Utila, one of three Bay Islands and former Pirate/British Colony (but not at the same time) and now popular Honduran tourist destination, is today most known for their cheap and wonderful scuba diving; this duo’s next destination!
Our journey to Utila was broken up into two parts, the first of which was a 12 hour multi-bus haul from San Pedro, Guatemala to Copan Ruinas, Hondurus. From there it took another 12 hours on buses and a floating fortress to get to Utila. Exhausting as it was, we were pumped to be on an island again and got there just in time to watch the sunset over the Carribean.
Our goal while on Utila was to become PADI certified – open water divers, which means we can scuba dive anywhere in the world up to 18m/60feet. We had arranged with a CS, Talon, who is working as an instructor, to recieve our certification via Deep Blue Divers.
The course requires you to read 5 chapters in the textbook which you are later tested on; watch the corresponding 5 videos; put your knowledge to action with 5 confined water dives (off the dock) and give those skills a try in 4 open water dives at depth. All dive shops also throw in two free “fun dives” once you have completed the course. All this, plus free accomodation while you are becoming certified for $250 USD! Thanks to a steady supply of backpackers and numerous dive shops, it’s a deal that can be found at any dive shop on the island.
Our instuctor Henry was amazing. Any uncertainty we had about this potentially life-threatening activity going in, was erased because of his patient and confident teaching style.
We took it slow at first, wanting to make sure we were prepared. As we progressed, we naturally gained more confidence up to our first open water dive. This is a very exciting point in the course because, for the first time, you enter the water from a boat and explore the reef. Lucky for us, 10 minutes into the dive we saw a Spotted Eagle Ray, one of the most graceful looking swimmers you could ever hope to see!
Being a good diver requires you to achieve neutral boyancy where you are literally weightless like a floating astronaut. A sensation unlike any other… on top of breathing underwater. Pretty soon Chelsea and I had the skills down pat, clearing our masks, buddy breathing, learning the signals, preparing gear, ect.
After our fourth and final open water dive, Chelsea and I were announced to the crowd of scuba divers on the boat that we were officially Open Water Divers. After everyone finished clapping one of the dive masters on board spotted some dolphins swimming around a nearby boat. We quickly called the other divers that were still in the water to the surface and as soon as they got on the boat we took off to get a closer look.
I thought they might be scared by the boat but as we got closer, dolphins were breaching on all sides of us. Immediately we all slid into the water, snorkles only (by law) and started swimming towards the pod. It was a mad house, close to 20 swimmers in the water all dying for a chance to swim with wild dolphins.
We all swam and swam for what seemed like 10 minutes spotting one or two swimming beneath. It appeared that we might have scared them off and so I stopped swimming.(I didn’t!!!!) Looking around at the surface, some were still chasing them (me) but most seemed to have given up as well. But as I took another look in the water I saw two whiz by me. Then, another and another. Pretty soon there were dolphins everywhere, some spinning, circling around us, swimming within inches of my outstretched hand. At this point I remember relaxing in the water, not being able to move just in awe of the events unfolding around me. We were playing with wild dolphins! This is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Seeing these incredible creatures that close and that playful was a moving experience!
Our last day on the islands, we teamed up with Henry and another Couchsurfer, Vince for a shore dive. He led us through these caverns and tunnels through the reef spotting colorful and interesting marine life. It turned out to be the best dive we had. Huge cave crabs, Yellow Sting Rays buried in the sand, sea cucumbers that looked like giant slugs underwater – amazing things we didn’t even know existed.
It’s certainly hard to top swimming with dolphins as the best part about Utila, but overall our time there was one of the most memorable on our entire trip. Breathing underwater is such a cool feeling and because of it, a whole new world has opened up for us to explore.. As if there wasn’t enough to explore already!