. Around the outside, there are several tarpoon and a sting ray. For macro enthusiasts, check out the top railing, covered in black sponge, with 20-30 secretary blennies peering out, and feeding. Also, at the bow end of the railing was a shy mantis shrimp, content on watching marine life from the door of his hole. Off the bow is a pinnacle, for the convenience of performing your safety stop. This site can only be dived under calm conditions, trust me, we talked them into taking us back w/1-1/2 ft. seas, getting back on the boat, I flashed back to a heaving Flower Gardens boat. There are other dive sites on the south side, protected by the barrier reef and/or on the leeward side of a cay. These sites are usually dived during the afternoon. 3 dives/day, except Friday, 2 morning dives, Tuesday – afternoon tour of Bonaca town & night dive, Wednesday – 3 tank on north side w/picnic lunch between 2&3, for a total of 17 dives. Visibility was 75’, but was enriched w/plankton, due to its location near the western end of the Cayman trench.
Unfortunately, I sprained [?] my left thumb the week before I left, then irritated [?] some ligaments in my right wrist, climbing the ladder after the first dive. I restricted my photo/video –graphy to 4 dives.
Would I return? I’ll consider it, after I cross off some other Caribbean bucket locations, and to see how the marine life looks in 5 years. I just hope there isn’t too much future development in Guanaja. While I saw what appeared to be another dive boat travelling to sites, I only saw one other dive boat at a mooring, the whole week.