Carnival Splendor backed past the hulks of two rusted old ships into Mahogany Bay on Isla Roatan, Honduras on a beautiful sunny day. These two rusted old ships protruding from the water once delivered groceries to the island, but exploded and burned 35 years ago and have sat in the bay deteriorating ever since.
On our first visit to Mahogany Bay we stayed at the cruise port, which has lots of shops and a beautiful beach. We tried the Magic Flying Beach Chair. Even before it got stuck in the rain people with canes and wheelchairs got to the beach faster on the walking path. You can get some good ship photos from it though.
This time we tried something different and unique by booking a shore excursion on the B.O.S.S underwater scooters. BOSS stands for Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter. These scooters operated about 8 feet under the surface, with a buoy attached to keep them at the right depth and so those above the water know where to find them.
Just getting to the bus for our excursion brought us to parts of the port we hadn’t seen on our last visit. Beyond the canned cruise ship shopping area with all the usual cruise port shops we saw a zip line and a building marked independent tours. There’s a taxi stand and along the road out from the port a number of locals with signs for random tours wait for people looking for something to do.
The bus to Flowers Bay where scooters awaited took us through town where houses range from looking like they were hand built from scraps to picture perfect without a paint chip out of place. Most homes sat up on pilings or had open cement basements whether they were built over water or on uneven ground or not.
At Flowers Bay we left the bus and walked down a small wooden dock to an open sided covered boat with one tiny toilet below decks. On board they told everyone how the scooters worked and passed out snorkel gear. Half the group rode scooters first while the other half could either snorkel or stay on the boat, then the two groups switched.
We joined the snorkel first group in the water, and once our turn came for the scooters I felt very happy to have had a chance to see the area first. While snorkeling around the bay we could see plenty of coral as well as fish and other sea life. It all looked rather large if somewhat distant at the bottom of a fairly deep bay as far as snorkel sites go – probably somewhere around 20-30 feet deep.
At times we got close enough to get photos of the other group riding the scooters, a sight not normally seen while snorkeling. Then the time came to go back to the boat and get ready for our turn on the scooters.
The scooters stayed out in the bay while the riders ditched them and swam the short distance back to the boat. Someone from the crew stayed with them. I normally have my snorkel mask on before putting my face into salt water, but snorkel masks and even swim goggles have no place on an underwater scooter as they would just impair vision.
We could swim the few feet to the scooters with our heads out of the water, but to get on the scooter you have to go under the water, get your head below the fish bowl-like helmet area and then rise up inside it where it is full of air rather than water. Not wanting to get salt water into my eyes, I closed them before diving under the surface and just felt my way into the scooter, which is not hard to do as it is pretty easy to feel the lower edge of the helmet area. Once inside you just breathe normally and can see through the glass.
If I had not snorkeled first I would have thought we were at the bottom of a rather shallow bay. Through the curved fish bowl helmet the sea floor seemed just inches below the scooter. Rather than flat, it appeared as if the bottom rose up all around and we’d likely run into a wall of rock at any moment. Having seen the area first when snorkeling I knew that was an optical illusion. The bottom was quite a ways down and had nothing anywhere that we could hit.
The coral and sea life that looked so big and distant through the snorkel mask looked tiny and close through the scooter. Fish looked like the little ones that you see in the average home aquarium, and the coral and seaweed no bigger than decorative aquarium plants. The divers that stayed with the scooters looked about the size of Barbie dolls. While it always appeared as if our feet could scrape the ground, the minuscule-looking divers swam under the scooters with ease.
Several divers stayed with the group, one to follow and a couple to herd people, watch over them, and make sure nobody had problems. One took photos. You can take underwater cameras on the scooter. One even has a mount for a GoPro. If using a wrist strap, the camera has to go on the left hand as the right hand mans the go button. I wasn’t sure how I’d take photos and drive the scooter at the same time so I left mine on the boat. It would have been nice to get a photo from inside the helmet to show how everything looked from there, but since I didn’t take the camera with me I couldn’t get that shot. A GoPro on a head strap would be ideal to show what you see in there, but I don’t have one of those.
The scooters move pretty slowly and the handlebars move up and down from one side or the other to turn the vehicle. Mine felt as if it always wanted to turn right and I had to keep cranking it over to the left to go straight. Whether the scooter actually had an issue or not I couldn’t say because though I thought I held them equally, the right side does require the go button held down continuously to keep it moving which might unintentionally put more pressure on that side. Even without the go button what feels equal to me is probably also much stronger on the right since my left arm has no strength due to having once broken it inside the elbow joint.
Following along behind other scooters was pretty easy, but when the itsy bitsy looking diver in the lead turned the group starting at me I suddenly found myself at the front of the pack. It was a bit harder to figure out through his hand signals which way he actually wanted me to go. It’s always interesting to try something different and the scooters were fun to ride. If you do this excursion try and get in the group that snorkels first so you know what the area really looks like before you ride the scooter.