Dying in Utila... I mean Diving in Utila - the Bay Islands of Honduras

Utila Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 21 › view all entries
Alton´s Dive Centre.

Well many of my friends and family know that I was due to start my trip in Honduras, but due to the rudeness of the ousted president returning to his country post military coup and creating civil unrest in all major cities - I had no choice but to change my flight from San Pedro Sula in Honduras to Guatemala City in Guatemala, at the last minute.

The start of my big adventure was to include learning to dive on Utila in the Bay Islands of  Honduras, as we´d heard great things about Alton´s Dive Centre on Utila for gaining your Open Water PADI certificate.

View from our room at Altons.

Anyway, let me get back to Guatemala because we went from Montericco back to Antigua to organise our bus to La Ceba in Honduras, which is where you get the ferry across to Utila.  We went with Hedman Alas, which is a well known bus company for travelling across Honduras and which actually turned out to be some what of a luxury coach in terms of Central American buses.  Hence, the bus trip was pretty comfortable and by no means lived up to my expectations of horrible bus rides.  As part of our fare we received chips, cool drinks and a movie plus the seats were comfy and reclined!  I must say though that the first leg of the journey was in a normal shuttle, we did only pick up the luxury coach from Copan in Honduras to San Pedro Sula and then on to La Ceba.

View from our room at Altons - you can see the pier with the hammocks.

We stayed a night in La Ceba at a horrible hostel called The River Lodge - it just looked dirty and there was no running water, so limited flushes on the toilets and no showering.  Outside of the room where we slept was the water pump which kept trying to pump the non existent water and made a hell of a noise.  Apparently they had heavy rains and floods just before we arrived which had affected the water supply - ironically.  La Ceba really is just a pit stop though, you don´t go there to stay very long.  It does however have a large shopping complex but as far as I could see that was pretty much all it had going for it.

Due to the bad weather the ferry hadn´t been going to Utila for a few days, but we were hopeful leaving at 8am on a chicken bus (my first) to head down to the port.

Our ferry in La Ceba.
  The chicken bus ride was cheap and fairly uneventful.  The ferry was pretty ordinary with high set windows and hard seats.  The ride was extremely bumpy meaning I had to horizon watch the whole way, and balanced on the backrest of the seat for over an hour in order to see out the window... major numb bum... but better than nausea or worse though.

On arriving at Utila a mini bus from Alton´s Dive Centre was there to pick us and a few other people up.  Our dive instructor - Steph showed us around Alton´s and to our room, which was right on the water - amazing views and sunsets!  The whole of Altons is in on the water, with their confined diving space just off their pier.  The pier had a cafe - the Snack Shack where we had breakfast and a chill out area with hammocks at the end - great for reading and for diving off and swimming.

Starting our PADI theory.
  They also had an enclosed sea pool as a mini nature reserve with a moray eel and a turtle, plus other little fish which they fed daily.

As we arrived in the morning we agreed to start our PADI course in the afternoon - so back to the classroom!  We did three modules involving watching very cheesy American videos with questions at the end of each chapter and a mutli-choice test.  The following morning we did the final two modules, and after lunch we went to do our confined dive where you learn and practice the skills necessary for safe diving i.e. filling your mask with water while under water and being able to clear the water by blowing air threw your nose, or loosing your regulator - the device that you breath threw - and finding it while continuing to blow bubbles and then clearing it of water before taking a breath.

Floating and looking at my regulator, not convinced yet that this thing will keep me alive under the water...
  Needless to say I found it all very scary and overwhelming... resulting in me doing the I have something wrong signal and asking to go up to the top... and this was only at about 1 meter under water!  I was so freaked out that I was holding on to the pier for dear life with Maree saying to me... but Lyn you have on your BCD (buoyancy control device) you can float!

Thankfully our instructor decided that the water´s visibility was not great, i.e. I could hardly see her or the others underwater and as such she decided to only work with the boys and to pick up with me and Maree the following morning.  Utila had a lot of rain before we arrived, which had caused a lot of silt to kick up off the see floor and the matt in the confined diving area.  The following morning I actually did so much better, managing all the skills without panicking.

Maree and me waiting to reach our first dive spot.
  The afternoon was our first open water dive and unfortunately I panicked again about going so far down under water, which resulted in me only snorkelling at the first dive spot and going down to 5 meters for 15 minutes at the second dive spot.  Steph had actually got another dive master in training to work with me - Bel, and I can only say that she was a g-d sent.  If it weren´t for her I don´t think I would have completed my PADI Open Water, the girl had the patience of a saint and believed in me.  I was mostly angry with myself for letting my fears get the better of me, especially as diving is something I have wanted to do since I went to Thailand in 1998.

I woke the next day wondering if I would be brave enough to give it another go.  We started our day with our final theory test, which thankfully I passed.

Sunset at our second dive spot with the air tanks in the foreground.
.. had I not passed I think things would have gone very differently.  But today... today I was determined.  Steph agreed that I should spend today´s dives just getting used to being under the water and that if all goes well I´ll pick up the final skills the following day.  Bel stayed with me, even holding my hand to help me build up my confidence.  On my first dive we got down to 7 meters and I only came up once.  On my second dive Bel got me down to 12 meters and I actually started to enjoy diving.  This was such an achievement after the day before, you have no idea how hard I had to push myself to get this far!

The following day I picked up my game with two dives to 12 meters, even managing the skills i.e. filling my mask and clearing it, loosing my regulator and using your buddy´s alternative air source.

Another beautiful sunset in Utila.
  Maree and me also did our compass navigation, which was by far the easiest.  The following day we dived to 18 meters and 16 meters, completing the last of our skills, including flooding my mask and doing an emergency CESA which is when you run out of air and have to go to top while ensuring you release all the air from your lungs.  Towards the end of the dive I was no longer holding Bel´s hand, and our final dive I did on my own and really really enjoyed swimming around and checking out all the underwater creatures.  Sooo yipeee... I eventually achieved my PADI open water certificate to 18 meters.

Oh and on our last dive we went down to check out a small wreck and even swam through a small cave - both very cool and such an achievement for me.  We also saw quite a lot of marine life, including angel fish, trumpet fish, stingrays, crayfish, xmas tree worms etc.

A lazy day for me and Maree... reading in hammocks.
  Bel was such a star in getting me certified, she even wanted to toast the achievement with tequila - but seeing as I´m a light weight on tequila I decided against it.

The boys went on to do their advanced diving certs, but Maree and me just used the extra days to enjoy relaxing on Utila - reading, swimming and sleeping.  On one of the days we attempted to access the private beach down the road only to find it deserted and were told by some workmen that it was not open as the beach needed to be cleaned.  The following day we tried to find Pumpkin Hill, which is the highest point on Utila.  We walked in the sweaty hot sun for an hour an a half through jungle, mosquitoes, lizards, crabs, flies and mud... only to discover nothing... that we were probably on the wrong track but without signage or people there was no way we were ever going to find this Pumpkin Hill.

Maree and me still hopeful of finding Pumpkin Hill.
  So we gave up and headed back in to town checking out the infamous Tree Tanic Bar - known for it´s unusual design - looking very much like Gaudi´s work in Barcelona, Spain to me. 

The following morning we were up at 4.30am to leave for Copan on mainland Honduras.

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Alton´s Dive Centre.
Alton´s Dive Centre.
View from our room at Altons.
View from our room at Altons.
View from our room at Altons - you…
View from our room at Altons - yo…
Our ferry in La Ceba.
Our ferry in La Ceba.
Starting our PADI theory.
Starting our PADI theory.
Floating and looking at my regulat…
Floating and looking at my regula…
Maree and me waiting to reach our …
Maree and me waiting to reach our…
Sunset at our second dive spot wit…
Sunset at our second dive spot wi…
Another beautiful sunset in Utila.
Another beautiful sunset in Utila.
A lazy day for me and Maree... rea…
A lazy day for me and Maree... re…
Maree and me still hopeful of find…
Maree and me still hopeful of fin…
Another boat at the port.
Another boat at the port.
Our room on the right on the water.
Our room on the right on the water.
Our room was the last one in the r…
Our room was the last one in the …
Cheesy American training videos.
Cheesy American training videos.
Food... yummmm!
Food... yummmm!
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our …
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our…
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our …
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our…
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our …
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our…
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our …
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our…
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our …
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our…
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our …
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our…
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our …
Sunsets on Utila as seen from our…
Me and Maree sitting outside our r…
Me and Maree sitting outside our …
Me... Jules getting carried away w…
Me... Jules getting carried away …
Maree... Jules getting carried awa…
Maree... Jules getting carried aw…
Jules... need I say more...
Jules... need I say more...
The sunset...
The sunset...
Preparing for our confined dives.
Preparing for our confined dives.
Trying to get my gear on.
Trying to get my gear on.
Trying to get my gear on.
Trying to get my gear on.
Trying to get my gear on.
Trying to get my gear on.
The final touch... putting on the …
The final touch... putting on the…
Doing our final checks.
Doing our final checks.
Doing our final checks.
Doing our final checks.
Putting my regulator, getting read…
Putting my regulator, getting rea…
Stepping in to the water... or did…
Stepping in to the water... or di…
Some of the fish you could see fro…
Some of the fish you could see fr…
A crab seen from outside our room.
A crab seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Fish seen from outside our room.
Our first open water dive - Al che…
Our first open water dive - Al ch…
Our first open water dive - Al and…
Our first open water dive - Al an…
The kit on the boat.
The kit on the boat.
Sunset at our second dive spot wit…
Sunset at our second dive spot wi…
Sunset
Sunset
Al and Jules returning from their …
Al and Jules returning from their…
Al coming out of the water.
Al coming out of the water.
Jules coming out of the water.
Jules coming out of the water.
Jules fetching his water cap from …
Jules fetching his water cap from…
Sunset from our room at Altons.
Sunset from our room at Altons.
Heading to the end of the pier for…
Heading to the end of the pier fo…
Maree and Al on the booze cruise.
Maree and Al on the booze cruise.
Me and Maree on the booze cruise. …
Me and Maree on the booze cruise.…
Jules on the booze cruise... looki…
Jules on the booze cruise... look…
Alton´s put on a pig fry and sala…
Alton´s put on a pig fry and sal…
Me, Maree, Al and Jules finishing …
Me, Maree, Al and Jules finishing…
There is a tradition for newly qua…
There is a tradition for newly qu…
Almost ready.
Almost ready.
Skull skull skull.
Skull skull skull.
Some of the signs along the main r…
Some of the signs along the main …
Dinner at Munchies one night.
Dinner at Munchies one night.
Kitty!
Kitty!
Me and kitty.
Me and kitty.
Kitty in red.... yes I am this sad.
Kitty in red.... yes I am this sad.
Back to Munchies for lunchies!
Back to Munchies for lunchies!
Munchies had an Iguana Garden.
Munchies had an Iguana Garden.
An iguana in the garden.
An iguana in the garden.
An iguana in the garden.
An iguana in the garden.
An iguana in the garden.
An iguana in the garden.
Sunset...
Sunset...
Sunset...
Sunset...
Our attempt to visit the private B…
Our attempt to visit the private …
Walking through the Bando Beach en…
Walking through the Bando Beach e…
Bando Beach.
Bando Beach.
Bando Beach - deserted.
Bando Beach - deserted.
Bando Beach - deserted.
Bando Beach - deserted.
Bando Beach - deserted.
Bando Beach - deserted.
Me at Bando Beach.
Me at Bando Beach.
Me at Bando Beach.
Me at Bando Beach.
Walking around Utila.
Walking around Utila.
The night dive bought heading out …
The night dive bought heading out…
What can I say... sunsets are devi…
What can I say... sunsets are dev…
Walking around Utila, I just loved…
Walking around Utila, I just love…
One of the amazing properties on t…
One of the amazing properties on …
Alton Cooper the town´s major and…
Alton Cooper the town´s major an…
Trying to find Pumpkin Hill... a p…
Trying to find Pumpkin Hill... a …
The long road to... no where...
The long road to... no where...
Going bush... still to no where...
Going bush... still to no where...
In the jungle...
In the jungle...
In the jungle...
In the jungle...
Walking around Utilia, went to The…
Walking around Utilia, went to Th…
The Jade Seahorse.
The Jade Seahorse.
Heading in to the Jade Seahorse.
Heading in to the Jade Seahorse.
The Jade Seahorse and the Tree Tan…
The Jade Seahorse and the Tree Ta…
Walking around the Jade Seahorse.
Walking around the Jade Seahorse.
Very eclectic.
Very eclectic.
The stairs heading in to Tree Tani…
The stairs heading in to Tree Tan…
Utila - Walking around Tree Tanic.
Utila - Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Hot and sweaty... takikng a break …
Hot and sweaty... takikng a break…
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Walking around Tree Tanic.
Me at Tree Tanic.
Me at Tree Tanic.
Utila
photo by: Yoshu