The Bay Islands feature some of the most pristine, diverse, and well-managed natural areas in all of Central America. The Bay Islands, in particular, host a significant section of the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR), an intricate marine ecosystem that features dazzling coral reefs and rich marine biodiversity. It stretches 1,000 km along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras and supports the local tourism and fishing economies of nearly two million people. In its efforts to protect this valuable resource, the Honduran authorities created The Bay Islands National Marine Park – a Marine Protected Area that surrounds the Bay Islands. In Roatan, it is co-managed and maintained by the diligent work of the Roatan Marine Park and the Bay Islands Conservation Association.
Cordelia Banks is one of the National Marine Park’s best-kept secrets. Considered by the environmental community as a national treasure, it is home to the one of the largest remaining stands of the endangered staghorn coral, an antler-like branching coral that experienced a massive population die-off in the Caribbean during the 1980s. Experts have identified Cordelia as a critical source of coral spawn that could potentially repopulate this species in the entire region. In addition, it doubles as a very entertaining dive as it provides valuable habitat for groupers, snappers, and Caribbean reef sharks.
Located on the south side of Roatan, in the vicinity of two large urban centers and two busy cruise ship docks, this group of three coralline banks has somehow managed to grow a thriving and abundant ecosystem with amazing biodiversity. It proudly displays a stout 70% live coral cover, a figure that becomes even more impressive when you compare it to the 18% average found in the entire MAR. Due to these unique ecological characteristics, experts from all over the world have long been researching this site, whilst local conservation stakeholders brought about the declaration of Cordelia Banks as a Site of Wildlife Importance – a recognition rightfully granted in 2012 by the Honduran authorities.
Contact your local dive operator and submerge yourself into one of the MAR’s hidden treasures, Banco Cordelia, and explore this unusually lush and pristine coral garden and all of its remarkable biodiversity.