Trip Report Seagrape Plantation Resort, Roatan - Trip Report May 2024

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MrChen

ScubaBoard Supporter
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
2,136
Reaction score
2,246
Location
SE Florida
# of dives
200 - 499
My cousin and I decided that Roatan was our next dive vacation destination. Having read really good reviews about the dive op, comfortable beds, and decent food (breakfast and lunch), we pulled the trigger and made our reservation at Seagrape Plantation Resort. We booked tickets direct from Miami to Roatan with AA and scheduled our vacation time off.

Departure
I got lucky one day, 2 months prior to departure, I log into AA's website and see an offer to upgrade to business class for $99 which includes 2 checked bags. Your first checked bag usually costs $35 and your second is $45. I will have two bags, so that'll cost me $80. I deemed the extra $20 was worth it and upgraded my ticket. I was the first person to select a business class seat. Our flight scheduled only changed by 10-15 minutes from our initial booking. Check-in was smooth, the flight delayed 1 hour, our bags arrived undamaged, and I was offered drinks and snacks throughout the 2.5 hour flight. We didn't mind the delay since we were using a lounge to wait for our flight. The delay meant we would be in the lounge when lunch was brought out, so it worked out for us. Plus, they brought out liquor for lunch too.

Arrival
The landing felt a little intense. It felt like we braked harder, but it's anecdotal. The plane did a 180 degree turn and taxied to the parking spot at a high speed. When they parked, they said they had to let the engines cool for a few minutes. My cousin works in aircraft maintenance in the Air Force, and he confirmed it's a real thing, likely because they taxied so fast. Exiting the plane, boy was it HOT and this is coming from Florida. You have to exit via a stair truck and walk to the terminal. Because we were an hour late, we arrived right behind a United Airlines flight from Texas and this meant we had to wait in a long line to clear customs and immigration. Our bags were ready for us to pick up by the time we were processed. We were asked to prove the bags were ours and then we found our driver waiting for us. We waited for another couple to clear entry and then we were on our way.

To the Resort
Our driver was a chatty fellow! He talked and talked and talked and talked and talked. He was telling us about the history of Roatan, the current state, all the different sorts of people, etc etc etc. He spoke pretty good english. He said he was born in Roatan and could hardly speak spanish, that he was taught english in school. He showed us pics of grandkids and you get the point. At the end he said he does island tours, that we could speak to the resort staff to set it up. My cousin told me he wasn't interested, that the guy talked too much. lol

Resort Check-In
Check-in was quick and our bags were delivered to our room for us. We did the bungalows. It was a queen and twin bed configuration. No TV and had a bathroom. The bed felt stiff, but we slept well on it. We were fine without a TV and entertained ourselves by playing cards poolside while drinking and eating local snacks late into the nights.

The Food
The food wasn't anything to write home about, but it wasn't bad by any means. Several people had dietary restrictions and the restaurant bent over backwards to make something for them. Every day a different type of juice was made, and water and coffee were available. The juice was really good. After eating breakfast, they always confirmed what would be served for lunch. Each lunch came with a dessert. When you arrived to eat, they would start making your meal and bring it to you. They did not serve dinner. We actually preferred this because we wanted a reason to leave the resort.

The Dive Op
This is where things somewhat go downhill. We were told to show up at the dive area around 8am and had no other instructions. So we ate breakfast and walked over to check in. We signed waivers and they asked how much weight we needed and gave us weights. That was it, they didn't tell us anything else. We had to ask, where do we put gear? Where should we go? What about analyzing tanks? They hand me a clipboard for analyzing tanks. It has like 10 blank fields to fill out for every tank. WTH? I ask why I have to fill all this out for one tank and the guy says to me, "because it's Nitrox, you can die." I said to him, look, I care about 2 things, what's the percentage and making sure it's full. He tells me to fil out 4 spots, serial number (has me write the entire SN# from the tank), air pressure, the mix, and my signature. I guess I didn't need to write out my name nor fill out the other fields. We analyze 2 tanks even though we are doing 3 dives on the day. We leave to grab our gear from our room and return. The "you can die" guy asks us to assemble our gear the first time because he wants to evaluate our competency. I told him that was fine and know that I'm evaluating him too. I was already annoyed and should've set up my BPW upside down or something, but I didn't. :) It's just my cousin and I on the boat. It's a small boat and has thick exhaust fumes coming from the back. We drive maybe 30 seconds and moor on a buoy. That was fast... Mr "you can die" says we're going to do an easy site for the first dive. That's fine, let's go.

For dive 3, we show up and all our gear is hooked up on the boat. Mr "you can die" was sitting on the bench. I asked him if we were going to analyze the tanks. His response, "Oh, you want to analyze them?" As if he was surprised... Uhhh, didn't you say it was nitrox and I could die. Of course I want to analyze the tanks. In my mind, I was calling him names. Turns out, he's the dive op instructor. On this dive, was another 2 people. One was a dive guide and the other was a diver. We dove as 2 groups and we followed the "you can die" instructor. All 3 dives were within a minute of the dock.

Each boat trip is 1 tank. They leave at 8:30a, 10:30a, and 2p. There's a board where you can write names, but no one told us we had to use it, and once again, I had to ask, which we did on day 2 (Monday). After each dive, I wrote the dive site name in the box.

PXL_20240510_151113264.MP.jpg


Day 2 there were 3 new arrivals, the guy we saw yesterday, and another diver who had been there for a week. The instructor wasn't on the boat and was replaced by the dive guide we saw yesterday on dive 3. The dive guide, Kevin, was the highlight of the dive op. He was great. I'm not a big follow the guide guy, but I wasn't familiar with the dive sites. He expertly navigated on us on every dive. Throughout the week, we'd tell him things we wanted to do and he's make it happen. Unfortunately, we weren't overly familiar with what to do or where to go.

String of Pearls
We timed our trip so we could see the String of Pearls. It's a night dive. I was surprised that no one in the dive op was bringing it up. It's only once a month. I asked about it on day 2 because day 3 was the day it had to happen. They looked it up and confirmed that yes, we can do the night dive, but we need 4 divers. They put the burden of getting the divers on us. They communicated to their crew that this dive might happen, so they were ready. On the day of, I talked 2 other divers into joining us. They were both nervous and afterwards said they'd never forget that dive. I could do an entire post on this dive, it was a new experience.
 
General Diving
We dove 2-3 times a day, 4 on the day we did String of Pearls. In total, we did 14 dives. We never ventured far from the resort. Maybe 3 of the dives weren't within a few minutes of the dock. I was surprised by how much variation there was by sites which were right next to each other. The frustrating parts were 1) Not getting to see other areas of the island, 2) No one at the resort explaining anything about how they operate (we had to just keep asking questions), 3) The lack of enthusiasm to talk up unique dive experiences/sites. After all was said and done, we realized at the bottom of the board were dive site locations that must have some sort of worthiness to be called out, but not once, did anyone explain or suggest we sign up for them. Water temp throughout the week was 83-84. It didn't take me long to shed all the thermal gear and dive in shirt and shorts. Visibility was 100+ ft every day.

Day 4 Boat Issues
There was a class which showed up on the boat this day. We moved to a larger, nicer boat in the morning. The class joined us on the 10:30a dive. In the morning, after mooring, we could see gas or oil in the water. It was coming from the boat. They simply sprayed it, causing the chemicals to magically disappear. My cousin points out that the spray is just causing the chemicals to sink in the water. This was disappointing to see. The boat wouldn't start at 10:30a. It took them close to 30 minutes to figure out the problem. One of the guys had to spray that stuff on his legs to get the gas or oil off of him. This boat has an issue and it's sad that it's polluting the water.

The Reef
The reef was in sorry shape. I would say over 95% dead and covered in algae. The coral mounds were massive in size. I tried to imagine them full of color and fish. The image of this in contrast to reality was depressing.

Resort Departure
The day before flying home, I went to the front desk and asked about travel arrangements back to the airport. They hadn't even thought to schedule it, so it was a good thing I went in and asked. During checkout, my cousin and I were both handed a bill which itemized every dive with nitrox, $10 per tank. We had already paid for this upgrade. And we didn't dive nitrox on a deep dive, and one tank my cousin received was empty, so he dove air. We cleared up the misunderstanding. I suggested they owed us a $30 refund and they blew that off. It was time to go, so I didn't fight it because it was likely going to take more time than it was worth and add stress to the travel day. If you stay at this resort, don't pay for nitrox in advance. Request it in the morning and they'll bill you.

Airport Departure
Check-in was slow. It was REALLY slow getting through all the checkpoints. There were like 4 checkpoints. While in line I saw a woman in her early to mid 30's who looked familiar. I hadn't seen this person since they were like 16 or 17 years old. I thought, no way, it can't be her, so I avoided eye contact and continued on. Once we were in the waiting area, it was literally standing room only. There were so many people in there. We decided to get something to eat. After eating, I was walking back towards the seats and I see the woman again. It has to be her... I pull up Facebook and type her first name in. I click her profile. There's a picture of her with her husband which says, "We're Scuba Certified, Roatan, Honduras." I couldn't believe it, it is her. I start walking to her and we make eye contact. She instantly smiles because she had already figured it out. In fact, when she first saw me in line, she peeked at my backpack name tag. She said she told her husband, I knew it was him. She didn't think I'd remember her because it had been over 15 years. So that was cool. Our flight left on time and arrived early. I have Global Entry and cleared processing within 30 seconds. It took awhile for our bags to come out. The Miami AP is a little chaotic. We made it home without getting stuck in any traffic.
 
I ask myself, would I return to Roatan? Would I return to Seagrape?

Yes to Roatan, but probably not. No to Seagrape, but let me explain why.

Why wouldn't I return to Seagrape? I dive every weekend. I also like to do macro photography. I really don't want to follow a guide on every dive. I like to find small critters, which means you have to go really slow, and it can take several minutes to line up the shot you want. I can't do this comfortably if there's pressure to stay with a group. I'm also not happy that no one briefed us on how they operate and what our options were. My cousin was really upset about being double charged for nitrox on the way out and not receiving a refund after it was mentioned we did 3 dives on air (the comments were simply ignored).

If I were a vacation diver and only wanted to follow a guide, I couldn't recommend a better guide than Kevin. On Day 2, the captain didn't show up. Kevin was alone to work the boat. He recruited someone who worked in the dive shop (but not the boat) to help him moor the boat. There's some risk here, but I can't fault Kevin's work ethic and effort to get us in the water. He drove the boat and guided us divers. He was also amazing on the String of Pearls night dive, which was no easy effort in lights out pitch black no visibility conditions to see bioluminescent effects.

On the plus side, the food was decent, and the stiff beds were actually comfortable.
 
Thanks for the honest review. Query, given that the reef was in sorry shape, over 95% dead and covered in algae, could you elaborate on what would motivate a return trip?
 
I'm not sure what would motivate a return trip. Maybe something different like a spearfishing trip. The DM said there are options for it. There were mutton snapper everywhere and grouper on almost every dive. There are so many other places I want to visit, placing Roatan low on the list.
 
If you return to Roatan, try Coconut Tree Divers. I had none of the issues that you had. I'l be returning to dive with them in a couple of weeks.
 
I'm not sure what would motivate a return trip. Maybe something different like a spearfishing trip. The DM said there are options for it. There were mutton snapper everywhere and grouper on almost every dive.
Just a reminder, the Bay Islands National Marine Park which encompasses the reefs around Roatan, among other islands, prohibits spearfishing of all but invasive species like lionfish.
 
Just a reminder, the Bay Islands National Marine Park which encompasses the reefs around Roatan, among other islands, prohibits spearfishing of all but invasive species like lionfish.
Good to know. They had a map of dive sites, and it made it seem like it only covered part of the island. Checking their website, it appears to cover the entire island 12 nautical miles out. I honestly don't know what they were referring to then. Maybe they meant lionfish, not realizing I was asking about using a speargun.
 
I'm not sure what would motivate a return trip. Maybe something different like a spearfishing trip. The DM said there are options for it. There were mutton snapper everywhere and grouper on almost every dive. There are so many other places I want to visit, placing Roatan low on the list.
If this were a review of CocoView and not Seagrape, I'd say a return trip to see another part of the island would be a motivation, but I was disappointed with the area around CocoView as well. I dived out of the West End area 20 years ago (Coconut Tree Divers) and then again 10 years ago (AKR), and from your report it seems like it's been a steady downward trajectory for the reef quality.
 
I spent a week at CCV at the end of April. The last time I was there was Nov. 2022. The coral was in much worse shape this trip. Most notable was that most of the lettuce and finger coral was all dead. In 2022 there were still large areas where this coral was looking really good. Now it’s mostly gone. I’d say 95% dead like @MrChen noted.

Also I didn’t see any staghorn at all. And only one live example (a huge one) of elk horn. The brain coral looked entirely dead. The lobed and mountainous star coral was 50% dead. The deeper sheet coral on the wall seemed the same as in 2022.

I wouldn’t say Roatan is worse than anywhere else in the Caribbean, but in 2022 it was better, now it’s about like everywhere else
 

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