When I first made the decision to move to Roatan, I wasn’t surprised to find that not many people had heard of it. This little island, nestled in the Caribbean bay off the coast of Honduras, is but a tiny blip on the UK tourist industry’s radar. But what did surprise me was how violent the reaction to travelling to Honduras was. People were aghast to hear that I was willingly moving to ‘the most dangerous place in the world’. “Careful you don’t get stabbed”, or “make sure you carry a rape alarm” we’re standard nuggets of advice that people who had never even been to Honduras were so sagely offering me.
When it comes to finding the source of this strangely vehement attitude, there’s one person I’m pointing the finger of blame squarely at – Mr Ross Kemp. A few years back, this ex-soap star turned hard-man created a TV series which saw him ingratiate himself within some of the world’s most dangerous cities and cultures – Ross Kemp: Extreme World. It was entertaining and well-executed and gave us Brits an insight into the violence, greed and passion that dictates gang and drug culture across the globe. The most notable episode of the series was set in Honduras, and sees Ross and his crew follow migrants making the illegal and highly dangerous journey from San Pedro Sula – “the murder capital of the world” – to the U.S. border. It shows a culture of crime, danger and fear so effectively that these images stuck. For a lot of my friends, Honduras has become synonymous with murder, rape and corruption.
[image courtesy of Sky]
Thanks to one small snapshot of one part of one city, Honduras as a whole has been tarred with a heavy brush that seems to have painted over the many reasons why it should still be considered a valid, safe and truly glorious travel destination. Sitting proudly distinct from its mainland cousin, Roatan is an island with its own history, it’s own culture, it’s own unique identity and, as such, it deserved to be viewed as a destination in its own right, one which caters for backpackers, sun-seekers and luxury travel connoisseurs alike.
I first arrived on Roatan 6 weeks ago, and immediately found myself at home in its vibrant, cheerful West End. Nothing more than a strip of paved road, West End is lined with bars, restaurants and, predominantly, dive shops, all looking out over a sweeping bay of crystal-clear water. I quickly slipped into an easy routine of diving in the day, and soaking up the culture (read: local rum) in the evenings. Days turned into weeks, and I found that I’d fallen a little bit in love with the easy-going pace of life, the parties on the sand and the friendliness of locals and expats alike. The insight the last few months have given me into this lively corner of the island is enough to convince me that any traveller worth their passport would be a fool not to bump Roatan to the very top of their ‘to travel’ list.
But when it comes to tempting over the more discerning Brit, the once-a-year-blow-out-holiday kind of tourist, chilled-out beach bars and world-class scuba diving just aren’t quite enough of a lure. For some, a holiday to a far flung location needs to tick a lot of neatly manicured boxes. In my quest to divorce this beautiful little island from the negative perceptions of the mainland, I went out of my way to experience the kind of luxury that a lot of holiday-makers expect from their hard-earned cash; enter Mayoka Lodge.
It’s shameful to admit that after just 6 weeks of travelling, I was craving some home-comforts. I’d been working 6 day weeks, making the most of the plentiful happy hours and learning an avalanche of new things, and my mind and body were screaming for just a few hours of relaxation: for a hot bath, a good glass of wine and a squishy duvet to snuggle under for the night. Mayoka, which prides itself on its “unpretentious elegance”, sounded like the perfect haven for me to shut off the world for an evening.
I was given the first clue as to what to expect from my stay when I stepped into my room. I’d set out in the search of luxury, and struck gold: the Mayoka Suite where I’d be sleeping for the night was divine, with a giant four poster bed and a handsome roll-top bath hinting at the sort of splendour I could expect during my stay. The piece de résistance was the view – a huge panoramic window spans the front of the room and affords a sweeping view across the horizon; all the artwork in the world can’t compete with a beautiful sunset unfurling before your eyes.
It sounds strange to say that I’d forgotten how exciting ‘nice-things’ can be, but I’ve gotten so used to a more basic way of living – to using a towel as a curtain, to having the occasional cockroach scurry over my foot whilst showering – that the opulence of the room took me a moment to take in. I say a moment, because it wasn’t long before I’d donned the obligatory crisp white robe, leapt around on the bed a couple of times before curling up to take in the stunning view.
A dip in the tranquil infinity pool and a stroll along the beach was enough to work up an appetite, and it was a real treat to sit down to a three course meal – having lived on a diet mainly comprising of beans, rice and fried meat for the last couple of months, the thinly sliced beef carpaccio and the fat, sumptuous lobster tail slathered in garlic butter were a much appreciated injection of culinary opulence.
Lying back on the soft, downy pillows later that night, I took a moment to remind myself why I came – to see if I could find a slice of unspoiled luxury in a country that’s been depicted with such a bias towards its crime and poverty. I took a sip of my wine, felt the warmth that comes from a full belly and a relaxed mind, shimmied further under the oh-so appreciated duvet and knew that my mission had been accomplished. The secret’s out people – Roatan is the place to be, be it for a week or a year, for a rucksack-clad romp or a high-end holiday. Don’t believe me? Well then I guess you’ll have to come and check it out for yourself…
Thank you Mayoka Lodge for having me to stay, and for letting me sit in the lap of luxury for one blissful night!