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Published: March 12th 2009
They say there are only three lies on Utila: 1) "I'm leaving tomorrow", 2) "I'm not drinking tonight", and 3) "I love you". In our experience here, we have found this to be true. It is the perfect combination of sunny snorkeling and wild nightlife!
Utila is one of the three Bay Islands off the Caribbean coast of Honduras. We came here to relax in the sun and visit with some friends who are also here. Everyone else comes to scuba dive; naturally, we signed right up. Utila is the cheapest place in the world to learn to dive, and the island is surrounded by coral reefs in a clear, warm ocean. It is idyllic. We dove where our friends already were, at the Utila Dive Center (UDC), which has a world-class reputation (and the most fun staff!). The dive shop seems to be populated mostly with shirtless guys who will come and carry your gear for you. And the ocean views are nice too!
Learning to dive is harder than it might seem. We had some videos, classes and written tests, and then some confined water classes. These are conducted in a few metres of water, where the
class lines up in front of the instructor and demonstrates skills like mask clearing and emergency buddy breathing. We were fortunate to have a class of five, with three instructors, two DMs (DiveMasters - they lead dives, and are generally proficient divers), and two DMTs (DiveMasters in Training). This is a fantastic staff-to-student ratio! The DMTs are like science grad students, in that while they are studying to become divemasters they are minions for the instructors and perform the menial tasks such as readying equipment. They also help in Open Water classes. The instructor beckons to you, and you are supposed to move forward from the line to demonstrate a skill. You then magically feel yourself moving forward, as your DMT picks you up by the tank. If in a hurry, your handler might shove you forward, which is a pretty funny experience as you sail toward your instructor.
Life here is fantastic - diving in the day, and going to crazy bars at night. No wonder the island's population is 90% foreigners! One bar, Treetanic, is literally built into some huge trees, like the fort in Peter Pan. One night here we witnessed the snorkel test, which is
a traditional test that DMs all over the world take when they have finished their DMT class. In front of a crowded bar, the future DM is sat down with a mask and snorkel on. Random alcohols are poured into the snorkel tube, and the DM must drink as fast as he/she can. Apparently the record here is held by a girl.
The diving class ends with two days of open water dives, in which you take a boat to a reef and the class dives to the bottom, practices some skills, and then explores the reef for the rest of the time. This was beautiful, although unfortunately Laura got quite seasick and was unable to complete the second dive. She had to return to the dive shop early the next morning to complete this dive without the rest of the class. This meant that Laura had to go to bed 'early' that night, leading to a divide in experiences between us. The following are our separate narrations, illustrating the differences between Utila daylife and nightlife.
Blair: The current was really strong when Laura got sick. This resulted in a quite humorous experience for the rest of the
View from upper deck.
class. 10m down, we were supposed to demonstrate skills such as the "fin pivot"; you stretch your legs out behind you on the ocean floor and use your breathing to, well, pivot. Instead of pivoting, we all sort of surged from side to side. Fin pivot; check! Most of the class celebrated the accomplishment by heading to the various bars that night. As did all our friends on the island. It seems that virtually everyone on the island starts the night at Treetanic. The bar closes abruptly at 12am, however, and the whole crowd is yelled at by the barwomen to head down the street to "Bar in the Bush." Contrary to the name, the bar is not really in the bush. But the whole island ambles drunkenly down the street, nevertheless. Bar in the bush is famous for selling Nitrogen balloons. It is recommended that you only take one at a time, or else you are liable to black out (No, this is not something we learned from experience). Mayhem and crazy techno dancing generally ensues.
Laura: After treetanic and a bit of bar-in-the-bush, I went to bed early. I had to be at the dive shop at
7:30 (so early!) to do my unfinished dive. I got up at 6, had breakfast, left the hotel at 7, and dropped off some laundry on the way to the UDC. I was so tired that I fell asleep in a hammock at the end of the dock. I was wakened by my instructor Paul shaking it, saying "did you sleep here all night?". It turned out that I was to do my dive alone, with two
instructors - what an amazing luxury! We took a boat to a nearby reef and hopped in the water. We quickly finished my underwater skills, and then Paul and I swam around the reef looking at fish and other life. We saw some cleaner crabs, which apparently will clean your hand if you put it near them. When we came up, it was sunny and beautiful out, and the boat was playing some caribbean party music. We had some time to chat and laze about, as we were waiting for some snorkelers to come back to the boat. A pod of dolphins swam and jumped past us. It was a perfect morning.
Our friend Alice is living on the island with other
Tom, Christian, Laura, Sarah, Alice, and Blair!
friends Sarah, Tom and Christian. We are so jealous of them; the latter three are doing their Divemaster's course, so all four are staying for two months in a little yellow house, reachable only by a short walk through a little field by the sea. It is beautiful. On our last night in Utila, we went over to the house for an intimate wine party. Later on, we met everyone else (including two awesome Canadians Steve and Rod) for dinner, and then went to Tranquilla, a bar with a dock stretching out into the water, for a goodbye-to-us party. It was a lot of fun, but so sad to have made so many great friends and then leave them immediately.
With the diving course we got two free fun dives, which are similar to course dives except that you don't have to demonstrate skills - you just swim around and look at stuff. It was great - we were finally really comfortable with our buoyancy, and were able to swim around and look at fish without concentrating much on technique. We saw so many fish of all shapes and colours, including a huge grouper about two metres long, and
some green moray eels. You can watch videos taken by divers, but they can't convey how amazing it is to see these things up close, and be a part of the reef and ocean. The breathing is like meditating, slow and relaxing, and you float along weightlessly, or hover completely upside-down to see a baby manta ray in the sand. Laura did two extra dives the day after this, having become addicted (Blair was sick and couldn't go) - she saw a nurse shark! We will definitely dive again.
Tot: 0.186s; Tpl: 0.047s; cc: 20; qc: 72; dbt: 0.0332s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb