Utila Diving, Honduras Bay Islands
Utila has the cheapest diving on the planet.
Located on the southern end of the barrier reef that starts in Belize, the Honduran Bay Islands are quite popular with backpackers and travelers, especially Europeans.
The two main islands are Utila, which is the laid-back backpackers dream, and the touristy Roatan, which has an airport and inclusive resorts.
We chose Utila, and weren’t disappointed. James and Lucy had strongly recommended the dive shop “Deep Blue Divers”. We were equally impressed.
After arriving and signing up for the PADI open-water certification ($220), our Aussie friend Justin, Kyle and I were invited to dinner with Kellie, the instructor, and Petal, a master diver student. It’s that kind of quick-friendliness that I’m sure James and Lucy found infinitely appealing.
I never saw much of the town, in fact, it wasn’t until the last night that I explore more than the 5 block area between the hotel, dive shop, bar, and the Bundu Café. Turns out there’s quite a few other dive shops, restaurants, a homemade type movie theatre, etc. People kept telling us the water tower is cool to climb, look into it.
Tunnel vision or not, we had a great time on the island. The open-water course is a 3 day affair. First day is shallow-water figure-out-the-equipment type stuff. Second day was some real diving, though Justin (my diving buddy) and I still were becoming familiar with everything. The third day is mostly fun diving, and we had a blast.
Saw Moray eels, big snapper, cowfish, parrot fish, clownfish, those spiny, camouflaged-type fish, all sorts of others I have no idea what they are.
The north side of the island draws whale sharks, and if that’s your thing, this might be your place. Check the times of year. I hear April is a good time for sightings, though the shop saw 5 during December.
Bundu is a great place to eat. They have these huge relaxing areas, and inside and outside seating. Only open for dinner Sun-Mon when it’s Mexican night. If you’re a Texan, you’ll find it a fair attempt at Tex-Mex. (I say: No salsa, no Tex-Mex!) Everything else was delicious.
True to form, we met as many of the transient locals as we could. By that I mean that it’s a diving town – dive instructors come, teach a while, and leave after some extended period of time. Kellie and Orlando said they’d be there for about half a year total, as I recall. Then there are also the people that come to learn diving. A PADI master diver course is a month or so, and the PADI instructor course is between 2 and 4 months.
Most of our free time was either spent at Coco Locos, on the left side of Deep Blue, or Tranquila, on the right side of Deep Blue. They’re basically identical bars that are on piers stretching into the harbor. Beers L21 for Salva, Imperial, Port Royal.
New Years was a blast. I’d “imported” some fireworks from Guatemala, which were nearly unavailable on the island. We spent the night tossing the triangle sandwich loud ones discreetly and watching the bar jump, and throwing the whizzer spinners at Kellie’s feet. (Sorry, Kellie). Orlando was a big fan of the screaming shooter Silvadores things.
At any rate, we ran out too damn early, but the beer and champagne flowed. Happy 2006!