The First Breath...

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Aug 13, 2011

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Tropical Sunset Apartments

Flag of Honduras  , Bay Islands,
Sunday, August 7, 2011

Our friends Chad and Kori were thrilled that we contemplated learning to dive.  They had their maiden dive voyage while in Asia in 2006 and each of their subsequent trips has included diving.  Their infectious passion, and the chance to learn from people we trust, made our decision a "no brainer."  The eight hour, four day curriculum would have consumed a big chunk of our 10 day vacation.  Luckily, PADI (the largest association that certifies divers) had started a pilot program in Utila to test remote learning for the classroom portion of the course.  We were able to complete the classroom requirements,which included reading 5 chapters, watching 4 videos and taking quizzes, at our own pace before we left for Honduras. We could then save our island time for diving and other adventures.

Every diver we talk with vividly remembers their first breath underwater.  We headed across town to The Bay Islands College of Diving (BICD) to attempt ours.  First, we were provided a detailed, hands on instruction in utilizing the equipment.  Next, we zipped up our wetsuits for a confined water instruction at the BICD pool.  The pool was about four feet deep.  Knowing you could stand up and breathe, if needed, was both a blessing and a curse, as we struggled to stay submerged and resolve "potential issues" under the water.  You are taught to handle potential issues such as mask flooding, mask loss, regulator loss, air loss, etc. as a specific list of skills you must demonstrate to earn your certification.  Our instructor friends did a great job of making us feel comfortable in the new aquatic environment. 

After our first under water experience with scuba equipment, we boarded the local Whale Shark Research Boat to venture for an encounter with the largest fish in the ocean.  Several months back, Kori began reviving the local Whale Shark & Oceanic Research Center in Utila.  The center had been neglected  for some time, and with Kori's commitment and leadership it was once again thriving.  These gentle giants are filter feeders and are known to grow up to 40+ feet long, though many "fish stories" have claimed sightings of 60+ or 70+ feet in length.  These large fish have no natural predators except humans.  They typically live in the relatively warm water of the tropics, but because they migrate, they can be seen around Utila anytime of the year.  It had been several months since a Whale Shark had been sighted, except the week before we arrived in Honduras, they were spotted. 

The boat rounded the southwest corner of the island, before trekking through deeper waters.  We were looking for "boils," large bubbly zones of water created when bait fish feed on the plankton, and larger fish such as Tuna feed on the bait fish.  You are likely to encounter Whale Sharks around boils as their primary food source is plankton.  In absence of encountering a whale shark, the group paused its search to snorkel the surrounding reef.  This was our first view of the reef that we would be getting to know as we graduated to our open water dives.  Chad, always looking for training opportunities showed us how to skin dive.  Skin diving is similar to diving without the use of SCUBA.  You hyperventilate to expand your lung volume for a longer breath and thrust your head quickly down to gain depth.  It was a cool way to get close to the reef without the SCUBA kit.  The return trip did not yield a whale shark encounter either, but we ended up returning to port with good memories of a fun snorkel and cruise around Utila.

Almost every restaurant in town was closed the evening after SunJam as the staff recovered from the previous night's party.  We attempted to eat at two of the Crows' favorite locations, Skid Row and Indian Wok unsuccessfully, before settling on dinner at La Piccola Italian Restaurant.  It was not bad for a third choice.  The drinks were cold and that was really all that mattered. 

It was a long day, and our dive adventure had only begun.  Tomorrow we will be doing more confined water skills off of the BICD dock.  Our first breath in salt water and our first view from 12 feet under.......water! 

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