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  • In Union With the Sea
    Anthonys Key Resort
    by Bill Harrigan
    Anthonys Key Resort is the epitome of elegant simplicity. Nature is undisturbed here and luxury is defined by the sweet fragrance of frangipani blossoms and the gentle rustle of wind in the palms. This is a welcome place of smiles and gracious service, a place to relax. And, as I discovered recently, Anthonys Key Resort is also one of the most exciting dive destinations in the Caribbean. I swam with friendly dolphins, drifted along coral walls and explored a ghostly wreck;and that was just the first day!

    Anthonys Key Diving

    Kevin Brewer, who has been managing the dive operations for about nine years, guided me through the brief and efficient check-in. We checked out the spacious guest gear storage area, the full service Photo Shop and the extensive rental equipment. We took a look at the resorts six identical 42 foot dive boats, all with wide decks, comfortable seating, camera tables and camera rinse barrels. Each of the boats takes a maximum of 16 divers, so there is always plenty of room. Dives are normally run as single tank dives, with three available each day plus two night dives each week. That schedule turns out to be extremely convenient, allowing divers to pick and choose at will.

    One of the boats was going to El Aguila on the first dive the next morning, so Kevin offered to accompany me to the wreck. We opted for nitrox because of the depth and checked out a couple of 32 percent tanks. El Aguila, or the Eagle, ran aground off Utila and languished on the flats there for eight years. The 230 foot freighter was finally bought by Anthonys Key Resort, refloated, cleaned and positioned off Baileys Cay for sinking. The plug was pulled on July 3, 1997, and the ship sunk upright in 100 feet of water. The ship is already becoming well encrusted with growth and inhabited by fish. In fact, a fat Black Grouper was waiting for us on top of the pilothouse and trailed us all the way from the propeller to the bow.

    Later on I hooked up with Erik and Robin Jensen of Salt Lake City for a 10:30 am dive on the wall at Over Heat. To take advantage of a slight northerly current this one was set up as a drift dive. We crossed the reef top at 30 feet and finned over the side to explore the numerous crevices that split the steep reef face.

    Dolphin Encounters

    Education and fun are almost interchangable at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS), the educational arm of Anthonys Key Resort responsible for maintaining a group of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins. Four different programs are offered, including the Dolphin Swim, the Dolphin Dive, a Dolphin Specialty Course and the Dolphin Camp for children. The swim and the dive both start with a session on the platform, learning the basics of dolphin anatomy and behavior. This is an upclose and touching encounter, where you sit on a floating platform with your legs in the water; the dolphins are practically in your lap. The swim goes on to a snorkel session in a large penned area of the channel and adjacent beach, while the dive goes out to the open ocean.

    My Dolphin Dive got off to a fast start with an amazing sight. I was hovering over the sand in 45 feet of water, near Eldon Bolton, the director of the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences. A dolphin named Esteban suddenly zoomed down from the surface. He leveled off about 20 feet away and then slid head first up to Eldon, belly on the bottom and pectoral fins spraying sand like a baseball player stealing second. For the next 40 minutes we witnessed a combination of antics and natural behavior as Esteban and another dolphin named Paya alternately played with Eldon and roamed the reef. Their absolute mastery of motion underwater was magnificent.

    The second part of the Dolphin Swim starts on a sandy beach inside the big corral with everyone standing in waist deep water. Each participant gets the chance to hold a dolphin and feel her heartbeat, then its playtime with mask, fins and snorkel. For about 20 minutes you get to cavort with about one-half dozen dolphins within the confines of the corral. A staff member from the Anthonys Key Photo Shop videos each session and makes copies available immediately afterward. Its a great memento that will leave your friends green with envy.

    The Dolphin Specialty course is a two day affair that delves much farther into the natural history and behavior of dolphins. The interaction between humans and dolphins is also studied in greater detail and the students get to experience the care and feeding of dolphins first hand.

    The Dolphin Camp is a week long program for children between the ages of 8 and 14. More than just a dolphin encounter, the camp combines just plain fun with learning about the ocean and its inhabitants. Dolphins, of course, are the prime attraction and the kids get to know them intimately. Following a first day orientation for children and parents, daily sessions keep the children busy all morning and all afternoon. They join the parents for lunch and are picked up again after the afternoon session. I talked with three kids from different families, ages 8, 10 and 12, at the Monday evening Island Fiesta who were all having a great time and were clearly looking forward to going back in the morning.

    Doing nothing is always an option at Anthonys Key, but a variety of activities such as horseback riding and kayaking are included in the dive package. The colorful one person kayaks beckoning from the beach prompted four of us to take them for a spin over to Baileys Cay. It was only a short trip, but the kayaks were easy to use and fun. Just get in and go! Over on the cay we pulled the kayaks up on the beach and put on sneakers for the nature walk, which led us completely around the island in about ten minutes.

    For more information or to make reservations, call Anthonys Key Resort from the U.S. and Canada at (800) 227-3483. From other locations, call (954) 929-0090. E-mail should be addressed to akr@globalnet.hn and the Anthonys Key website can be found at www.anthonyskey. com.