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The Inn of the Last Resort, Roatan, Hondurus

by Julie Clark

Reproduced from in focus 65 (June 1999)


Sometimes you want a holiday that is an all round mix of a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, diving and sun and it is the mix that is all-important.

The Inn has been open about 5 years and was designed and built with 30 bedrooms with the environment in mind. You get the feeling that it is different as soon as you approach the place; it is unusual for a hotel drive to be a track that leads through a field of cows with visiting herons.
Built on a spit of land between a behind-the-reef-lagoon and a bay, the Inn's four timber buildings surround a lush garden courtyard. Between dives, quietly idling in a hammock by the mangrov- fringed lagoon or in the garden becomes an art form, as there are few disturbances. But you don't have to have solitude. A friendly chat with one of the staff is always on tap in the open and breezy bar and restaurant - where you draw 'five bar gates' in a book to keep your own bar tab. If the barman isn't about - you just get your own drinks - it's expected. The food served is fixed menu of very good standard home cooking of a broadly international style.

The owners and staff give the place a strong homely feel - but they are amateurs by contrast with the resident pets. There is Ditto, the loveable sheepdog who will ask to play chase and his wonderful mum, Goldie, the very affectionate terrier who was adopted and given 'back wheels' following a traffic accident. The regal and slightly snooty Fea, the ex runt of a litter who had been left to die in a ditch but got rescued to probably the best dog's life on the island. If the barman puts on a country cd the dogs sing - highly amusing but it rapidly becomes painful. There is also 'TR' quite simply the most affectionate cat I have ever met.

Mornings are enlivened by the loud chatter of the two pet parrots, whose party piece is a garbled 'Old Macbonald had a Farm' - complete with animal noises. But the star attractions are Poncho and Mingo the spider monkeys. Poncho is a sweetheart, wants to play especially with anything involving Velcro. She will sit on your shoulders to give your head a thorough grooming, or just use you as a leaning post whilst admiring the view over the bay. Mingo is a different kettle of fish. He is an adolescent male who hasn't got any manners yet and is best avoided until he gets older.

We went in the low season in February when the Inn was not full so we spent much of our time trying to keep the animals entertained! In turn we were much entertained by stories from the owners' interesting and colourful past - but they tell them best, so I won't try.

The Inn is on the north side of the island at the west end. The north reef is a marine reserve and most of the diving operated from the Inn takes place there. If you want lots of large pelagics or predators - you will be disappointed. But if you want a reef that is almost completely recovered from any bleaching and a good range of coral types this is the place. (Including a number of very elegant black coral specimens). In the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch the sea temperature dropped promoting recovery of the coral. (I was glad of a fulllength 3mm suit with long sleeves and used gloves to reduce the flush through of the odd chilly current). Shoals of wrasse, snappers and those unruly surgeons are frequent and there are a good many caves and swim-throughs with the usual inhabitants of glassy sweepers and the like. There are several good drop-off s, walls and canyons too - all good wide-angle negative space.

I'll remember Roaton for large and handsome free swimming Groupers and the most enormous and photogenic crabs (with cartoon-like 'faces') I have ever seen. I am a rank amateur with a camera - you know the diver with a comera type - so I didn't get any good shots of said crabs.. However, I think essential equipment would be a brave buddy with thick gloves so that you would get a good impression of the scale of the beasts. I didn't do any macro, but a fellow holiday maker with much photo experience seemed to be having a satisfying time with the small things!

The diving is safe but relaxed, unlike a lot of other parts of the Caribbean; the max depth is 40m. Experienced divers are allowed to go their own way at most sites. Although we went on a normal holiday, the Inn has catered for groups of photographers in the past and has allowed them to do their own thing, simply providing boat cover. The boats themselves are spacious with built in wash tanks to hold cameras. The staff are extremely accommodating and willing to discuss requirements before and during the stay. There are no photoprocessing facilities at the Inn itself (it would undoubtedly detract from the atmosphere) but they are available not for away. There was such willingness to drop off and collect almost anything from anywhere on the island that I am sure it would not be a problem. (But to be sure, you could ask beforehand).

We were so hooked on pets and hammocks that we hardly moved from the Inn, but we had one day of exploring. The island is heavily forested, very green and is quite sparsely built apart from two small towns. An hour or so spent in the run-down botanical garden was worthwhile with a very young guide getting us to crush and smell the leaves of the likes of cinnamon and allspice. It is very much the second world and there are stark contrasts from some spare, tumble down wooden houses in the towns of Coxen Hole and French Harbour to the well appointed Mediterranean style homes aimed at US retirees. West End is a small, friendly bohemian settlement that attracts back-packers. The people of Roatan that we met were friendly and well disposed and the island was seemingly a safe place. Currently it is unspoilt with hardly any tourist trappings, but there is obviously development taking place.

We booked direct with the Inn. The journey was via Miami with BA and then flights with Grupo Taca (who were very good) to and through Honduras. A tip; (thanks to the BA check in clerk) if you have a long wait in Miami airport, you can join the health club of the Miami International Hotel (which is part of the airport terminal itself) for just $8. So we spent our long wait swimming, sauna-ing and sunning! I don't think the Inn has a UK agent at the moment but they are easy enough to contact direct.

If you want a holiday to soothe, be relaxed and feel looked after and have the opportunity to go diving with a camera try the Inn of Last Resort.

Inn of Last Resort Tel: 011 - 504 - 445 - 1838 Fax 011 - 504 - 445 - 1848


Grupo Taca (UK Bookings) 01293 553330

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