Total distance travelled: 36,642.3 kilometres (22,759.19 miles)
Utila, one of Honduras ‘Bay Islands’ perched out in the Caribbean Sea.
Imagine bright sunshine, sandy tracks, swaying palms, balmy nights…
Now all you need do is substitute the following words. Bright sunshine for rain. Sandy tracks for concrete road, swaying palms for mangroves and balmy nights for mosquitoes, and that is what we experienced.
Okay, so as far as first impressions go, this wasn’t great.
Possibly exacerbating things was the 20 hour previous day (16-17 of those hours on buses) we’d had, so we were also pretty exhausted at this point as well.
Kicking things off was the hour long ferry from La Ceiba to the island, not the smoothest voyage true, in fact it has a reputation it is seemingly intent on maintaining, so it wasn’t long before many passengers were looking various shades of green and/or white.
Thankfully neither Sarah or myself were amongst the aforementioned company.
We actually met a Hungarian by the name of Attila on this ferry, that’s right, a real Attila the Hun, long after I’d conceived the playful title for this post, so it was more amusing than an inspiration. He was however the first Hungarian we have met on our travels anywhere in the world (outside of Hungary of course)!
Our Irish friend Dave (who we’d met in Mexico, Belize & Guatemala) had recommended Alton’s Dive Centre so it was to here we first headed.
Even with no destination in mind, the myriad of touts at the dock could surely have helped us on our way!
We checked them out, and then proceeded to check out a few other dive operations whilst Alton’s kindly allowed us to leave our packs in their office until we made a final decision.
Our final decision wasn’t ultimately with them, so our 4-5 nights on Utila would now be spent at the Pirate’s Bay Inn, the lodging provided with dives through Captain Morgan’s Dive Centre.
We signed up for our PADI Advanced Open Water diving course, then proceeded to spend our first afternoon wandering, when the weather permitted.
A beer at a bar that extended over the water and a smattering of sunshine softened our initially dark impressions of the place
Our diving, was all at 6:45am (our final dive, a Night-dive being the only exception for obvious reasons), so these early starts combined with poor weather meant we never really sampled the Utila nightlife, but despite the average weather, the diving conditions were surprisingly good.
On occasion the seas were a bit choppier than we’d have liked, but on the whole, visibility was better than expected.
These first two dives were also exciting as they included our first ever wreck and deep dives (they were both the first dive) which was not only novel, but certainly the deepest either of us had obviously dived to this point.
It was a drizzly day during the dives, and that was a reflection on most of the days, with sunset being the only time we usually saw bright sun.
That didn’t prevent the diving experience on day two from being quite exceptional, the first another deep dive and also our first wall dive.
To be able to see the ridiculous depths below us was a bit eerie at first, but all such thoughts are quickly forgotten as the thrill of the dive takes over.
Unfortunately for us, there were again no turtles (although another group sighted one, we’re still yet to see one whilst diving), but this disappointment was tempered somewhat by a wonderful sighting of another Spotted Eagle Ray (our second after seeing one in Belize, video courtesy of fellow diver Ralf).
Day three finally produced some sun, and it was under patchy blue and lighter grey skies that we made our way out to the mornings two dive sites.
Another wall dive and some more reef was a bit of fun, and the second dive of the day also produced another wreck, albeit a much smaller vessel than that encountered on our first day of diving.
It was still a cool place to take a peek at some resident fish, and at least get some footage this time having not had our camera with us on that first days diving (it was only on these 2 fun dives we had our camera, for all involved with our course, we tried to stay focused on the necessary tasks).
We’d put some laundry in to be washed and dried, only to eventually receive it back somewhat damp, and forcing us to turn our bunk beds into something resembling a ‘Chinese Laundry’.
Apparently our launderer had taken advantage of some of the days sun, but had possibly also then taken advantage of some of the rain that was prone to arrive immediately after the sun…
We were probably most nervous about our final course dive, the night-dive, as it was a completely new experience for us, especially as it was preceded by a pretty intense downpour.
Thankfully the rains had ceased by the time we all boarded the vessel for our first descent in the dark.
It was certainly a lot less daunting than we expected, but goodness, it was much colder than a daylight dive! Sadly there wasn’t the additional nightlife we’d hoped for, but it was nice to experience in any case.
The real highlight was upon surfacing.
We found ourselves bathed in a beautiful orange light, the sky above us had cleared and was now a ceiling of glittering stars and just cresting the horizon was what appeared the most stunning moonrise we’d seen in a long, long time!
It was at that point that I did regret us not having our Go-Pro with us on that particular dive!
Initially our plans had been to stick around on Utila for an additional day after the completion of our course, but given the inclement weather and pervading damp we had through all of our clothing, we instead opted to continue on our journey.
Besides, surely there’ll be more Caribbean islands still to come…
* Our ferry from La Ceiba to Utila Island cost us $542.00 Lempira per person (one way) and took about an hour (even in fairly calm seas there were a few instances of sea sickness on board).
* We eventually settled on Captain Morgan’s Dive Centre for our diving on the Island (shop around, there are many too choose from, but remember to check their gear and boats, not just the price). Our PADI Advanced Open Water dive certification (5 dives) cost us $5762.00 Lempira each, with free accommodation and 2 free fun dives thrown in as well (they even threw in free lodging for our first night on the island before we’d started diving).