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Utila, Honduras Dive Festival

The small island of Utila, Honduras, hosted their first annual dive festival 18-25 August 2012.  My husband and I were looking for a nice diving vacation and were strongly considering Belize.  When we heard about the dive festival and how inexpensive a vacation was to Honduras, we were sold.  Utila is located just south of Belize, so the diving is similar.  It’s also located right beside Roatan, but it is a bit more remote.

Puddle Jumper Flight to Utila

Puddle Jumper Flight to Utila

Getting to Utila was a bit of a challenge.  We are located north of Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., so we had to fly from SLC to Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.  From there, we flew into San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  After quite a layover (about 4 hours), we took a puddle jumper over to Utila.  The airport in Utila was quite…interesting.  The jungle was encroaching on the runway, and children were playing around the parked planes.

Utila Airport

Utila Airport

From the airport we took a taxi, one of the few vehicles on the island, over to the boat dock.  To my knowledge, there are no roads (or at least easily accessible) over to the dive village, so a boat was our only real option.  The boat ride around the island was beautiful, and the stars overhead were absolutely stunning.  Unfortunately the water current at the dive village’s dock was a bit strong when we arrived, so we had to use a different dock about a 15 minute ride through the jungle away.

Jungle Truck Ride

Jungle Truck Ride

For the week, we stayed with Utopia Dive Village (5 star rating on TravelAdvisor based on 173 reviews as of this writing).  It’s pretty much the most remote resort on the island, and it boasts an absolutely phenomenal house reef.  Our room was only feet from the beach.  The beach wasn’t spectacular (no soft white beaches), but that’s because it’s made of huge chunks of coral.  Bad beaches usually mean awesome reefs!

Utopia Dive Village

Utopia Dive Village

 

Our Room

Our Room

Their dive package included two morning boat dives and unlimited shore diving.  The shore diving was comparable to the best dive sites on the rest of the island, so we took full advantage of the unlimited diving by hitting up to 4 dives a day several days.

Utopia's House Reef

Utopia’s House Reef

The dive festival started on Saturday evening, 18 August, with nice equipment/activity package raffles, food, and music by The Scuba Cowboy.  My husband won a two-hour stand-up paddleboard lesson, and other prizes raffled off included cameras, regulators, and even vacation packages.

The Scuba Cowboy

The Scuba Cowboy

Sunday’s festival started with peak performance bouyancy challenges where we all learned/perfected how to do barrel rolls, head stands, and even had an underwater egg-and-spoon race.  This helped me *finally* not look like a newbie underwater.  Other activities (that we did not participate in) included a sunrise dive, freediving lessons, volleyball competitions, and a pub trivia night with scuba themes.

Diving Shenanigans

Diving Shenanigans

Monday was an absolute blur with activities.  We started with a deep dive, had lessons on fish identification and behaviors, and followed up our training with a fish identification dive.  Although we are deep dive certified, this deep dive was like none other.  We cracked eggs underwater and played with the yolks bouncing around.  It was weird, but really fun, especially as large fish got curious about the food.  Then, our guide pulled out an odd-looking green fruit.  She showed us how we could eat it underwater, so we all took a bite.  When we resurfaced, she asked us to guess what the fruit was.  Turns out, it was a red tomato.  Red color disappears with depth, so at our depth, the tomato appeared green.  Other Monday activities included hyperbaric chamber tours (one was located on the island for diver safety), rebreather equipment trials, and a casino night.

French Angels Interested in the Eggs

French Angels Interested in the Eggs

Tuesday was a bit more calm with more fish identification, presentations on whale sharks, a local food festival, and other technical equipment trials.

Montipora Elkhorn

Montipora Elkhorn

The weather was less-than-ideal on Wednesday and Thursday with high current, so we were only able to hit 2-3 dives each day.  Even with the inclement weather we had night dives, sunrise dives (that meant waking up at 2am), and photo contests.

Lobster on a Night Dive

Lobster on a Night Dive

Corals at Night

Corals at Night

The last day of the dive festival was Friday, 25 August.  It started with an underwater cleanup.  We chose a local fishing village that had a trash problem to help through Project AWARE.  Since everyone was flying out on Saturday, the rest of Friday consisted of additional opportunities to tour the hyperbaric chamber and the closing ceremonies.

Relaxing on the Dock

Relaxing on the Dock

It was an amazing week with plenty of opportunities to try new equipment, diving techniques, and to socialize with other serious divers.  If you’re looking for fantastic diving for a good price, this is it.  Keep following for more pictures and reviews of dive sites!

Utopia

Utopia

 

 

2 comments

  1. john

    I love your photos…we will be diving here in March2013…and we are looking at getting a camera. can i ask what equipment you used? thanks! Looks beautiful !!w

    1. admin

      Awesome! I’m sure you’ll love it, and I’m glad to hear you’re getting a camera. I felt very bad for all the folks diving with no camera. At the end of the week they were begging for copies of everyone’s shots. I think March is the start of their whale shark season too! Anyway, I use a Canon S95 camera (shoots RAW+JPEG and full manual, even though it’s a point & shoot) with the Canon underwater housing. I also use a Sea&Sea tray and YS-01 strobe. Since the water was so clear in Honduras, the strobe was overkill in all but night dives even on its lowest setting. I highly encourage you to research this setup – I did a ton of research, and it was one of the best “bang-for-the-buck”. I have to admit I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to photography, so you should look up others photos taken with this setup underwater. They are quite comparable to DSLR underwater photos at a fraction of the price. Hope that helps! Have a great time!

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