One of my favourite dive sites on Utila is the Halliburton Wreck and I never grow tired of it. It is a 30m (100ft) long cargo ship that was purposely sunk in May 1998 and lies perfectly upright with the bottom of its hull being at 30m on a sandy bottom. It is just 3 minutes away from Utila Dive Centre in the harbor near the lighthouse and offers us so much rich content for many types of diving.
Since it has been lying in the ocean for 13 years now, it has become a rich ecosystem for coral and marine life. For example, there are huge clams on it and they have been there so long that coral is now growing on them, so as they open and close the coral moves with them, which is a great sight to see. Typically the wheel house section of the wreck is home to 100s of tiny fry and one large dog snapper. There is also one of the most enormous Green Moray that I have ever seen that makes occasional appearances…I have no idea where he hides the rest of the time and as he is so large I am not sure I want to know either! It is also the place I had one of my most memorable diving moments on Utila. I was teaching a lovely couple Advanced Open Water and on our safety stop dolphins started circling us. At the time I was showing them how much a bottle that we had filled with air at depth had expanded on the way up, but soon stopped that and frantically began waving at them to turn around and look behind them. Then not only could I hear the clicks of the dolphins but also the high pitched squeals of the students!
My favourite parts of the dive can actually be the descents and ascents, you leap into crystal clear water and are immediately surrounded by blue water. All you can see at first as you drift down is the bubbles of other divers and it is like you are flying through space, so beautiful and so tranquil. Then Rainbow Runner and Yellow Tailed Snapper fish start circling you and suddenly the ship appears from the water below. On the way up, you drift gently up in a cloud of bubbles and then, glancing down you notice the ship has vanished again. Just imagine the amount of treasures in the ocean that we must swim past and never see….
The wreck is perfect for fun divers with their Advanced certification but it is also a great place to take students for their deep dive for the Advanced course. Everyone falls in love with the wreck and I have often had students come to the surface afterwards and say it was the best moment of their life. That kind of excitement just brings chills to me and is absolutely why I am a dive instructor. It is also fabulous for the Wreck Specialty classes we regularly teach at Utila Dive Centre. There are plenty of places to penetrate the wreck and they are challenging enough to test the students’ new found skills with a reel and torch and modified kick techniques. However they are not so deep or complicated that they overwhelm the student, just enough to give them a sense of achievement and to know they can do it. We also have wreck specialty divers who are also Sidemount divers (more about that in future updates) and that allows them even more freedom to explore the inside spaces of the wreck.
If you come diving to Utila, it is one site I definitely recommend you do not miss.