Cayos Cochinos, Honduras
Dive an Untouched Reef
BASE CAMP: Plantation Beach Resort
ACTIVITY: Aid scientists on an underwater survey
The waters around this collection of coral cays, eight miles (13 kilometers) off the coast of Honduras, are a marine biologist's dream: protected by the government, off-limits to commercial divers and fishermen, and busy with creatures that may not yet have names.
"The Cayos Cochinos reefs are the least disturbed ecosystem in the Bay Islands," says Dr. Matthias Hammer, founder of Biosphere Expeditions. His organization helps keep tabs on this crucial section of the world's second largest barrier reef. It's an important job, and if you're a certified diver you can help. Through Biosphere, teams of volunteers are matched with local marine scientists to monitor the reef.
GAME PLAN: Most folks who sign on for a 12-day trip share bare-bones wooden bungalows at a scientific research station, but if you want cushier quarters, check into the Plantation Beach Resort on Cochino Grande. With comfortable mahogany cottages set at the water's edge, the resort feels like a high-end summer camp—only with rum and people who will be itching to tell you about the rare nudibranch they saw that day on the house reef. The kitchen is terrific; yachties regularly radio ahead for dinner reservations. Set aside some time to hike through the jungle to a lighthouse at the highest point on the island, or head out in a sea kayak to the Garifuna community on nearby Chachahuate. Just be warned: Sample some of their homemade brew and you may find yourself doing the punta, a seductive dance where the hips don't lie.
THE VITALS: Plantation Beach Resort ($110;
www.plantationbeachresort.com). Biosphere Expeditions runs two trips this spring ($2,390; www.biosphereexpeditions.org).
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