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Roatan Guidelines Tourists

Roatan Diving - Snorkeling - Turtle Watching - Whale & Dolphin Watching - Underwater Cleanup

Roatan Diving

Roatan Divers and other coral reef visitors are becoming some of the strongest and most effective advocates for coral reef conservation.

Please follow these simple guidelines and be a "coral friendly" diver.

Begin at Home
Support coral reef conservation by choosing your resort with care and being a "green consumer" with your vacation dollars.

  • Opt for environmentally conscious places to stay.
  • Look for coral parks and other marine conservation areas, and pay user fees that support marine conservation.
  • Choose Coral Friendly dive operations that practice reef conservation by:
    • Giving diver orientations and briefings.
    • Holding buoyancy control workshops.
    • Actively supporting local coral parks.
    • Using available moorings.
    • Using available wastewater pump-out facilities.
  • Keep your diving skills finely tuned, and be sure to practice them away from the reef.
  • Learn all you can about coral reefs-they are fascinating and fragile environments.

Never touch corals; even a slight contact can harm them and some corals can sting or cut you.

  • Carefully select points of entry and exit to avoid areas of reef. This is easily done on Roatan.
  • Make sure all your equipment is well secured.
  • Make sure you are neutrally buoyant at all times.
  • Maintain a comfortable distance from the reef.
  • Practice good finning and body control to avoid accidental contact with the Roatan reef or stirring up the sediment.
  • Stay off the bottom and never stand or rest on corals.
  • Avoid using gloves and kneepads in coral environments.
  • Take nothing living or dead out of the water, except recent garbage. Roatan always needs help in this area.

Minimize Contact With Roatn Marine Life

  • Do not chase, harass or try to ride marine life.
  • Do not touch, handle or feed marine life except under expert guidance and following established Roatan guidelines.

Divers need advanced diving skills to take pictures and video underwater. Photographic and video equipment is cumbersome and affects a diver's buoyancy and mobility in the water. It is all-too easy to touch and damage marine life when concentrating on "the shot".


  • Choose dive operations whose boats make use of available Roatan moorings-anchors and chains destroy fragile corals.
  • Make sure garbage is well stowed, especially light plastic items.
  • Be sure to take away everything you brought on board, such as packaging and used batteries.

Roatan Shore Side

  • Support our Roatan coral parks and other conservation projects by:
    • Paying user fees in recognized coral parks and conservation areas that are actively supporting coral reef conservation.
    • Encouraging and supporting the use of dive moorings.
    • Filling in wildlife sighting forms.
    • Participating in cleanups.
    • Volunteering your skills.
    • Donating used equipment such as cameras, dive gear or reef ID books.
  • Avoid purchasing souvenirs made from coral, turtles or other marine life-often this is illegal, and it’s never environmentally wise.
  • Speak up; make sure your Roatan dive buddies understand these simple but important conservation practices.

Good Roatan divers know the best way to enjoy a reef is to slow down, relax and watch as reef creatures go about their daily lives undisturbed. Be sure to find out about local laws and regulations as they may differ from these general guidelines.


Roatan Snorkeling

Roatan coral reefs are among the world’s most spectacular habitats and snorkeling is an excellent way to explore them. As Roatan coral reefs face an increasingly uncertain future, snorkelers and other coral reef visitors can play an important role in helping to protect these fragile habitats. Follow these simple guidelines to help protect our Roatan coral reefs you visit.


  • For your Roatan vacation, choose an environment-friendly resort or hotel; one that recycles and treats sewage and solid waste in responsible ways.
  • Look for and support coral parks and other marine conservation areas.
  • Get the best possible instruction you can.
  • Practice snorkeling skills away from the reef.
  • Make sure your equipment fits properly before you snorkel near corals—it can be very difficult to adjust in the water.
  • If you feel uncertain, wear a snorkel vest.
  • Learn all you can about our Roatan coral reefs - they are fascinating and fragile environments.

In the Roatan water
Never touch corals; even slight contact can harm them. Some corals can sting or cut you.

  • Select points of entry and exit to avoid walking on corals.
  • Maintain a comfortable distance from the reef, so that you’re certain you can avoid contact.
  • Know where your fins are at all times and don’t kick up sand.
  • Stay horizontal in the water while you’re near or above the reef.
  • Learn to swim without using yours arms.
  • Move slowly and deliberately in the water—relax and take your time.
  • Remember, look but don't touch.
Roatan snorkeling pros know the real way to enjoy the beauty of the reef is to slow down, relax and watch as reef creatures go about their daily lives undisturbed.

  • Take nothing living or dead out of the water except recent garbage.
  • Never chase or try to ride marine life.
  • Never touch, handle or feed marine life except under expert guidance and following locally-established guidelines.
  • Avoid using gloves in coral environments.


  • Choose operations whose boats make use of moorings when available—anchors destroy fragile corals.
  • Make sure garbage is well-stowed, especially light plastic items.
  • Remove everything that was brought on board and dispose of trash responsibly.
  • Support Coral Parks and other conservation projects.
    • Visit established Coral Parks and pay applicable user fees that support marine conservation.
    • Encourage and support the use of boat moorings.
    • Participate in local initiatives to monitor the marine environment.
    • Participate in cleanups.
    • Make a donation or volunteer your skills to support a Coral Park. For example, you can participate in a reef survey, conduct outreach, or help educate others about reef conservation.
    • Donate used equipment such as cameras, dive gear or reef ID books.
  • Take your garbage home with you, especially things that require special disposal, such as batteries.
  • Avoid purchasing souvenirs made from coral, turtles or other marine life—often this is illegal, and it’s never environmentally wise.
  • Speak up. Make sure your snorkeling buddies understand these simple conservation practices.

Being a coral friendly snorkeler not only helps to protect coral reefs directly, it also helps to raise awareness for coral reefs.
Be sure to find out local laws and regulations as they may differ from these general guidelines.


Roatan Turtle Watching


Sea turtles have lived in the world’s oceans for over 150 million years. Sadly, these ancient reptiles are now globally threatened with extinction. Many populations are declining as a result of hunting, increasing coastal development, incidental capture in fisheries, degradation and destruction of nesting beaches, and marine pollution. You can help protect them by following these simple


  • All species of sea turtle are endangered and need protection.
  • Turtles can drown if they are prevented from reaching the surface of the sea to breathe.
  • Litter is dangerous, especially plastic bags, which can be mistaken for jellyfish—a favorite turtle food.
  • Turtles remain in the same region for years and, as adults, return to the same nesting area year after year. If a nesting colony is destroyed, the turtles may never return.
WHAT YOU CAN DO for Roatan
  • Support local sea turtle conservation initiatives—make a donation or consider volunteering.
  • Participate in local sighting networks and complete all wildlife sighting forms.
  • Do not buy or sell turtle products—turtles are strictly protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and most national laws.
IN THE WATER of Roatan
  • Watch for turtles while boating—boat strikes can kill.
  • When in the water, keep your distance and avoid startling turtles. Do not disturb resting, sleeping or feeding turtles.
  • Approach turtles slowly and calmly and move away if they show signs of distress.
  • Never try to spear, harass, catch, or ride turtles.
  • Do not touch or feed turtles.
  • Participating in responsible turtle watching programs can help raise
  • awareness of the need to protect turtles.
  • Be sure to find out about local laws and regulations, as they may differ from these general guidelines.


Roatan Whale and Dolphin Watching


Watching whales or dolphins in Roatan is often an awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience. Whale and dolphin watching trips should be calm, controlled, and guided by a deep concern for the animals’ well-being and safety.


  • Always allow the animal(s) to control the nature and duration of the encounter.
  • Never pursue or harass whales or dolphins.
  • If they appear agitated or disturbed, leave the area.
  • Keep a good look out at all times to avoid collisions or inadvertent harassment.
  • Be especially careful around mothers and calves—keep at a distance and never separate them. Keep all noise to a minimum.
  • Experts advise not to touch or feed whales or dolphins.
  • Trash can kill, so remove all litter.
  • Do not buy whale products—they are strictly protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
  • Rapid changes in direction or speed.
  • Erratic behavior.
  • Escape tactics such as prolonged diving.
  • Tail slapping or tail swishing.
Whale and dolphin behavior is not thoroughly understood. Experts advise that it is best to observe and appreciate the animals without entering the water to protect yourself and the animals in Roatan.

Participating in whale watching programs on Roatan helps to protect whales by raising awareness about them and providing income to local Roatan people. Be sure to find out about local laws and regulations as they may differ from these general guidelines.

Never chase or herd whales or dolphins. Operate your boat in a predictable manner.
For example:
  • Keep to a no-wake speed and never try to overtake whales or dolphins.
  • Avoid sudden changes in speed, direction or noise level.
  • Do not encircle, chase or separate animals and always leave an escape route.
  • Never approach whales or dolphins head-on, and stay out of their path so they are not forced to change course.
  • Do not engage in “leapfrogging” or jumping ahead of a whale’s path to force an encounter.
  •  Stay at least 100 meters (110 yards) away.
  •  Stay at or below a no-wake speed.
  •  Coordinate approaches into the viewing zone with other vessels to avoid “trappingwhales or dolphins.
  •  Limit viewing time to around 30 minutes per vessel.
  •  Limit the number of vessels in the viewing zone to one or two at a time.
  •  Stay on a course parallel to that of the whales or dolphins
 If whales or dolphins approach, maintain your course and continue dead slow or stop, leaving the engines to run in neutral.

  • Do not drive through groups of dolphins to encourage them to ride the bow wave—not all dolphins will want to bow-ride and many will find it stressful.
  • If dolphins approach to ride the bow wave, maintain course and speed or slowly stop and let them pass.

CAUTION—LET WHALES OR DOLPHINS KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. Always keep the boat engine running even when drifting. This is for your safety as well as the animals’. Whales have been known to collide with boats under sail.


Roatn Underwater Cleanup


Underwater cleanups are a great way to help protect our Roatan marine environment. There are some special considerations when cleaning up under water, especially in fragile coral reef environments. Please follow these simple guidelines to avoid damage to fragile coral reefs.

Always dive with a buddy and be sure to check equipment and divers’ sgnals beforehand. Make sure underwater conditions and weather are suitable for diving to ensure safety for divers and for underwater organisms.

In addition to normal dive gear, divers will need:
  • Mesh sacks.
  • Gloves for protection from rubbish and sharp objects.
  • Shears or scissors for cutting fishing line and tin cans.

  • Work slowly and carefully.
  • Dive in a head-down position to avoid making contact with the bottom.
  • Adjust buoyancy throughout the dive as the garbage gets heavier.
  • Make sure equipment is secured and the mesh sack is held so that nothing can trail or snag on corals.
  • One diver should collect garbage with gloves on while another holds the mesh sack.
  • Place glass, needles and hooks inside other garbage for safety. Never try to remove anything that cannot be easily lifted such as tires or car batteries.
  • Plastics, especially plastic bags.
  • Cloth items or rice sacks.
  • Fishing line, netting, and broken lobster pots or fish traps.
  • Batteries, bottles without marine growth, and tin cans.
  • Cigarette butts and bottle caps.
    Do your best not to remove articles that have already been incorporated into the Roatan reef and are helping to support life.


  • Make sure nothing is living in or on each item before removal.
  • Do not remove bottles that are covered in growth.
  • Cut open tin cans to make sure there is nothing inside.
  • Hold cups or cans close to sandy parts of the sea bed and shake out sand or silt.
  • Anything which is “stuck” or encrusted with growth.
  • Anything, no matter how ugly, which has become overgrown with marine life.
  • Anything that may be dangerous.
  • Heavy items—never use your buoyancy control device to lift heavy objects.
  • Metal drums and containers which might contain hazardous materials.
  • PLASTIC FISHING LINE -  Never try to pull fishing line free. Cut and remove it in sections to avoid damaging organisms growing around it. Use shears or scissors rather than a knife. Wind the line around an object or hand to control it.

Document everything that is collected so that its origin can be identified and pollution problems tackled at source. For more information and data recording sheets contact The Ocean Conservancy.

   Arrange for garbage to be collected or taken to an official site—do not leave it on the Roatan beach.

These guidelines were developed by the Coral Reef Alliance of the Coral Reef Alliance and are co-endorsed by the Project AWARE Foundation.

(©) CORAL. These guidelines may be reproduced and distributed freely so long as they are reproduced in their entirety and the CORAL copyright is included.



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