The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the largest coral colony in the Caribbean, lying just offshore, a favorite place for snorkelers and divers, the right spot to watch colorful corals and rich marine life. The crystal clear waters of the beautiful bays in Roatán area are home to amazing coral reefs. Aquatic life here is extremely rich, including dolphins, whales and sea turtles, angelfish, barracudas, tiny lobsters, reef squids and butterfly fish, which find shelter in the coral colonies and the shipwrecks. Fish like barracuda, tuna, marlin, mahi-mahi and wahoo can be encountered off the reef.
A fringing reef borders the northwestern coast of the Roatán Island. Six zones can be distinguished:
Lagoon – 1 m deep and over 360 m wide, behind the reef’s crest, with coral clumps and heads;
Crest – the reef rises vertically up to 10 cm under the water level, on a 3-4 m width, emerging from the water during low tide;
Shallow forereef – coral rock almost completely invaded by crustuose coralline algae;
Spur-and-groove – massive coral colonies, often in flattened groups;
Deep forereef – 12-18 m depth, increasing slope, often almost vertical;
Deep forereef slope – about 35 m depth and a slope of about 45º.
Several coral species populate the six zones of the fringing reef, out of which:
Porites sp. (jewel or finger coral) – a variety of shapes and colors, green and yellow prevailing;
Agaricia sp. (lettuce coral) – one of the most common species, natural color is tan;
Millepora sp. (fire coral) – can inflict painful stings on scuba divers and snorkelers, different morphologies adapted to the habitat;
Montastrea sp. (boulder star coral) – long, thick columns, colored brown, gray, or in shades of green to brown.
Roatán coral reefs are like an oasis where marine life shows its full, amazing splendor.