Latin America Travel & Tour Information
Discovering the Mangrove Canal (Val murray)
The west end of Roatan is well known and heavily visited by tourists who come for Roatan?s island beaches and diving, but so many take the time to take a trip out to the other end known for its Garafuna communities. Oak Ridge is a quant little Garafuna village situated around a small harbour that is very much a part of the daily life of the town. Houses appear to be built right on top of the water and small motorised vessels skirt around it all day. The major reason for visiting Oak ridge is to jump into a small boat and head for the Mangrove canal of Jonesville.
As explained by my randomly acquired navigator, the canals (or tunnels as he put it in his thick Caribbean accent) were probably cut through the thick mangroves by the original indigenous people of the island as sheltered trade routes. These were later adopted by some of the many pirates known to have harboured in Roatan as protected aquatic avenues allowing easy movement hidden from sight. As you ply through them you can picture pirates transporting their booty amongst the crabs scurrying out of view and the many birds startled off their perch as you approach in otherwise silent surrounds.
These days the canals are still utilised by locals to traverse from one settlement to the other and houses can be spotted at breaks in the mangroves on the ocean side. A straight up tour from Oak Ridge will take about 45 minutes but while you?re out that way request that your captain dock at ?Hole In The Wall? for a beer and a lobster burger. There is no other way to reach ?Whole in the Wall? other than by boat. It was constructed by a guy who sailed through many years ago and couldn?t tear himself away from the beauty of the area. While there have a conversation with the brightly coloured Macaw who resides next to the bar.
To get there you can take a local bus from Coxen Hole to Oak Ridge for a buck or two, but if you want to avoid travelling an hour in a crowded, constantly stopping mini-bus then hire a moped or 4WD which allows you to explore the many dirt roads along the way. When you reach Oak Ridge don?t worry about finding someone to take you to the mangroves, they will find you. Negotiate about $10-$15 for there services and tell them in advance that you plan on stopping at ?Whole in the Wall? en-route, they?ll receive a bit of a feed for taking you there.