One of Utila´s Beaches
Well, we have finally arrived on Utila, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras. The bus to La Ceiba
(the port was fine), but the ferry over here definately wasn't. I had forgotten until we set off that the guide book said that they gave out free travel sickness pills at the terminal (they didn't). The 'Utila Princess II' was a horrendous boat, where we were all literally locked into the downstairs areas, and although there were windows, you couldn't actually see anything out of them. And there was certainly nothing majestic about the journey. As soon as we started off, I realised how bumpy the ride was going to be, and my stomach began to lurch. The various bus journeys in Central America along the series of long, winding roads have certainly tested my stomach's anti-sickness ability, but none as much as this journey.
Bhanji on a swing on the beach
Luckily, a Dutch couple whom we had been speaking to at the terminal, took pitty on me, and gave me one of their travel sickness pills (the girl also didn't travel too well), so we both went to stand at the front of the boat where we could see the waves approaching. The motion of the boat was horrible, as there were really big rolling waves which we were going up and over, and as there was no wind in the cabin (only rather malfunctioning a/c) it made the sickness even worse!
At least the journey wasn't too long, and was over 1 hour later. I had also managed (just) not to be sick, which was also a positive. As we waited for our bags on the ferry, we expected to be bombarded by different dive shops all clamouring for our business as we had been told would happen, but none came to us.
The Mango Inn Pool where we stayed (with diving instructor training going on in the pool)
However, this was all to come. The moment we stepped off the pier onto firm ground we were approached by a representative from one of the shops. We obviously asked all the questions about how much courses were and what their accomodation was like (most shops give free accomodation for students doing the dive courses). 20 minutes and 6 dive schools later however, we were getting pretty tired of this and had promised everyone that we would have a look around in the morning. It was then that we were approached by Utila Dive Center. I had seen Utila Dive Center on the web and it looked really good, and was recommended by our book. I liked their honesty. The guy started by saying that they were the most expensive, and proud to be so as they felt their courses were the best by far, and so if we were on a tight budget then they might not be the best option for us.
Sophie´s back (and the main street)
The guy happened to mention that he'd had a group of 4 guys from Newcastle the day before who were staying and diving with them, and as we asked more questions it seemed more and more likely that it was Bhanji, our friend from Ski Club who had been doing his dentristy elective in La Ceiba! And the dive school in question also has the Mango Inn as their base accommodation which I'd seen on the internet (and rather secretly liked the look of) although their published prices, even in low season were wayyyyyy above our price range. As it seemed that Bhanji was going to be there, and our accomodation was free during the course and only $3 on the first night, we decided to go with them, so went up to the hotel. It's really nice compared to the places we've stayed before.
To be honest, the rooms are basic, as they have separate dorms (only 4 people) and rooms for their dive students which makes sense. However, we were lucky to get one of their 'couples' rooms for students, so have a room with a double and single bed and 2 fans all to ourselves for free! And the funniest coincidence was that it is Bhanji that the guy was speaking about, and that their 4 person dorm is right next to our room!! The best bit about the hotel, and the reason that I was originally attracted to it, is that it has a pool, which is so nice for the heat here!
We went down to have a look at the dive shop, and compared to some of the others, it is very professional looking, well organised and all the people there are very friendly - from all over the World too (Rob, our instructor, is from Exeter).
Out for dinner with Bhanji and the Newcastle Medics and some other people from their dive course
So we signed up for the 4 1/2 day PADI Open Water Course which will cost us $289 which includes all our accommodation, breakfast each day, all our books and equipment, free snorkelling and kayaking trips and a pretty cool Utila dive centre t-shirt! So we're pretty happy, as we both decided that learning how to dive was not something to be a cheap-skate about as it's a dangerous sport, and the prices here are so much cheaper than anywhere else in the world!
We're due to start at 4pm tomorrow, but in the morning we're going to go out on the boat with some of the more advanced divers and snorkel at 3 of the islands prettiest locations and then have lunch on a beach somewhere before getting back for our first 'lesson'. And apparantly there is hope of seeing Whale sharks, which have been spotted around the island recently!! (apparantly they're not harmful - fingers crossed!)
Think we'll head out for some supper somewhere local tonight, and maybe to the 'Treetanic' bar, which is awesome - reminds me a bit of Sophia's, it on a rooftop, and the whole of the downstairs (including the toilets is all decorated with jewels and all sorts of things) - pretty hard to explain, but will take some photos tomorrow and post them on here soon.
James and Bhanj
Hope you're all well! xx