What do we do when we're not chasing chicken buses from one town to the next? Here's a hint.
To balance out the frenzied, amazing race style segments of our journey, we occasionally take time to relax…and to work. For the last week, we have been doing just that on Utila, one of Bay Islands on the northern coast of Honduras.
Much of our time recently has been spent working on a website development project. But away from our laptops and the unreliable wifi signal (we swear one of our neighbors must be downloading TV shows all day long) in our rented apartment, we take advantage of Utila's diving and beach opportunities.
Traveling Above and Below the Water's Surface
Before we deliver a rundown of the marine life we encountered on our dives, we offer a passing thought.
Some people take to scuba diving the same way they might take to travel in general — that is, by checking off all the must-see sights on some Top 10 list in their guidebook. Some miss a few sights and feel cheated for not having accomplished the entire list. Some catch all ten sights but miss everything else along the way because they forgot to look around. And others just see what they can see.
The great opportunity in the underwater journey, like travel on land, lies deep in the enjoyment and appreciation of the ordinary. So on your next dive, a parrot fish here, a squirrel fish there, and colorful coral might be all that you are destined to see. Is that sufficiently fulfilling? Or just cause for misery…if all you came for were the sharks.
In the end, it's all about managing expectations and being happy with what is, rather than what could have been.
What We Saw on our Dives
This time underwater, we lucked out as we dove the north side of Utila. We witnessed the ordinary: schools of flying fish on the ride out to the site; beautiful coral and a colorful parrot fish being cleaned (molested?) by a sharksucker remora fish riding his dorsal fin.
With that, we could have surfaced satisfied.
Later, we came across a nurse shark taking a rest in sandy break between coral. And just as our dive was about to end, an enormous southern stingray (as in 1.5 meters, or more than 5 feet across) allowed us an extended look before gliding off into the deep.
We all surfaced on a diving high. Paraiso (Paradise) – the name of the dive site – was spot on.
Practical Details for Utila, Honduras
Scuba Diving: Every other business in Utila is a dive shop, so there's no shortage of diving options. Many people visit Utila for their Open Water dive certifications because its one of the cheapest locations around to do so. The going wisdom: dive sites on the north side of the island tend to more interesting and feature deeper coral walls.
Where to Stay: If you come for your Open Water certification, many of the dive shops will provide you with free, basic accommodation. We required an internet connection in order to work, so we rented a one-room apartment at Bananaville Apartments ($150/week + electricity). Although we had a wifi signal the whole time, internet speeds were not reliable.
Where to Eat: Many restaurants offer similar fare – fish burgers, grilled fish, hamburgers, etc. Our favorite place: Babalu. Its proprietor, Dado, recently lived in Miami but hails from the Ligurian Coast of Italy. On the restaurant's dockside, he created a natural aquarium so you can drink beers and watch the fish collect below. The scene is laid back, tranquil and beautiful for sunsets. As food goes, the little kitchen may not look like much, but the shrimp in garlic and white wine sauce is fantastic. The breaded shrimp and grilled snapper fillet are pretty tasty, too.
Photo Credit: All underwater photos are thanks to Alice Andrew, a dive instructor at Bay Islands College of Diving (BICD) in Utila, Honduras.