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Published: September 21st 2009
Bus after bus and sweat drenched bodies crammed in vans with no air conditioning or open windows we made it to the capital city Teguicigalpa, Honduras. We had no real plans to stay here for more than a night because of the said dangers, but we stretched one night into two and enjoyed our short time here. It was an expensive two days, but as we would find out shortly, Honduras became an expensive holiday across the board. We had to take taxis from place to place beause it was not safe to walk anywhere, but around the air conditioned mall. We spent an entire day walking it, drinking coffee, and seeing a movie. It was our third or fourth movie of the trip, but rising prices of movie tickets in the USA make our movie trips a cheap fun outlet down here. The next day we were off on another 7 hour bus ride to the coast. Our sole reason for coming into Honduras during these tough times was the SCUBA dive one the worlds premier reefs on the Bay Island of Utila. With no problems in transport (no road blocks, protests) we made it to the coast and on
a ferry over to the island in one day. It was exciting making it to our final destination and we were pleasantly surprised at what we found.
Utila is an island mixed with cultures. You have the original honduran families and various western families all living together. Not only do they all work side by side, but the languages have mixed together as well forming a style of english not too different than that of Jamaica. All the locals seem to speak spanish and english and nobody stands out. Even here we could walk down the main road in shorts and sandals without receiving a heavy stare from anyone. Everyone fits in.
Utila doesnt offer much in the way of natural resources besides the reef. Even fresh water is VERY limited. Therefore, this island is a place made for SCUBA diving and not much else. Since we are in central america as well the diving prices are amongst the cheapest in the world. There are companies located up and down the city´s main road making the choice somewhat difficult. Natalie and I opted for a more expensive and reputable company for our second go around of diving. Some
of you may remember we had some problems with our diving company in Colombia a couple years ago. This time we found Alton´s dive shop and it had everything we could need minus fresh water. Top of the line instructors, boats, and equipment. A long dock jutted out into the clear turquoise water with swinging hammocks on the two story gazebo type structure at the end, which was also ideal for jumping into the warm water.
We chose to do our Advanced Open Water Dive Course through a non profit organization named NAUI that only Alton´s offered. It consisted of 6 dives plus 1 fun dive. They included, a buoyancy skills dive, identifying coral and fish dive, a navigation dive, a deep dive to almost 40 meters, a shipwreck dive, and the best a night dive. All were quite exceptional with amazing visibilities. Each dive also included the possibility of locating and swimming with whale sharks and dolphins.
Being that we chose a quality company we were in for a show with the dolphins and whale sharks. One one day our boats captain found a group of wild dolphins so we grabbed our mask and fins only and
Natalie caught this one
jumped in. It was exciting, but not quite what i was hoping for. I had dreams of being in the water with a giant whale shark. The oceans´s largest fish. Anyway, we enjoyed our swimming with the dolphins and all for a $5 tip to the captain. When he finds us a whale shark he gets $10 from each person that gets into the water and gets a good look. Therfore, he has incentive to find these amazing creatures for us. The only problem is that not too many of the sharks have been seen as of late and it would be really lucky for us to actually be on the boat when not only a sighting is had, but that the shark is calm enough to stay on top of the water long enough to allow us to get in the water with it.
Well our luck was high on this trip. Each day we were seeing ¨boils¨in the water. Tuna jumping in a confined area with birds flying over head is a sign a shark is under the surface. Well, on our third day we got reports from the company´s morning boat that was out with a
group of divers and they had spotted 5 sharks and got into the water with them on 4 seperate occasions in 2 hours. We untied ourselves from our dive site and sped over to where they were. It was our time. A 30 ft whale shark or so was hanging about and our whole boat jumped in with mask, fins, and snorkel. The shark was almost vertical in the water with its mouth at the surface and we all got to just hang out and watch it feed. It really just sat there as we hung out around it. Two or three of us decide to swim around toward its head as it began to flatten out in the water. I was within stroking distance of its head. We are not supposed to touch it, but if I wanted to I could have. What an exhilerating experience. Absolutely amazing and its something I will never forget. One of the divers had a camera so we are hoping to get the pictures emailed to us. Anyway, this sighting made the trip, but it really wasnt over yet.
When our dive course was over we wanted to do some more fun
dives and put our experience to use. Instead we were convinced to spend another decent sum of money to take a day trip over to Cayos Cochinos marine reserve to do some really special diving. No boats are allowed in for diving unless everyone pays an entrance fee, and the islands are 1.5 hours from Utila. Altons´dive shop is the only company in Utila that goes there. How could we say no to pristine reef dives, food included, and all you could drink beer and rum on another small island with the native people that would cook us lunch? Nope, we could not say no.
The diving was as we were told. Very much untouched reef system that we got to explore on two very long dives. The first was almost an hour long and the second was 70 minutes long. For further incentive to go, our dive instructor offered to let us borrow her underwater camera for free. This got us excited to capture some of our activities. During the first dive I was a bit overwhelmed with taking pictures and accidently let my left kneed bump into some Fire Coral which gave me a nice burn. It
stung for the remainder of the dive and a little sting for the rest of the day. The stinging was not over however. When I was attempting to get back onto the boat, with one fin off and I just handed over the camera to someone on board i felt and extreme pain in my right knee. It was like 1000 needles had just been stabbed into my leg and I knew exactly what it was. I stuck my head underwater to see the foot long jelly fish that stung me. It was gorgeous. Small clear mushroom like head with 4 long bright red tentacles hanging below. It was beautiful and it stung me good. My knee got some fantastic welts and it burned all day, but in no way ruined the trip. Now I have some lasting marks on my leg a week later and who knows how long they will last. I woke up itching them this morning uncontrollably. Anyway, after an hour break and some snorkeling, we took our second dive and were finished up by about 11 am. Then the beers popped open and the rum came out. We headed over the a small island about
2 acres in size where 30 indigenous people must live in small huts. They cooked us fish and made us some fresh coconut drinks which we put a dose of rum into. Then they played some music for us and made us all dance. It was a great afternoon and one well worth the money. We spent our last few days in Utila hanging about and swimming. We did some snorkeling with a big sting ray...maybe 6 feet long. Steve Irwin was in my mind the whole time so I did not get any closer than 5 feet. Then we had to leave. It was a sad goodbye from a beautiful island and wonderful people. We did get lucky enough to spend Honduras´ independence day there and its much different than our 4th of july. They had boxing matches and a greased pole climb. Tons of fun for everyone.
We did leave eventually and it was another long day of travel with no real problems. Only 1 protest and it delayed a bus of ours 1 hour. Not so bad in the long run. As quickly as we came, we left Honduras and were very glad we made the
decision to visit even during the country´s more difficult of times.
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