Virtually decimated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Guanaja has been slow to recover and rebuild. Many businesses that had been thriving have gone under. What small tourist industry that did exist evaporated.
The only reason to come to Guanaja is to scuba dive. Either that, or to seriously get away from it all. Guanaja is, if nothing else, remote...which is not a bad thing, oh no! The other Bay Islands have better-developed dive and tourist industries. Guanaja has two, maybe three companies that can take you out diving. The tiny island of Utila looks like Key West compared to Guanaja.
(I took the picture through the bubble on a hazy day, which explains why it's not too clear.)
The island of Guanaja lies roughly east/west and is ringed by a coral reef. In the photo above, you can see the very southwest end of the reef and how it protects Bonacca, visible just to the upper-right of center. (Right-click on the picture and select "Open in New Window." It's not that big.) Also visible is the airport runway, adjacent to a canal that bisects the island.
Although the right-hand (southeast) end of the runway looks developed with houses, zooming-in will reveal just a couple of boat-repair shacks (and our big quonset hut of a hangar). On Guanaja itself, right across from the Cay is the town of Pelican (or Pichete as the locals call it). How people built those houses up the hill from the water is beyond me. Every bit of construction material had to be lugged up by hand. There are no cars, and no roads to drive them on anyway. Most people in Guanaja live right at the water level.
Because it's so remote and undeveloped (read: unspoiled), Guanaja has some spectacular Caribbean views. For instance, check this out...
One of the unique structures on Guanaja is Dunbar Rock. It's that little island just to the left of center in the above picture. Some enterprising people built a big (for Guanaja) hotel on the rock. It's changed hands at least one time, maybe more. Most recently, it belongs to the Nautilus Dive Resort. Their website is, um, wordy and full of hyperbole and "poetic license" if not to say a teensy bit of outright bullshit. "Virtually no crime. No panhandling. No dope-peddling, beach-bumming nor randy chick-stalking..." What?! Oh, please. At least they did get it right when they called Bonacca a "...bizarre little hamlet." That, it is. Hold your nose.
But hey, it's their sales job, and if they want to make Guanaja sound like paradise-on-earth that's fine by me. Because...you know...it is. Okay, minor carping aside, Nautilus' website does have some really good stuff about the Bay Islands in general and Guanaja specifically. And I think that despite some real-world concerns, the majority of people who come here will have an incredible, unforgettable, time-of-their-life experience that they'll treasure in their memory for the rest of their lives (okay, that's *my* sales job).
Contractor: "You want me to build WHAT?? WHERE???
As I said, Guanaja is a special place. We have just the very beginnings (or re-beginnings) of a tourist industry here. Nobody wants to see Guanaja turn into St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., but there are the dreamers among us who'd like to see a cruise ship dock. However, I think that there are certain inherent physical limitations to Guanaja that will keep that from happening - at least, for the really big cruise ships. Like that no-road-from-the-airport-to-anywhere thing. "The Road" is a very controversial, contentious and divisive issue. But for Guanaja to progress we are going to have to have a road, that should be obvious. It remains to see what we all define as "progress."
We cannot ruin what makes Guanaja the incredible, spectacular Caribbean hideaway it is. Fortunately, there are guys like my boss with a vested interest in seeing that it doesn't happen - that we don't kill the golden goose.
Now see? I was going to go out and wash the helicopter today, and yet I've spent just about the whole morning writing up this travelogue.