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Western Caribbean On Magic Snorkeling

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Roatan. No doubt about it. The second largest barrier reef in the world, second to Australia. Look up Roatan Ocean Adventures, Herbert at ROA is a treat of a young man. He took us out to snorkel and it was the highlight of our cruise. You can follow them on FB.



This is what I wrote in my journal about Roatan:

Roatan is a “walk off” port so once we were done eating wegrabbed our stuff and headed off the ship. We independently booked Sightseeingand Snorkel the Barrier Reef with Roatan Ocean Adventures (ROA) which we readabout on Cruise Critic. Reviews there and on Trip Advisor were all positive andafter a few e-mails with Herbert, the owner, we booked. We received a detailede-mail with exact walking directions to meet the tour. We followed, and walkedup one area, down another, across even another, and finally up a small hillroad, at the top, when we looked down the other side, there was a line ofpeople along the right side of the road, with signs announcing who they wereand what tour they were picking up for! Apparently Carnival will only allow“their” excursions to pick up at the actual pier. It was no big deal - the walktook all of maybe 10 minutes. As soon as we got to the checkpoint, 2 guys witha different tour group asked us who we were looking for, and called out forthem. With more than 50 people picking up for as many tours, ROA wasn’t there.We were assured they would be there shortly. We sat and watched this physicalsymphony. It was a lot of fun watching locals picking up their visitors for theday. A few minutes later a young man came over and said my name. He was holdinga cell phone. He had Herbert on the phone. He was minutes away and heapologized several times in the 1 minute call we had. The young man was hiscousin.


Herbert arrived and had parked and walked over to collectus. His car was clean and air conditioned and as he drove he shared with us allsorts of interesting things about his life, and life on the island. At 27Herbert is a devout ecologist. He is very concerned about the reef system andhas taken matters into his own hands…literally. He has taken 86 species ofcoral that he has seen being damaged by storms, pollution and humans andcreated a coral garden. He is re-growing the coral and when it is mature enoughhe will take each piece and reintroduce it to the reef with the expectation ofre-growing endangered reef coral. In addition he is preparing to add solarpanels to the house he lives in with his dad in French Harbor. Herbert has aton of business ideas and shared many of them with us, asking what we thought.To me, I felt like I was visiting with a relative I don’t see frequently ratherthan a stranger. He is smart and very personable. As we drove he pointed outvarious things to us, and we 3 chatted as friends. We were fortunate in that wehad a private tour with Herbert.


Along the sightseeing way we stopped at various beachvistas (beautiful) and at one we were among mangroves and Herbert taught us theright way to replant the pods that we found on the ground (he said “come backnext year and I’ll show you your trees!”). We also stopped at the iguana parkand we both bought a few trinkets in the shop there. Many items werelocally made and prices reasonable. Then we made a stop at his cousin’s animalsanctuary where we played with little monkeys, saw beautiful scarlet macaws,some local tapirs and I got to hold a very friendly sloth. Those are words Inever thought I’d say in my life….I held a sloth.


And then the time had come…itwas time to snorkel the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world! We had broughtour own mask and snorkel and Herbert had fins and vests for us. He also has masksand snorkels to use. I’m not a very good swimmer and Herbert suggested I simplyhold the vest against myself and basically use it as a floating device. Itworked brilliantly! Herbert also keeps a stash of “reef safe” sunscreen. Webrought our own, and lathered up! We met Justin, our entrepreneurial and lovely16-year old pontoon boat driver (he works during the week and goes to school onweekends and will be graduating in a month and then going to university) – heis also very concerned for the reef and will do whatever he can to preserveand/or make it better. The sounds from the “party” on Little French Cay wasloud enough for us to hear and Herbert wanted to take us away from it. Heguided Justin and before long we were in an isolated area of the reef. Theylowered a sloping ladder and in we went. The water was warm, calm and the mostexquisite color of green and blue I’d ever seen. One thing to note with ROA isthat Herbert carries an underwater camera (so you don’t have to) and takespictures while you snorkel (he was in the water with us, while Justin quietlyfollowed along). Within a few days Herbert e-mails hi-resolution pictures toyou at no extra charge. We got about 20 and each one is more beautiful than thenext! We snorkeled a very long section of the reef (maybe a mile) all the whileseeing every variation of fish, sea life and so much coral that was so colorfuland unusual it almost looked like an underwater movie set! At one area wesnorkeled over a submerged 185’ ship, something that scuba divers enjoyexploring. I would say we snorkeled about an hour or so. We could have donemore, but we knew we were on limited time. We boated around a bit more beforeheading back to shore. After drying off we got back in the car and Herbert tookus down the highway and drove us through Coxen Hole before taking us back tothe ship pier. We sadly said good -bye to our new friend and told him we wouldsee him again.

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Thanks for that awesome review of your experience in Roatan. We will be there in just 2 weeks, and your tour guide Herbert sounds like one of the best tour guides ever. I am a little jealous, as we have already booked a similar experience, but with a different company. So no possibility of getting Herbert. But your review is making me even more excited for our planned experiences in Roatan. We booked the Zipline, sloth/bird sanctuary, and a snorkel boat trip out to the Barrier Reef thru Victor Bodden Tours on Roatan.


We have also booked the snorkel trip to Rendevous Cay directly from the cruise ship in Belize. Mitsugirly, my favorite cruise critic reviewer raved about the snorkeling there on her last trip report.


Did you do any snorkeling in Cozumel? I am reluctant to book snorkeling there because the reefs are so far offshore.



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Did you do any snorkeling in Cozumel? I am reluctant to book snorkeling there because the reefs are so far offshore. ----Rene


Rene, no, we haven't snorkeled in Cozumel. In fact I've not snorkeled Mexico at all. Wherever you snorkel in Roatan, it'll be wonderful. I was truly surprised at how beautiful the ocean is there.

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We snorkeled Rendezvous Cay off Belize. It was my first time, so I don't have anything to compare it to. I really enjoyed it though. The guides were great and the little island was nice. I'd definitely go again.

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I have snorkeled in Cozumel on three cruises now and the water was very clear. They have a rocky bottom with some small reefs, but no really nice reefs. Grand Cayman has been my favorite place for snorkeling, just get off the boat and in the water and you are in prime snorkeling area.

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I've snorkeled all of those. Belize has good snorkeling, We snorkeled on our trip there about five years ago, used Coral Breeze. We didn't repeat book with them for this last trip. As beautiful as it is, Belize still isn't my favorite port to visit.


Roatan, oh my. Out of those four, this one would probably be my favorite for snorkeling. We book with Victor Bodden, we've used them several times now. They will take you where ever you choose to go, but West Bay is where you want to go. Banarama, specifically. Good food, beautiful beach and great snorkeling. Also, annoying vendors. Be forewarned.


Cozumel is my go to snorkel place. Snorkeling is good in places, not so good in others. We just usually go to Chakanaab as it usually has everything we are looking for in one convenient place. The snorkeling is decent. The food is good and the drinks are cheap. And the views are amazing!


I think Mitsugirly found a place for decent snorkeling in Costa Maya. I know they exist. I choose to go the Maya Chan route, simply choosing relaxation and pampering (and amazing food) over snorkeling for a change. You can still snorkel, but the reef is a way out and the water isn't as crystal clear as the other locations.


My favorite ports for snorkeling are Aruba, Grand Cayman and Tortola.

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Take Carnivals Tabyana Beach Break. Security on the beach so you can leave your stuff safely. Just walk off the beach and swim a few hundred feet (or pay one of the kayak guys to tow you) and you are on the reef. No guide saying “stay together “. No flippers in the face. Just thousands of colorful fish, sea fans and coral to look at on Your Own time. Be sure to have a Monkey La La. Best drink ever.

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Take Carnivals Tabyana Beach Break. Security on the beach so you can leave your stuff safely. Just walk off the beach and swim a few hundred feet (or pay one of the kayak guys to tow you) and you are on the reef.

The kayak guys can tow you behind the reef where there aren't many people. But there are plenty of fish!


I've snorkeled in all places multiple times. My choices would be:

1. Roatan. I second the Tabyana Beach Break and paying one of the kayak guys. Even if you don't use the kayak guys it's great snorkeling.

2. Belize - you'll have to take a snorkel boat and the current can be strong out there.

3. Cozumel - taxi to Money Bar. You can snorkel from the rocky shore (they have steps). Or take the excursion that takes you to the mainland to the cenotes. My trip report for that one is here.

4. Costa Maya

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  • 3 months later...
We are going to the Western Caribbean on the Magic June 30th. This will be my first cruise and i am trying to find the best place to snorkel between the 4 ports...Belize, Roatan, Cozumel, and Costa Maya. Any suggestions would be great.


We are on the same cruise! :D It is mine & my 16yo dd's 2nd Carnival cruise (same ports), and our friends 1st. However, we have cruised a lot on another line and LOVE it! Hope your family does as well! Do you have any other excursions chosen yet?

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I've used Herbert at Roatan Ocean Adventures twice myself and sent 3 different friends of mine to do various tours with him. I can say with total confidence that Herbert's 3 stop snorkel tour and drift snorkel over the reef is the best snorkeling I've ever done. Healthy, colorful reefs, beautiful fish and personalized tours/service. And I love his eco-friendliness, unlike many others who just lip sync that.

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  • 1 month later...

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