TBT - (1974) "Host To The Mosquito Coast"

Anyone that has lived on a small island knows the meaning of 'Rock Happy'. After a while you find yourself going in circles and not just from following the shoreline. So after 4 years on the island of Utila I needed to expand my horizons, and with a couple backers I started a tour company 'HOST' - (Honduras Safari Tours) In La Ceiba - on the Honduran North Coast.

It was 1974 and Honduran tourism was still in its infancy - but things looked promising. Our big break came when the world leader in ecotourism cruises, Lindblad, contracted our tour company to guide their cruise ship guests around the Honduran Caribbean Coast. Mayan ruins, a Spanish fort, native Garifuna dancers, banana plantations - we crowded them all in that first day. Then the ship went overnight from Puerto Cortez to Guanaja in the Bay Islands for the second day of fun.

The film makers Ron and Valerie Taylor ('Blue Water - White Death') were aboard and we took turns lecturing the guests about diving & snorkeling and the history of Honduras, etc. Then the ship's director, Lindblad Junior, had the Taylors take several Zodiacs with divers out and I was put in charge of the boats with the snorkeling groups. I asked Lindblad if I could get a steel rod or broom handle to take with our group to break up sea urchins and feed the reef fishes. The snorkelers would get a better look at the colorful reef fish. With a look of horror he said: "We do not allow anyone to touch, harm or disturb anything on the reef!" So I asked if I could take along a plastic bag. Giving me a skeptical look, he asked what for - and I said I might have to take a piss while snorkeling and would not want to be a polluter - so I will use the bag. He showed no sense of humor.

On the third morning we anchored just outside the Caratasca Lagoon -near Puerto Limpera, one of the most remote outposts of civilization in the Americas. Into the Zodiac boats went the guests wanting to see what there was in wildlife here in the heart of the Mosquito Coast. Lots of Cayman, manatees (manatees number in the thousands in Central America and SA), water birds, flocks of Scarlet Macaws and parrots, etc. It was like a National Geographic Expedition with all the expensive cameras and gear the guests were using.

Puerto Limpera, was the end of the line for me when the ship sailed on to Costa Rica that night. I spent the next two days trekking through the swamps and jungle getting to a small village called Ahuas to see a friend who had a small plane for collecting 'chicle' from the natives in the most remote areas of the jungle. In these little coastal and river villages there always seemed to be a lot of missionaries. Knowing the pilot Jim had lived out here a long time - one day I asked him: "Have these missionaries made a difference in the lives of the natives?". He replied: "Their behavior has not changed - but now they feel guilt!".

Guilt?! Not as bad as the other things we have brought to these people - like slavery and deadly contagious diseases. But still a bummer.