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“Once in a lifetime experience”
Review of Stanley Submarines

Stanley Submarines
Ranked #14 of 35 Tours in West End
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Attraction details
Owner description: Stanley Submarines is the premier location in the world for the public to have access to the deep sea. It is the longest operating and deepest diving operation of it's kind. We have been in business since 1998 and take tours as deep as 2000 feet.
Useful Information: Bathroom facilities, Lockers / storage
Reviewed March 21, 2012

My wife and I did the 1500ft, 3-hour expedition in the late afternoon/evening on Karl Stanley's small submarine/submersible "Idabel" from Half Moon Bay in West End on the island of Roatan, Honduras. We paid cash USD, which was the simplest. Karl provides a digital SLR camera that is synchronized to flashes on the outside of the submarine. However, the quality of the pictures from this camera was disappointing (mostly out of focus). You can take your own SLR and attach it to the external flashes as well. However, the best quality pictures and HD video came from my iPhone 4S.

The huge domed viewing window is four inches thick, and provides a stunning view. The curve of the huge window distorts distances and sizes, so Karl has mounted two green laser pointers outside the sub that cast two green dots on the scenery that are a consistent four inches apart. There is also a viewport down by your feet. The passenger compartment is perfect for two people. Three people would be possible, but a little cramped.

As for safety, Karl told us that everything has redundant systems for propulsion and life support, with enough supplies to last a few days.

It's an incredible and unique experience. It's amazing to watch the blue ocean at the surface fade to black as you descend. Karl even turned off all the lights so we could see all the bioluminescent creatures.

You can see a 2-minute video of our experience at:

2  Thank David M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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67 - 71 of 90 reviews

Reviewed March 11, 2012

For Winter Break, my 8-year old daughter, Isabel, and I went to Roatan, Honduras to take an unusually deep dive in a 2-passenger submersible named “Idabel.” Starting from atop the mostly submerged Bonacca Ridge, we pivoted over the edge of the 2nd longest reef in the world and sank along an underwater cliff over the Cayman Trench. Such geology was formed by the crushing forces of two tectonic plates. We descended 1500’ beneath the ocean surface; only half way to the bottom of this 3000’ abyss but well below where visible sunlight penetrates seawater.

Our purpose was to observe marine creatures that live in perpetual darkness. Here, over 90% of the life forms have evolved the ability to generate their own light, many through chemical pathways similar to fireflies. After descending for 20 minutes or so, we stopped and powered down completely, then hovered in total silence, straining our eyes to see anything as we searched the pitch black darkness all around. At last, in the distance, we made out a faint bioluminescence in the shape of a 2” squid flickering on and off.

Our pilot and creator of the submersible, Karl Stanley, flashed on and off a panel of powerful exterior strobe lights. The arm of one of these strobe lights had broken off the night before during a shark dive. Since cruise ship time was an hour ahead of island time, we had arrived at Karl’s dock unexpectedly early and caught Karl completing an early morning MacGyver-type repair. He drilled holes in the ends of the broken scraps of metal, splinted them together with a single nut and bolt, clambered over the outside of the craft to get enough leverage to pry about the right bend into the repaired arm, fine tuned the position with a faded scrap of polypropylene line tied off to another appendage, and then tidied up the loose electrical cables with a few tie wraps. I knew this was external. It wasn’t load bearing or pressure sealing. It had no bearing on craft safety, but my mind struggled to stifle a primal adrenaline surge and instead smile and laugh to assure Isabel that this was going to be great!

At 1500’, when Karl flicked the switch, the strobe lights flashed as intended. This excited the surrounding soup of marine life and set off a light show of flickering marine fireflies streaming by our window like a meteor shower. After a while, when calm darkness returned, Karl flipped the switch again to set off a repeat performance. When this show subsided, Isabel demanded a repeat performance, and another, and another. Then Karl spotted a Pyrosoma atlantica and took us to hover within inches of it. It rotated slowly by the window showing off glass-shard like spikules. Then more squid appeared, but closer now, along with many shapes of tiny fish fry and countless unidentifiable bioluminescent specks.

The adjacent, steeply sloped ocean bottom was reminiscent of a lunar surface. It was covered in fine, pale detritus that we watched rain down continuously from above. Denizens of this deep desert floor included unfamiliar variations on starfish, anemone, and urchin, identified by Karl using a laser pointer. Karl skillfully navigated the craft to put items of interest inches from our 30” picture window. Occasionally this meant touching the bottom. Each touch resuspended the lunar-like sediment and produced a small mushroom cloud of turbidity.

Karl spun us around to look at the ancient brown and black basalt wall behind us. Slowly, he navigated us up boulder after boulder, climbing almost vertically some 1000’ of basalt. Unfamiliar forms of long legged crabs, squat lobsters and blood-red shrimp protruded from crevices in the rock wall. Bright yellow, orange or blue crinoids, white wire corals, occasional soft corals, stubby sea fans, and glass sponges adorned the rocks, filtering the endless rain of debris. Sea lilies were common, demonstrating 230 million years of personal evolutionary success – that is half the time that there has been life on earth. Specialized brittle stars, spaghetti stars, basket stars, giant urchins, pink sea cucumbers, assorted snails and yellow and fuscia anemones felt their way across surfaces to feed on or cling to the sessile filter feeders.

From nearly 800’ below the surface, Karl turned the lights off again and pointed out the difference between the surrounding blackness and the faintest hint of sunlight penetrating from above. Karl noted the incredible visibility in the water column that day, a feature that makes Roatan a SCUBA mecca. “How do you know where you are?” I asked. “Compass and depth gauge” he responded. In truth, he knew the position of every boulder and plateau from countless previous visits and he navigated his way through the darkness more smoothly than I navigate the stairs and hallways of my own home in the middle of the night.

We reached the top of the boulder wall over which the skeletons of an ancient reef reached upwards another several hundred feet. Karl explained that this reef had formed during the peak of the last ice age when sea level was about 400’ lower here than it is now. Spaces between the reticulated limestone façade provided habitat for creatures adapted to living at the bottom of the photic zone, where there is just enough light to see and be seen, but not enough to support primary producers (in this case, marine plants).

A large orange-splotched searobin scuttled across our view. A larger anglerfish rose up on its foot-shaped pectoral fins and waved his fishing lure at us, as if challenging the yellow submarine in a dual. A lionfish hid behind a sea fan. Looking up, we could see hundreds of reef fish schooling off the top edge of the reef. We could hear the whine and churn of dive boat engines above. Karl took us to an opening in the water column above and released a bit more air into the ballast area. We rose quickly past a startled green sea turtle and SCUBA divers and splashed through jellyfish and ctenophores feeding at the surface. After 25 years of slow ascents and decompression stops, it was spectacular to rocket up as we did. A short 150 yards later, we were safely back at the dock in Half Moon Bay. How had 2.5 hours gone by so quickly? Isabel and I hope to go again, soon.

3  Thank Virginia B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 17, 2012

this TRULY is a once in a life time experience. We actually did this the summer of 2010, but I was not allowed to select that old of a date. This is amazing and so it the sub's creator, Carl Stanley. Not cheap, but if you can manage the ticket, the experience is priceless.

1  Thank klaudaz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 22, 2011

There are few indulgences one takes in this world. And this was mine. To me this was the same as signing up to be a passenger for the moon trip.

Instead this is so much more doable and accessible!

I am totally terrified of scuba diving, I feel completely out of my element. But I still have a strong fascination with the underwater world. And then one day I read about a REAL LIFE submarine that takes passengers in Roatan. I live in Central America, and couldn't miss this chance to do this

Think about it, in the world of 7 billion people, only a handful can actually say they went down in a submarine!

Karl, it goes without saying, is a genius. This is his element and when I got into his submarine I felt completely confident that nothing at all will go wrong and it didn't.

My son, 7 years old, and I went down 1500 feet (305 meters). We entered another world and it was amazing!!!

If you can afford this experience, I SOOO RECOMMEND IT!

1  Thank Marina K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 23, 2011

As a frequent visitor to Roatan, I had often seen the submarine when I went into West End. I finally had the opportunity to take the tour. As a scuba diver, I have certainly wondered what is beyond normal diving depths. When we got to the dock, as the final preparations were made and the sub ballast was set, we looked at Karl's book showing how (and in some cases, why) he designed and built the submarine. What a dream to see come to fruition.

Once settled in to the sub, we headed out to the wall which runs very close to Half Moon Bay in Roatan. Karl has everything set to view, the depth gauge and the outside water temperature gauge and the viewing ports make the whole trip fantastic. His commentary helps as he describes various points of interest and creatures.

We saw creatures that we have only seen in pictures as we dove to 1,000 ft. and returned to the dock. Speaking of pictures, Karl does help to make sure that your pictures are the best.

If you get to Roatan, this trip is most definitely worth the "price of admission"! I can't wait to try the 2,000 ft. dive.

4  Thank Allen21096
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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