Today I realized what it is that makes Utila such a unique and amazing place to dive. As the daily boats came back into Utila Dive Centre and I chatted to the returning divers, I couldn’t help but notice just what a range of courses and dives we had in just one day. Open Water divers starting their adventure, advanced divers honing their skills, Wreck specialty divers returning from the 30m long Halliburton and Sidemount divers who had been exploring Airport Caves delighting in the freedom Sidemount gave them. As the boats arrived back we also had the organized chaos of a Rescue course off of the dock, which is always entertaining…as we say that is a course that is “serious fun”!
The great thing here on Utila is we have sites that are perfect for all these courses and fun divers. Utila has more than 40 marked dive sites, most within 10 or 15 minutes of the dive centers. Over the next few updates about life at Utila Dive Centre and Utila, I’ll tell you about some of the favorite sites and what they have to offer.
Today I’ll start with the first boat back which had Open Water divers on it. They were literally brimming with excitement after their first ever dives in the ocean. They had been to Little Bight (which means Bay in local language) and then Black Coral Wall (which unsurprisingly is a wall with black coral on it!) Little Bight is a massive white sand underwater beach surrounded by coral. The sand patch is perfect for new divers to learn about buoyancy without damaging the reef and then they are lead out onto the reef to see their first glimpse into the underwater world. Little Bight is gorgeous. The sand patch is home to curious garden eels, tiny Pedersen Cleaner Shrimp and Arrow crabs and Spiny and Peacocok flounder.
All of these have great appeal to new divers…point at a Garden Eel and they think it is sea grass until they suddenly see it is moving and then peering at them. Show them a flounder and they think it is just sand until it suddenly decides to move. Get them to lay down and put out a finger and then hear the underwater squeals as the shrimp jumps on and starts to clean their nails. There are also regularly up to 22 squid that string themselves out in a line and change color. Because the sand patch is so shallow (starts at about 4m) and so the reef is also shallow at the start of the wall, it is also like a nursery for fish with tiny versions of all the fish you see as you venture further out along the reef. The reef at Little Bight actually goes down as deep as 25m or so and is beautiful, softly fringing with amazing soft cora,l so not only is it good for students but for general divers and also photographers for macro photos.
To add to the general excitement they had also had the opportunity to snorkel with dolphins in their surface interval. The Instructor had heard their clicking on the dive and Captain Errol went off in hot pursuit to where he thought they were…and sure enough a huge school of over 200 dolphins (both Bottle Nose and Spinners) was also enjoying the waters of Utila. The divers leapt in with snorkels and mask and fins and the dolphins were very playful. As one of the new divers said, as he sipped an ice cold beer whilst watching a glorious sunset from the Night Dive Bar on the dock at Utila Dive Centre….”days don’t get much better than that”??