Dying in Utila... I mean Diving in Utila - the Bay Islands of Honduras
Utila Travel Blog› entry 6 of 21 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The following morning we were up at 4.30am to leave for Copan on mainland Honduras.