Roatan is the only Bay Island with an extensive road and communication system. The number of tourists that visit the Bay Islands annually now greatly exceeds the population. This tourism is based principally on scuba diving. In 1969 it was estimated that about 900 tourists visited these islands for diving related recreation. That number increased to 8,000 in 1988, and doubled to 17,000 by 1992. With the expansion of the airport runway in 1990, the completion of the first cruise ship terminal in 2000 and the 2nd terminal in 2010 that number has increased substantially and according to recent estimates, the number of tourists has now reached almost 2 million.
While many species found here are the same animals found on the mainland, the isolation of the Bay Islands has provided an opportunity for some endemic species to evolve. There are presently nine species and two sub-species of animals endemic to the Bay Islands.
Roatan is located in the Western Caribbean (16°S, 86°W) approximately 35 miles (56 km) north of mainland Honduras. Roatan is the largest and most developed of the Bay Islands with an area of 49 sq. miles. It has a 30-mile long E-W axis and a 1-2 mile wide N-S axis.
Roatan has a mountainous backbone; only 2% is considered level. It’s many steep peaks, some rising as high as 1,300 feet, make the island poorly suited for agriculture. While the majority of the island possesses slopes between 30 and 75%, they can attain slopes of 90% in some areas. Most level areas are swampy.