The coral behind me in this photo is at least 20 feet tall and easily has a circumference of 80 feet. No joke. Although the fogging of my right goggle is certainly something to laugh at.
I’m terrible at selfies on land, so it’s beyond me why I tried to take one underwater. But the coral, known as the mountainous star coral, or Orbicella faveolata, should really be the star of this photo anyway. It’s critically endangered all over the Caribbean and has been decimated by a terrible epidemic known as stony coral tissue loss disease. And yet, here stands this magnificent colony.
And that’s just the way things are in Tela, Honduras, a place where nothing is as you’d expect—in all the best ways.
Last year, I had my world rocked diving in this bay and seeing its phenomenal health with Antal Borcsok, who is the director of the Tela Marine Protected Area and the genius behind the only public aquarium in Central America called Tela Marine.
I’ll never forget how I felt after a dive through the massive elkhorn jungles. It was as if I had seen herds of white rhinos beneath the waves.
When I got back home, I wrote about it and talked about it. Please click through for background and speculation about what’s happening with the coral in Tela.
But a year later, so many questions STILL remain about why this place is so healthy.
So, I brought along two more people to see it: Executive Director of a non-profit that brings families into nature, Heather Kuhlken, and science writer and explorer Tiffany Duong. After the first dive, Heather and Tiff came to the surface and said, “My mind is blown! This place turns everything on its head!”
That’s just the way things are in Tela.
But what an unsatisfying answer. It’s like having one eye fogged. You can see things are beautiful but have no sense of perspective.
On the second day of my visit, I was completely humbled to be named “Embajadora de Arrecifes de Tela” by the Vice Mayor of Tela and the head of the EPA. So, now I’ve got a duty to help find out more about this extraordinary place, and Tiff and Heather are on board too. Hopefully, we’ll be able to bring more attention and more answers to this incredible place together.
And in the meantime, I’m going to work on my goggle game.