Drop the Pilot


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Published: June 21st 2018
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Unquestionably one of the highlights of Honduras are the Bay Islands. We’ve come to Utila which is the smaller and cheaper of the 2 main islands (the other is Roatan) and also happens to be closer to the coast so easier to reach by fast ferry. We’ve here for 10 fun dives with one of the PADI dive schools (Dive Altons) which friends had recommended.

Utila is really all about diving. There are over a dozen dive schools here all offering much the same sort of deal, but each school has their own slightly different emphasis – some have a bit of a party scene and others a more serious style. Altons seems to be about right for us and has good on-site accommodation which is free on the days you dive with them. The dive schools in Utila cater mainly for dive courses, most people here are on either Open Water, Advanced and speciality courses. It’s a good place to do these, prices are about as low as anywhere in the world, conditions are perfect for training and quality of instruction – at Altons at least- look very good. What this means is that there aren’t actually very many

Utila dive sites
other people doing fun dives so groups are small. Altons also separates their fun divers into groups based on experience/certification level so we always are diving with advanced divers and manage 60 minutes dive time for almost every dive.

A real bonus is the chance to spot dolphins or whale sharks between dives. As an incentive to the boat captain there is a small charge payable to him for anyone who jumps off the boat for a better view. We’re hoping for whale sharks and these are often seen here, but not on any of our days, however one day we do see Pilot Whales, which are pretty rare and I get a good view of two of them as they dive right under us. On two other days we see pods of dolphins and I am lucky enough to have a few minutes snorkelling with them and they do come quite close.

Unfortunately I don’t take any underwater pictures whilst we’re here. My camera is waterproof but without an underwater housing but I don’t want to risk it. Interestingly very few other divers here have uw cameras.

Overall we have 5 good days diving, doing 2

Snorkelling with pilot whales
dives every morning. The dives are fairly easy, there’s no current here and consistently good visibility, though water temperatures at 26C are a little lower than we’re used to. Fish life is good rather than great – this doesn’t seem to be a great spot to see turtles, sharks or rays but the coral and sponges are beautiful and there is a good mix to the different dive sites (reef, wall, sand, wreck) which keeps it all interesting.

To get here from Belize took us 2 days of travelling. On the first day we took a water taxi, bus and then a ferry (really another water taxi) from Punto Gorda to the town of Puerto Barrios in Guatemala. The ferry is small, takes about 90 minutes and needs to cross a fairly open stretch of water so is not for nervous sailors. We have mixed conditions, rain but not too rough. Puerto Barrios isn’t the best place in the world but is alright for a night. The next day we decide to decline a direct shuttle to La Ceiba (50 usd each) and instead find our own way on local buses. This means, one from Puerto Barrios to the

Dive Altons pier
Honduras border, another bus to Puerto Cortez, a 3rd to San Pedro Sula and a 4th from there to La Ceiba. We make an early start and things go well – we have almost no waiting and quick buses - so are in the bus station at San Pedro Sula just after noon. Here we have over an hour to wait for the bus to La Ceiba which is comfortable but a little slow so we don’t arrive in time to catch the evening ferry to Utila (but we hadn’t expected to so had pre-booked a hotel in La Ceiba). Though this is in a poor part of town near the main bus station, it has a swimming pool and a small restaurant and is right next to a supermarket that sells beer, so we don’t need to go out after dark, which according to our guide isn’t recommended here.


Additional photos below
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Utila bay


Utila main street


Looking from Utila back to the mainland


Heavy rain in Belize


Ferry from Punta Gorda


Fast ferry to Utila


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