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    in Paradise

    Posada Del Sol

    Text and Photography by Rick Frehsee, Dec. 1997

    Swimming over and around a coral reef is delightful; swimming inside a coral reef is a unique adventure. This is exactly what can be experienced on a dive site off the beautiful island of Guanaja; the second largest of the three major Bay Islands of Honduras and the island farthest from shore.

    Recently christened Tito's Labyrinth (after the recent and untimely passing of one of Guanaja's finest divemasters), this remarkable site, generically known as Black Rock, produces a thrill for even the most experienced diver. Along the island's north barrier reef coast is a series of undersea canyons, caverns and swim-throughs positioned inside a massive reef block of unbelievable proportions. After entering the mouth of a canyon, you follow a meandering trail inside the reef, surrounded on all sides by coral; nearly covered by coral ledges up above. Beams of sunlight show the way as you forge ahead; one tunnel leading to the next. Finally, you reach a dead end, a turnaround point that continues the dive in a different direction. Deep within the labyrinth, where walls are not exposed to direct sunlight, is the unmistakable presence of pillow lava; visual evidence of the volcanic birth of these majestic Bay Islands.

    Diving in Guanaja offers many unique experiences. Unlike some islands that offer similar diving from site to site, Guanaja presents a diverse portfolio. After Tito's Labyrinth, you might visit Jim's Silverlode on the southern side of the island, where there is an entirely different kind of reef formation. At the outer edge of a fringing reef is a sandy hollow surrounded by coral ridges and pinnacles. This natural cathedral, buzzing with groupers and reef fish, connects to the outer wall by a tunnel usually filled with Silversides. Next, you might visit the Jado Trader, a 200 foot plus intact shipwreck lying on her starboard side in 100 feet of water. Sunk a little more than 10 years ago, her massive hull, railings, companionways and cargo holds are covered with a stunning array of sponges, corals and Deep Water Seafans.

    After that, head out to Devil's Canyon, a reef ridge off Guanaja's east end that normally harbors schools of Goggle-eyed Jacks and, once each year (around the first of January) hosts a massive grouper spawning.

    If these regular Guanaja dive sites do not satisfy your needs for discovery and adventure, you will have to wait for the day you can cruise to the wilderness island of Barbareta, 12 miles away. Here you will find shallow garden reefs and precipitous walls decorated by huge barrel sponges, as well as miles of pristine underwater vistas rarely seen by divers.

    Guanaja above water is equally spectacular. The coast alternates between huge outcrops of volcanic rock and white beaches crowded with palms, behind which lush hillsides reach toward pine-capped mountains. The island appears almost totally unspoiled and undeveloped; only a few stilt-house villages are found along the shoreline, separated by vast areas of wilderness. The local inhabitants, called Baymen (and Baywomen, I suppose), continue to shun roads and land vehicles; not a single paved road is to be found on the island. Transportation is by boat or water taxi.

    What kind of primitive living conditions do you have to tolerate in order to experience Guanaja's natural splendors and uncrowded diving? Incredibly, one of the world's most beautiful and casually elegant little dive resorts found here.

    Posada del Sol (Inn of the Sun), on Guanaja's southern coast, looks and feels like a Spanish villa on the shore of the Mediterranean. From a former life as the private mansion of an eccentric millionaire, Posada del Sol has undergone a complete conversion into one of the most stunningly beautiful little dedicated dive resorts in the entire Caribbean. And small it is; there are only 23 total guestrooms arranged into four attractive wings; one on the pool deck of the upper level of the mainhouse, one facing the ocean off the lower level and two staggered on a verdant hillside. Each room is beautifully furnished and appointed in varnished woods, tropical decor, handsome tile and marble.

    The resort exterior peeks out of a palm lined walkway and a manicured landscape of fruit and flower trees. Nestled in the center and entered via a circular garden and stone walkway is the breathtaking mainhouse. Beige stucco walls and high Spanish arches capped with red tile roofs are framed in greenery and accented with flowers.

    Walking upstairs through the arched entrance further heightens expectations. Here, on the upper level, is a sprawling wooden deck surrounding a beautiful freshwater pool. A tropical bar and a charming restaurant with a cathedral ceiling are found within. The walkway that lines 1,500 feet of coastline (including a private beach), lead you past gardens, tennis courts and a barbecue area to the boathouse, dive shop, photo shop, guest wet storage areas and fully equipped workout center.

    Breakfast and dinner are served in the dining room; lunch is usually offered beneath the shade of umbrellas and tropical foliage. Besides the diving, the highlight of your day will be mealtime; fresh fruit, seafood and continental specialties prepared to perfection by a professional chef. Snacks, happy hour drinks (including a dozen thirst quenching tropical specialties) and complimentary early morning room service coffee are daily offerings.

    The Posada del Sol in-house dive operation features four mid-sized custom dive boats and several other fishing/diving/taxi crafts. The dive boats are of similar design; each is 42 to 44 feet in length with sun roof, spacious deck, storage areas, platform and ladder systems. The PDS boats have access to more than 40 moored dive sites and regularly run to both sides of the island. There are normally 8 to 12 guests aboard each vessel. The usual daily schedule includes two single tank boat dives in the morning and a single tank boat dive in the afternoon. One boat night dive is offered and an all day picnic dive is scheduled each week. Also each week is the all day Barbareta dive trip, weather permitting. An interesting series of shore dives that forms a triangle and includes a couple of boat wrecks and an airplane wreck begins from the dive dock.

    Calories gained from excellent food, sumptuous desserts and wine with dinner can be lost with exercise on the aerobic trail that scales the hillsides above the resort and on a hike to the scenic waterfall at Big Gully. Visitors can also schedule a trip to the mainland to visit the ancient Maya city of Copan or go on a whitewater river journey.