This week I will be exploring Tela, one of the three stars in Atlantida. I have an interest to visit the New Tela Coral Aquarium. Recently, I read about this interesting facility and I really want to visit it. I am not only passionate about the coral reefs and the diversity of life that can be found in them. It is also a matter of pride for Honduras that an organization such as Healthy Reefs has reported that the health of the Mesoamerican barrier reef in Honduras is much better than that of our neighbors, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico. This reef is the most biodiverse in the World!
A Visit to the Tela Coral Aquarium
The new Tela Coral Aquarium is an initiative of the Tela Marine Research Center. This research center is within the facilities of Honduras Shores Plantation, right on the one of the best beaches in Central America. Few are aware of the existence of a magnificent and healthy reef that is just off the Bay of Tela! Tela Dive Center offers diving packages to dive to this unique, and unexplored reef few have seen. The Honduras Shores Plantation is an interesting development that includes residences, a small hotel, a beach club and now the Tela coral aquarium. It is in the environs of the Municipality of Tela, between the Garifuna Communities of San Juan and Tornabe.
Getting to the Tela Coral Aquarium
There are two different routes you can take to get to Honduras Shores Plantation. The first is to follow the dirt road that runs west from Tela, parallel to the beach. After passing the Garifuna town of San Juan you will soon arrive at Honduras Shores Plantation. Unfortunately, the road is currently in a bad state of repair, and therefore, it will take you the better part of an hour to get there. By chance, I took the other route, which is taking the paved highway that leads north just across the police station in the village of Venecia, in Tela. This road leads to the Indura Hilton Golf Club and Hotel. The route has a good asphalt surface all the way to the Garifuna Village of Tornabe. The only complicated issue here is that you will have to drive across the Tornabe sand bar.
The Tornabe sand bar is a narrow tongue of sand that separates the Caribbean Sea from the Cola de Mico Lagoon. This sand bar is usually closed, unless there have been strong rains that break it open. To maneuver across the Tornabe sand bar it is best to have four-wheel drive car. If your car is not four-wheel drive, then make sure you stay within the wet part of the beach, this will provide better traction. Do not stop in the middle of the road!
If for any reason you get stuck, do not dig yourself deeper and deeper into the sand. The folks at Tornabe will soon come out and give you a helping hand. Do give them a tip for their assistance once you are out! From here, you are very close to Honduras Shores Plantation. A tip, if you are unsure about this, wait a few minutes and you will see other vehicles maneuver through the Sand Bar. Most are not four wheel drive and get through without any problems.
The facility includes many private homes, mostly foreign owned, as well as a hotel and beach club. Within the facility, next to the beach I found the brand new Tela Coral Aquarium. It is within a nice wood structure and is the first aquarium of this kind in Central America! The aquarium is air conditioned and has a friendly staff that will show you around. Best of all, as of this moment, there is no entrance fee! Although I would not be surprised if the decide to charge an entrance fee to help them with the maintenance within a short time.
The new Tela Coral Aquarium is open daily from 10 am till 4 pm. Here I found several exhibits with a variety of corals as well as with variety of fishes. Best of all, they are native to the Bay of Tela! I was stunned by the color of both the corals and the fish. Fiama, the guide in charge when I visited was very friendly, patient and knowledgeable.
Get Interactive at the Tela Aquarium
I was most impressed with the interactive exhibit, where visitors can put their hands into a shallow fish tank and interact with different organisms. Of course, they must be careful not to take them out of the water. They are also instructed not to put their hands in the water if they have used any lotions, creams or repellents, as the chemicals will harm the living organisms.
One of the highlights was the exhibit where you could see the beautiful, but destructive lionfish. This species is not native to the Caribbean. IT has become a serious threat to the Mesoamerican barrier reef habitat. It has no natural predators, yet it has become one of the most aggressive predators in the Caribbean reef systems.
Fortunately, the lionfish is very tasty, and more and more restaurants serve meals utilizing their meat. We believe that the lionfish made it to the Caribbean when they grew to large to be in fish tanks and were liberated in the ocean. It is a very pretty fish and many people love to have it in their fishbowls and tanks. They never thought that their cute little fishes would become dangerous predators to the local ecosystem.
The Tela Coral Aquarium allows you to interact and learn about the diverse organisms that live within a reef. It teaches us that coral reefs are living organisms, and they are vital to marine life. My visit to the Tela Coral Aquarium was a learning experience that I enjoyed. You should not miss this great attraction in Tela. Especially if you have never had a chance to dive or snorkel and therefore have never been up close to the subaquatic world. While doing so, enjoy the magnificent beaches in Tela. They are spectacular and probably the best in mainland Central America.