April 06, 2014

Earth Mama’s Garden Café and Lifestyle: The Place to Relax Your Mind and Soothe your Soul

Follow the gravelly path to enlightenment all the way to the back of this garden café, and find a liberating place which offers numerous and stimulating alternatives for a healthy and environmentally conscious lifestyle. From organic and healthy food options in eco-friendly packaging, to yoga classes and other mind and body workshops, Earth Mama’s (EM) has it all to start to your day fresh, or decompress after a long day at the office / sea – same difference if you are a local dive instructor. 

The last time I set my bare feet on one of their yoga mats was well over a year ago, but I had been dying to write about this place ever since I first took one of their Hatha yoga classes around 2010; I just never got around to it until now, given how my wife and I were bitten by the travel bug during 2013, hitting three different weddings in some far out locations. I have to admit that although I would have wanted to discover new Honduran destinations to add to the blog, I cannot complain about our travels abroad, we actually had loads of fun and met some very interesting people in the process!

But I digress… It is important to mention for the purpose of this story how I initially got into this thing called yoga. It pretty much forced its way into my life, mostly as an alternative remedy to counteract a sudden spell of crippling back spasms which I believe were attributed to my decision to get married with my long time girlfriend. Wife jokes aside, yoga was instrumental in helping me get relief from this terrible back pain and slowly got me back to my feet, and I mean that literally, as I transitioned from the once complaining and depressed individual who lied in bed all day to a happy and pain free human being who leads an active and normal life.

follow the sign toENLIGHTMENT
And I owe all of that to yoga. I do have to confess that my yoga basics came to me in the most unconventional way, mostly in the shape of a computer screen – that’s right, YouTube turned into my very own and might I add, highly reliable personal yoga instructor. But, it wasn’t long though, before I graduated from YouTube and went on to more advanced sequences with the help of another technological innovation, a Smart TV channel belonging to yoga goddess Tara Stiles.

Ok, clearly I was no B.K.S Iyengar, but naturally after being formally introduced to such an ancient discipline by such new technology, I became overly eager to learn more about this life changing lifestyle. I really became curious as to what a REAL yoga class would look like, so when we found ourselves in West End, Roatan with a large group of friends who were visiting us from abroad, I convinced everyone to parade into Earth Mama and sign up for a yoga class the following day.

Before I delve deeper into the Asanas (otherwise known as postures), that have strange animal word combinations commonly used in the yogi vernacular, like Camel Pose, Downward Dog, and  the Cat-Cow Stretch, just to name a few, I have to talk about the other elements found in this locale which are also worth meditating about.

indulge with some bananaNUTELLAcrepes, hmmm
The Earth Mama’s Garden Café is notorious for having a scrumptious breakfast menu served in attractive presentations. One of their best tasting items, the Banana Nutella Crepes drizzled with light coconut cream cheese, are a big hit and definitely my favorite. I don’t even look at the menu anymore – you just cannot go wrong with Nutella as the main ingredient in any recipe. I also remember that the Island Eggs Benedict were quite the buzz among my friends too. I cannot vouch for the lunch menu though, as we were always at the beach around that time, but I am sure it won’t disappoint. It is also good to know that just about everything on their menu goes for under USD $9.00 plus tax.

how bout aREPLENISHINGdrink after yoga class!
In addition to these greatly satisfying meals they also provide a nice selection of frozen fruit smoothies, made with an assortment of fresh fruit and your choice of milk for whichever allergy, diet, or plain taste you happen to have. Also, play it healthy and combine the early morning, Saturday Detox, Yoga Class, with a freshly squeezed veggie drink from their cleansing juice bar… hmmm vitamin goodness!   

serenity at the outdoorYOGAgarden
But, back to Yoga; I agree that although I may not be the most orthodox yogi around, given my social media inspired, yoga skills, I did get a hang of the core strengthening, spine alignment, and the stretching aspects of yoga, given my body’s needs, yet I somehow managed to leave an important aspect aside – the spiritual element. I believe that happened more out of practicality than anything else as this way I could finish my poses quicker. But anyway, it wasn’t until I took that first yoga class at EM’s that I rediscovered the health benefits obtained from the meditation and relaxation techniques which I earlier took for granted. It simply slipped my mind as to how important they could be to relieve “stress”, and we all know how overwhelming that can be for just about anyone living or visiting the island of Roatan!

YOGISof all levels from all over the world
The yoga instructor at the time was and still is a regular at EM. Christine is her name, and she was absolutely great. For just $10 US dollars per session, we had the chance to balance our Chakras with the aid of her soft and soothing voice which complemented well with her relaxed and slow paced class, ideal for beginners. Christine started of the day by performing some compulsory stretching exercises, and then moved on to more demanding poses which I was very much familiar with. It wasn’t long before she got into a deep spiritual mind set and through continuous sun salutations and breathing exercises she began transmitting that positive energy capable of making all those things which could easily throw you off balance start to slowly fade away. This was a whole new realm for me and something I had not experienced before – I was finally seeing the true benefits of true meditative yoga. In fact, we felt so calm afterwards we practically floated out of the establishment and on to Half-Moon Beach to let the ocean breeze cool down our sweaty but relaxed bodies.  
yogaMATSairing out after an intense yoga session

Now I cannot say the same thing the second time around, but do not get me wrong, I am not saying it was a bad class, not at all, in fact it was actually very good. It just wasn’t the kind of yoga you want to do when you are on vacation! This was more of a hardcore, boot camp training, hot Bikram-style, workout which really kicked our asses. This time we ended up in West Bay Beach sipping on some Pina Coladas trying to numb the pain from our overworked muscles.   

In retrospect, it really didn’t matter what style of yoga we chose to do, at least now I have discovered a great place where I can go to learn more about yoga, grab a delicious breakfast, or sip on some healthy beverages. One thing is certain, the next time I do visit Earth Mama’s I will remember for sure to ask if we will be doing some sun salutations accompanied by live guitar playing (we will try this one tomorrow morning) or if we are doing a Vinyasa class with an extra punch on the Flow.

February 13, 2014

The Roatan Marine Park: The Little Nonprofit That Could

Continuing with this third and final installment of marine eco-friendliness, it is now turn for the Roatan Marine Park’s (RMP) fresh and resourceful environmental activism to be showcased on this here website. Since 2005, this grass roots, nonprofit organization has been the island’s undisputed champion on the marine conservation front. They have performed a significant number of actions with the aim of reducing man’s carbon footprint on Roatan’s most precious natural resource and number one tourist attraction, its coral reefs. This section of the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) engulfs all of the Bay Islands with amazing splendor and magnificent biodiversity, converting this Honduran archipelago into one of the most popular dive hubs in the entire western hemisphere. Year-round, hoards of divers from all over the world rack up countless frequent miles just to come face to face with this marvel from the sea. 

the rustic confines of theROATAN MARINE PARK
theLIONFISHin the MAR, a true space invader
However, like many of these underwater habitats around the world, the Bay Islands coral reefs are continually being threatened by a number of natural and man-made hazards. The list is depressively long and a real challenge for any organization in charge of implementing adequate reef handling and management guidelines. Human behavior such as overfishing, plastic debris and industrial wastes pollution, oil pollution, oil exploration, deforestation, erosion, fertilizer runoff, and sewage, are just some of the dangers posed to a reef already enduring the wear and tear of consecutive and intense tourist seasons. Clearly, exposure to these risks comes as a consequence of unplanned urbanization, lack of education, and/or regulations; however, climate change has had its fair share of responsibility too, as it is constantly altering the chemistry and temperature of the world’s oceans resulting in considerable negative effects on a much broader scale. Many destinations like Roatan should also factor in careless human impacts brought on by recreational use and overcrowding of the reef by common leisure activities like diving/snorkeling, fishing, and boating, which if performed without the proper guidelines, can be just as harmful. Add an invasive foreign species like the lionfish to make an already unbalanced ecosystem worse, and the reef may very well be on the path to extinction.

In short, these are the present conditions found in the Bay Islands. If these existing and emerging threats are not handled properly, the reef will inevitably succumb to a slow and agonizing death, transforming itself from a once colorful landscape brimming with life, into a desolate white colored wasteland.

getting up close and personal with theMARINE RESERVE 
It is only through Sustainable Tourism practices that a country like Honduras will be able to fulfill its economic needs while still limiting its sociocultural and environmental impacts to a minimum.  The key here is Sustainability ­– that worn-out buzz word found in the tourism lingo which by itself means virtually nothing, but with an organization like the RMP behind it, it can be a real game changer. Over the years, this group of environmental enthusiasts has displayed a steadfast commitment to sustainable development by initiating and supporting several measures which have been designed to promote tourism in the area, while always favoring the protection of Roatan’s most valuable tenant and marine resource – the reef. It all dates back to its humble beginnings (circa 1988), when the local community from Sandy Bay proposed the delimitation of the marine reserve which would encompass a protected area extending from Sandy Bay all the way out to West End. It wasn’t long before these local activists joined forces with the neighboring dive shops and other businesses in the area and a valuable partnership began.

Patrolling the open waters quickly became one of their top priorities as a means to curve one of the most serious threats to the survival of the reef – the illegal poaching of fish (more on sustainable alternatives provided to local fishermen later on). Remember that the coral reef together with its fish inhabitants have a synergistic relationship where the coral reef provides a living habitat for the fish, while they graze on the algae that corals compete with for space and cycle nutrients back into the system.

focus on theCHANNEL MARKERSthey are there!
garbage on its way up during aCOASTAL CLEANUP
Just as important for reef health, has been the installation and maintenance of an extensive mooring system of buoys brought on by a recent surge of heavy boat traffic. Tracking the status of this vast ocean infrastructure is not an easy task, so attune with its grassroots philosophy, the RMP has requested assistance from the community in reporting damaged or lost buoys. The Park also hosts several clean-up activities throughout the year, where they organize volunteers to help pick up trash in and around the beaches of the Bay Islands. Of course, the cleanup is not just on the surface, it also takes place underwater, which provided me with the perfect opportunity to go on a free dive with a collaborating dive shop, Enomis Divers, in order to take photographs and in return provide some added publicity to the event (click here for more details).

This is however, just the tip of the iceberg, as far as the Marine Park’s militant environmental activism is concerned; I was amazed to learn about far more elaborate projects, first hand from two of their dedicated staffers. Christianne and Marta were both very helpful in providing deep and comprehensive insight into these alternative and highly creative plans they have put into action.

LOBSTER...back when I did not know any better
One such program is called The Bay Islands Responsible Seafood Guide, which deals directly with creating awareness throughout the community, restaurants, retailers, and consumers about making responsible seafood choices. Its aim is to steer people away from over exploited or endangered species like the lobster, grouper, or shark, and provide more sustainable alternatives, for instance, the tuna or the highly prevalent lionfish – that invasive species which has reproduced so uncontrollably as of late, that it has reached plague-like proportions.

learn toDIVE&PROTECTyour pride!
Protect Our Pride, is a different innovative solution which has been set up to train and convert local individuals into PADI certified, dive instructors, as a way to provide those who would otherwise turn to illegal fishing with an alternative and sustainable livelihood; and what a better way to make a living than to teach others to admire the beauty of the reef fish in their natural habitat, instead of on a lunch or dinner plate! From SCUBA diving to apiculture, the RMP has been quite the busy bee, organizing the Corozal Bee Project – another sustainable program which aim is to help the members of a particular fishing community, to gain a separate skill set and thus a different source of income derived from the manufacture of all-natural bee products.    

Continuing with the lionfish outbreak, the RMP is issuing a hunting license specifically designed to lessen the negative effects brought on by the invasion of this foreign specie. It is important to note that spear fishing on the islands is illegal, however the RMP have been given the green light by the local fishing authorities to create a specific workshop which has been curtailed for just about anyone, including tourists, where they gain best practice instructions on how to properly spear hunt and help curve the lionfish population without damaging the environment. As a result, the participants receive a regulated spear gun registered with its own individual serial number which they can use to hunt lionfish and lionfish only. This has been combined with an annual event called the Lionfish Derby, where the dive shops organize groups of divers to go on a massive lionfish hunt which is then followed by the Lionfish Cook-Off, a cooking competition of lionfish delicacies, most notoriously tacos, where the day’s catch is distributed to several restaurants which compete in creating the best tasting and most original lionfish dish.

There is no denying that with these projects, the RMP has set in motion a shift from common everyday practices towards more sustainable alternatives that have benefited both the individuals as well as the environment. Although their actions are few and numbered, these have slowly materialized into concrete results which have certainly contributed to improved reef conditions in Honduras as suggested by the 2012 Report Card for the Mesoamerican Reef, a scientifically credible and well respected biennial report card on ecosystem health, issued by the entity in charge of tracking reef health in this part of the world – the Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI). They utilize a single, user-friendly indicator as a measurement tool which is displayed in a map that contains all of the 193 sites that make up the MAR. It is important to note that the western side of Roatan had the highest agglomeration of sites with a 4 out of 5 rating, in the entire Mesoamerican region – where 1 represents the worst reef health, and 5 is considered the best reef health. Exceptional results if you compare to the lower ratings found in more renowned places like Belize or the Mexican Riviera.

On a much lighter note, I would like to add the proverbial "cherry on top" to this environmentally packed entry with a greatly satisfying but casual conversation I recently came across with, which I feel is my duty to share with the folks from the Roatan Marine Park and my usual blog readers.

While carousing with friends and drinks on a Saturday night, one of my friends, who happens to come from England, explained how his dad, who is also a Briton, came back to Roatan during the holidays after a 5 year absence. His Dad offered very gratifying, and clearly objective remarks upon his return to the land of sun, sea, and coral reefs. Paraphrasing his words, it went something like this…

the reef in Roatan was better than ever; incredibly, it was full of life and much healthier than the last time I was here

I can only hope that although brief, this previous sentence can summarize the job done by the Roatan Marine Park and put all of their hard work into perspective! 

August 16, 2013

Cordelia Banks: The Search For a Treasured Reef

Having already checked off Capiro Bank from my must-see dive sites checklist, I had the Cordelia Banks' abundant coral formations next in line and straight ahead in my dive mask’s field of vision. I just needed to find the right diving operator to get me there. However, before we submerge into all the fun details of how I found myself exploring this incredible underwater seascape, let’s begin this new entry with a little background info on the biological importance of this remarkable place. 

looks like100%coral cover to me!
If you read “Tela’s Amazing Underwater Discovery”, then you should already be familiarized with this seemingly ordinary reef which goes by the name of Capiro. This coralline bank is in fact, the complete opposite of ordinary. According to the Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI), an international, multi-institutional organization that tracks the health of the Mesoamerican Reef Ecosystem (MAR), Capiro assembles a unique collection of features, one of which recently caught the attention of the local environmental community, as it was revealed that it boasts a 69% live coral cover – an impressive characteristic when contrasted with the 18% average found in the whole MAR region. This peculiarity places Capiro as the reef with the second greatest coral cover per square meter in all of the MAR, and definitely at the pinnacle of scientific research when it comes to this field of study, but who comes in at the top spot you may ask? Of course you know by now that the answer is Cordelia Banks, a group of three coralline banks found in the south side of Roatan, located between two large urban centers (Coxen Hole and French Harbour) and in the vicinity of two busy cruise ship docks. Not the typical conditions you would usually associate with a thriving and abundant ecosystem, yet, amazing biodiversity has somehow managed to flourish in Cordelia which proudly displays a modest 70% live coral cover, more than that of Capiro and much greater than in other MAR sites found in Mexico and Belize; add crystal clear visibility and gray reef sharks and this lush coral reef not only becomes a scientific living laboratory, but also a fun site to dive in. Cordelia is better known for hosting a healthy population of coral species commonly called staghorn coral, or Acropora Cervicornis if you want to be more scientific. According to the HRI, 2012 Report Card for the Mesoamerican Reef, this once dominant coral species suffered from a high mortality rate due to disease which killed almost 98% of its population in the Caribbean Sea during the 1980s, however, it is currently thriving in Cordelia and may prove to be a source of larvae for other reefs in the MAR as the prevailing marine currents have the possibility of repopulating this type of coral in the entire region – no doubt a promising scenario for any animal member of the endangered species list. Moreover, did you know that the livelihoods of over two million people are dependent on this coastal and marine resource either for fishing or tourism (HRI, 2012). It therefore becomes highly important that this type of information is made public and channeled through different media with the aim of raising awareness in order to create efficient marine recreation plans which could secure the integrity and sustainability of these unique focal areas. Let it be known that these two latest scientific findings have been transcending international borders as significant success stories with tremendous biological importance. Refreshing news coming out of my country, instead of the more common “don’t visit Honduras travel advisories” or “Honduras wins again in football/soccer”.

Ok, enough with the scientific research and stuff, and let's go back to the original story... And there I was, knowing that one day I would eventually dive Cordelia Banks, but not really knowing when or how. It wasn’t until that day finally came in late June 2013 that the opportunity came to light as I saw on Facebook that an environmentally friendly event was taking place in Roatan, definitely not a regular occurrence on mainland Honduras but one which appears to be gaining considerable momentum over the last couple of years on the islands. If you are not familiar with it, BICCU which is short for The Bay Islands Coastal Cleanup, is a noble cause and environmental project organized by some local activists from Roatan who in an effort to live in a better environment, set up a date and organized the entire community in all of three greater Bay Islands to focus on one thing, to collect as much garbage as possible and rid their surrounding coastal areas from unwanted waste and debris. This made for a really attractive story from a writer’s point of view, and therefore the perfect incentive to get me back to the island. Truth is, the event which I explained in detail in the previous entry, was not my only objective there. I also planned to report on a select group of organizations which have also been contributing interesting and innovative ecological ideas and solutions of their own, but which were mostly out of my league in terms of finding a way to interview them. However on this occasion, I had a good excuse to finally meet them and to my surprise, they all seemed to mesh together (kinda like beans and flour tortillas, or “baleadas” for those of you who are more experienced), as every organization, business, and individual I came in contact with, was happily participating in this as well as other noble environmental causes! More importantly, I was thrilled that they were all willing to share their own stories, even opening the door to the possibility of making that long awaited visit to Cordelia – an all out success, seeing that now I had plenty of material to blog about.

purpleGORGONIASand other colorful coral also adorn Cordelia
So without losing any time, I had my bags and camera gear packed and ready to fly to Roatan. One thing was certain, this was not going to be an ordinary trip to ROA, there would be no exaggerated amount of time spent soaking up the sun in West Bay, and of course I would have to eliminate the late night bar-hopping scene and the constant buzz that usually goes with it. In addition, I would also have to refrain from wearing board shorts, tanks tops, and flip flops, the standard beach attire you would typically see me parading in, up and down groovy West End. I have to admit that staying away from all that fun and comfort was not going to be easy, but like I said, I was not visiting Roatan for leisure, I was there on assignment – a work assignment that is, so I needed to make a good impression for I was going to meet a lot of influential people on the island as part of my research. For this reason, I packed more "serious" clothing (polo shirts, socks and tennis shoes), and came up with a planned questionnaire of all the things I wanted to discuss with the BICCU organizers as well as with the other organizations I planned to include as likely blog entries. Hence, my weekend in Roatan consisted of waking up bright and early, meeting and interviewing participating individuals and organizations, and taking photographs and video in the different locations where the event was being held – an all out, full blown research project where I had to put my latest and finest investigative reporting skills to good use in order to accurately cover this and the other environmental business taking place on the island.     

agaricia tenuifolia, a.k.a.LETTUCE CORAL
Prior to my arrival I had the presence of mind to contact a few friends of mine and their associates who all live in ROA so they could lend me a helping hand in collecting all the information I needed. First and foremost, I would like to give a long-awaited public thank you, to the likes of Ian, Jenny, Elena, Alejandra, Christi, Marta, Sarah, Becky, Andres, Lee, and Doug, for their substantial assistance in the making of this project – I would never have done any of this without them! It is important to note that even though all these people hail from different corners of the world, with diverse backgrounds and educations, and who currently work for separate organizations with diverging sets of objectives, they decided one day to stop what they were doing and donate a little bit of their time and effort to support this cause. The point that I am trying to convey here is that no matter who you are, you CAN do your part and make real positive change wherever you live simply by joining forces and taking action. Proof of this was BICCU which had the islands’ prominent environmental stakeholders, community organizations, and local businesses ready to answer the call. It did not matter if you were a dive instructor from a dive shop which is inevitably linked to the environment, a CEO of an SME from a private sector which is slowly realizing that protecting the environment is good for business, or a staff-member of an environment-friendly, non-profit organization currently working on issues regarding conservation, they all volunteered and helped pick up trash, trash, and more trash.

more ofCORDELIA'Sbeautiful inhabitants
One such couple who have been staunch supporters of initiatives such as BICCU has been Ian Drysdale from Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI) and Jenny Myton, from Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL). These self proclaimed “reef huggers” have been at the forefront of the Honduran environmental scene, in particular in the area of protection and management of our marine resources. It so happened that they were also a part of the founding BICCU organizational committee, and although they had to excuse themselves from participating in this year’s BICCU, they remained loyal to the cause and went above and beyond in helping me achieve my goal. In other words, these guys basically had all the information I needed, knew who to talk to, or where to find them – honestly, I could not have picked a better husband and wife team to be acquainted with, than these two as they knew everything I wanted to know about the Honduran reef eco-system and above all, that one site I had been dying to meet in person, the highly acclaimed Cordelia Banks. A topic of conversation they could sit down to discuss for hours on end, given how they were involved from the start in the declaration of Cordelia as a protected area, a hard fought battle they intensely pursued for over 7 years with local government – thus, the minute I told Ian I wanted to include Cordelia in my travel blog, he jumped at the opportunity to go social with their plight, and soon began the preparations for that coveted dive trip to this delicate underwater treasure – no dive operator needed!

aCORAL COLONYbrimming with life
the white patch is what you call coralBLEACHING,
a sign of stress which needs to be monitored
Before long, I was onboard a vessel from Barefoot Divers with a group of devoted environmental engineers and passionate conservationists suited up and ready to take my first glimpse at the best preserved coral reef in all of Mesoamerica. This submersion would also distinguish itself from my previous dives in that it was not going to be a typical fun dive, operated by a local dive-center. Of course, this setup could only be possible given Ian and Jenny’s frequent visits to Cordelia, which allowed them to reach an agreement with the nearby Barefoot Cay Dive Shop, where for a fraction of the real cost, they were given access to their facilities and spare diving equipment, not to mention a medium sized dive boat (boat captain included) so that they could conduct their scientific studies on site. As a result there would be no dive instructors or divemasters strictly supervising the operation, instead it was only Ian and Jenny leading the way, followed by a bunch of responsible guys and girls who knew a thing or two about diving, and who wanted to stay underwater as long as possible, barely checking for air and ascending only when needed. I still cannot get over the great feeling of freedom I felt just from the fact that there was no one pointing and signaling at me telling me what to do – another proud accomplishment to be added to my list of diving-firsts, which just keeps expanding as I log more and more bottom time. It must be noted that even though Ian and Jenny do not work as dive instructors per se, they are certified as such and have plenty of diving experience considering that part of their work consists on monitoring reef health. In fact, to date they have trained close to 50 certified divers in all of Honduras in the proper reef monitoring techniques, which one day I hope to learn as well so I can also contribute in the protection of these marine ecosystems I so immensely enjoy exploring. Reef Monitoring, for those not acquainted with the term, is an activity which tracks reef health and consists of recording changes in coral cover, fish populations, species diversity, coral bleaching events, and disease events among other measurable key elements, an integral part of both Ian and Jenny’s line of work. Ultimately, there would be no reef monitoring on this dive, however there was a crack at some lionfish spear hunting (more on the Roatan Marine Park’s Invasive Lionfish Control Program in the next entry). But like I said, this was more of an attempt than anything else, as no one rounded up any of these inhospitable visitors; there just weren’t any lionfish in sight – a good sign for Cordelia, but a tough break for me, since I was really looking forward to finally taste them lionfish tacos I had been hearing so much about! I for one was hard at work fiddling with my camera’s knobs and gears while seriously concentrating on improving my underwater buoyancy skills – not an easy combination to master and one which will require additional practice.

And so the dive unraveled for about 50 minutes along Cordelia’s 17 Km² long reef, at about (30ft/9m), in very worthwhile diving conditions (just a slight current and great vis). Let it be clear, that Roatan is well known for having truly desirable visibility year round, an added bonus which allows for the beauty of this place to be better appreciated. In general, I must say that I really liked what I saw in Cordelia, it is indeed a special habitat brimming with life with some areas even possessing a 100% live coral cover, an impressive feature to say the least! A strong presence of stony corals such as brain and elkhorn coral merge together with dense lettuce coral creating large rock-like formations which are evenly distributed into parallel ridges all across this shallow reef. Of course, Cordelia’s main attraction is the large communities of healthy staghorn coral which stand almost symmetrical on the shallower crests of these coral formations. Their intricate web of branches grow at a fast pace, providing ample refuge within its crevices to a plethora of microorganisms and to a rejuvenating reef-fish population – another unique quality further highlighting Cordelia’s biological importance, as these coral species may hold the key to the replenishment of critically depleted fisheries the local artisanal fishermen so highly depend on. In addition, being among the fastest growing “reef building” coral species in our oceans, they have been playing a significant role in reef restoration projects all over the MAR region. There are also other strikingly colorful species of coral I will not describe for fears of sounding too much like a biologist, but which contrasted perfectly with the yellow and brownish tones dominating most of the landscape. If there was a negative aspect I had to single out about Cordelia, it would have to be that there were not many pelagic fish in the area, an additional feature which could have further spiced up this wonderful dive. Can you imagine how insane it would have been to have spotted the gray reef sharks which are supposedly readily seen in Cordelia? That would have been the icing on the cake that would have made this dive all the more memorable.

 a treasure to be protected 
However, I definitely cannot be that greedy and ask for a shark encounter as well! Remember that the main reason why I was visiting Roatan was merely to cover BICCU which consequently opened the door to other writing opportunities, including the unexpected trip to this world famous dive site. Most importantly, this visit was an eye opener on a personal level. As I began to dig deep into the “who is who” in the environmental community, I soon realized how much of a close knit group this is and how much of their actions and decision-making are interconnected. In addition, the passion and devotion these people transmitted when they immersed themselves in green topics of discussion and about the diligent work they do, really got to me; but it wasn't until I saw with my own eyes what they are working so hard to protect (i.e. Cordelia Banks), that I finally began to understand why so many people got involved with this and so many other environmental causes. It even awakened in me that ecological responsibility to join the movement and be a part of the solution.