After reviewing all the available resources from Trip Advisor, our family of four decided to hire Channin Bodden to tour the Island of Roatan. We made a good decision.
My niece who is currently attending college in London, decided to visit us in the U.S. during the Christmas break. She travels within Europe frequently but has never been to the Caribbean. We decided to take her on a cruise to the Caribbean. We chose the Carnival Sunshine because it matches her schedule. The first port of call was to Roatan, Honduras on Christmas Day. I emailed Channin two weeks before arrival to see his availability. He immediately reply to say he is available. We made arrangements through emails, he provided excellent directions on where to meet on the day of arrival. No advance payments are needed.
On Christmas Day 2013, we arrived at Mahogany Bay, Roatan as scheduled. We walked out the pier as instructed, with email directions in hand, we literally follow the crowd of tourists to the exit. After about a 10 minute walk, we saw at least 30-40 different tour companies holding up their signs. Channin was holding up his sign waiting for us. We have visited many places around the world, but the feeling is the same, "excited" when you land in a foreign place, and you saw a familiar sign waiting and greeting you. I walked up to Channin and introduced myself. He led us to his private vehicle, a white Toyota Corolla. It was clean and has air condition, it was good enough for the 4 of us. I asked Channin before he started his engine, what are the plans for the day. I believe we have about 6 hours before we have to get back to the ship. He took out a Map of Roatan and showed us where he intended to take us. I said to him, I have absolutely no idea where I want to go. He said no worries, he has a plan for us. Channin speaks perfect English as he was high school educated in the United States. He is an excellent tour guide. He is always telling us the history, the culture, and the local customs of Roatan, which I enjoy. He obviously enjoy his work and proud of his accomplishments. He is 29 and already own his own business. He plans to grow his business gradually. I enjoy our conversation as much as I enjoy visiting the various sights.
Our first stop was to to the East End. This is like the eastern point of the small island. There is a public beach there but not too many people around. The shops are also all closed because of Christmas Day. We drove around for a few minutes and decided not to stop. Next he asked us whether we wanted to visit the monkey park. We have many hours to spend so I say why not. The monkey park is very small. The entrance is US$10 each. We were provided a park guide. He led us to a couple of monkey cages where small baby monkeys climb on our heads and shoulders and photobomb us. There are parrot cages where you can take pictures up close with the birds. The tour lasted about 30 minutes. I would not say this is worth it for the cost or for the time. If you have done this in other places before, I would say skip this monkey park place. If you have small children, it may be fun for the children to experience baby monkeys climbing all over them.
My niece and my 16 year-old son want to go snorkeling next. We do not have our own gears, so Channin said no problem. He has some gears at home so he drives to his house to pick up the gears. He also pick up a life jacket for my niece who is not a strong swimmer. We next drove to the West Bay, where a really beautiful public beach is located. I think half the tourists from the ship is here. All the shops are opened for business here. Channin's first cousin runs a little operation here. He made arrangement for a boat to take my niece and my son to the off shore reef for snorkeling. Channin asked what we prefer him to do and I said, go snorkeling with the teenagers, we will just walk around the beach and get something to drink along the beach. His face lighted up because I think he really like snorkeling. I said keep an eye on my niece. Off they went to 2 or 3 different spots. The entire duration was about 90 minutes, the cost is only $25 each. My wife and I spent the 90 minutes walking along the beach and then drink some mango juice in one of the restaurants. It says free Wi-Fi but it does not work that day. My wife wanted to post some pictures on Facebook so no Wi-Fi is no big deal. Channin said they saw many types of fishes, lobsters, and a family of sea turtles. They did not see any wild dolphins that day. Overall, the teenagers enjoyed their snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea.
We next went to a semi-private harbor. I think this is the place where the boat take people out diving. We stop for some pictures but did not stay long. We drove to downtown where Channin showed up where he grew up, where his grandma still lives, and where he used to work. After about 5-6 hours of private sight seeing, the tour is over and we are on our way back to the ship. The cost is only $25 for each person. I always tip generously in the service sectors.
Roatan is just like one of the many Caribbean Islands, but I would rate Roatan is one of my favorite stops because of Channin. A good tour guide can make a place more memorable. This is my fourth cruise and I remembered all the good tour guides, Channin is one of them. The cost of hiring a private tour guide if half the cost of going through the ship operator. Since we have our own car we decide our own schedules. I would do it this way again.
Thank you Channin for a very memorable Christmas Day (in 85 degree weather). And best wishes to you when you return to Oregon next September to pick potatoes.