Photographer Scott Sporleder checks out some lesser-known Caribbean islands off the coast of Honduras.
MY FRIEND HAD QUIT HER JOB and was taking a year to drive alone from California to Panama. Before she left, she asked me to come down and travel with her through Honduras — better known to me at the time as the “murder capital of the world.” My response: Sounds like fun!
After a bit of research on Honduras, I came across Cayos Cochinos. Also called the Hog Islands, this little group of 13 sits about halfway between the mainland and the resort island of Roatán in the Caribbean.
We were definitely looking forward to the ‘tropical paradise’ aspect, but what really made this trip special was spending our nights on Chachauate, the only island that has a Garifuna fishing village on it. It’s not large (takes about 12 minutes to walk around the whole thing), but once the day-trippers had left we quickly became part of the island crew.
The island of Chachauate - we stayed in a hut on the left side of this picture for $7 a night. No water or electricity, but who needs it with this view. There are a few places to stay in Cayos, but Chachauate is by far the most economical and accessible.
The kids of Chachauate
The kids of Chachauate were the best, sharing stories, playing futbol, and laughing at just about anything. Not sure how, but my name "Scott" got confused as "Oscar," so anywhere I went on the island kids would be running out of huts yelling "Oscar, Oscar," latching onto my legs.
A traditional Cayos canoe, with sails made from just about anything. Tarps, bags, whatever comes their way, the people of Chachauate can make or fix whatever you throw at them...resourcefulness is a must on the islands.
You can arrange a boat out to Cayos Cochinos for $60 a person round trip from the mainland at Sambo Creek. It's a bit spendy, but worth it considering there is no other way to get there. In addition, on the way out you can do some island hopping and stop off at uninhabited beaches like this.
Some of the islands here take literally three minutes to walk around.
The school boat brings the kids home from another long day in the classroom. Children take this boat every morning to Cayo Grande, (the island in the background) where the school is located. Slightly different than my elementary school days...
Common sights on the islands.
A SCUBA instructor told us that the water was around 87 degrees on this day.
In 1994, the Cayos were declared a Marine Reserve. All forms of commercial fishing are now prohibited within the 460 sq km protected area. The local Garifuna are still allowed to handline, but the ban has created a beautiful underwater landscape.
A closer look
The front view of Chachauate and the sea life that lives just off the coast. (Note: This is two images spliced together.)
After a few days, you really begin to settle into the island lifestyle. However, you still have to entertain yourself somehow. Thus, the front-flip contest was born.
"Trekking" the sandbar
Fatigued and sunburnt, we made the strenuous hike, beer in hand, across the sandbar that connects Chachauate with its neighboring island.
Snapper or grouper, take your pick. The largest meal of the day is lunch and will cost around $5, where you get a whole deep-fried fish, rice, and some fried plantains.
Before we ventured out to Cayos, we bought a small kite on the mainland. That purchase turned into three days of fun for us and about 30 kids. Before long, there were streamers, extended wings, and every time I saw that thing again it had undergone a new series of modifications.
Since graduating from San Diego State University, Scott has dedicated 3 months a year to travel and photographing the world's unique cultures. While not on the road, you can visit Scott every summer at the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach. You can also view his travel photography at ScottSporleder.com.