Diving to Reach the Summit Near Cayos Cochinos
Seamounts are extinct volcanoes that, when active, created piles of lava that sometimes break the ocean surface and come in a mixture of shapes and sizes which makes for beautiful abundant reefs.
Geologically speaking, the word ‘seamount’ has a narrow definition. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states a seamount is any underwater peak that rises more than 3,280 feet from the seafloor without breaking the water’s surface. Otherwise it would be an island if the top of the mountain broke above the sea level. Most scuba divers however define a seamount as any underwater mountain, pinnacle or reef.
A series of underwater mountains rise between Roatan and Cayos Cochinos forming separate mountains and peaks at around 60 ft in depth. The Seamounts are more suitable for advanced divers, as the currents can be strong.
The Cayos seamounts can even be dangerous. Weather there changes quickly, and sudden squalls can make it difficult for the boat captain to retrieve surfacing divers. Four years ago, Nicholas Bach of the Roatan Marine Park, who is in charge of the marine infrastructure around Roatan, ended up floating alone in the ocean for 11 hours. Bach and three other divers were rescued just before sunset.
While some of the bigger seamounts are miles round others are just a few dozen meters in diameter. The most visited ones are about seven kilometers from Cayo Cochino Grande and can be circumnavigated in one dive. These underwater mountains are perfect for less experienced divers because their tops are flat and at a depth of 40 feet. These guyots are made by repeated wave action eroding the summit of the underwater island eventually forming a flat surface.
With all the currents moving through the area, temperature fluctuation and the rich nourishing water that come from the depths, make the coral at the Cayos Cochinos seamount very healthy and active. There is also a great opportunity to see lots of different schools of Atlantic spade fish, blue tangs, horse eye jacks, hammerheads or pelagic fish and a battery of barracudas just hanging out off the reef as they feed. Most of the time the nurse sharks are swimming around with their curious eyes. There is plenty of marine life to be seen.
Bach marked six mounts on Roatan Marine Park’s google map. “A lot more dive shops offer these trips. Ten years ago, you felt like a pioneer if you took a dive group there. Now there are almost ten moorings,” said Bach.
Several Roatan dive shops offer a day trip to the seamounts with a two-tank dive. Between dives you can explore the rustic Cayos Cochinos. Honduras has been ranked in the top three diving destinations in the Caribbean Sea for biodiversity and Cayos Cochinos is the leader in biodiversity in Honduras.
The two small main islands of Cayos Cochinos in the chain offer a variety of surrounding coral reef structures. One of the two is called ‘Chachahuate, a small Garifuna fishing village.
The chain of 13 cays to the south are coral islands, with shallow coral reefs to the north and sloping walls to the south. These little pure, deserted cays are perfect to go for snorkeling.