Diving in Utila and avoiding Felix

Trip Start Aug 01, 2007
Trip End Oct 04, 2007

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Flag of Honduras  ,
Monday, September 3, 2007

We came to Utila with one purpose - to dive. This island off the Carribean coast of Honduras is known as one of the cheapest places in the world to do scuba, as well as a very good spot to see whale sharks. We were really hoping to see the whale sharks, and thought we had a good chance since September-October is the season they tend to be passing through.
After a very long travel day from Managua to Tegucigalpa (10 hours) and then to La Ceiba on the coast (another 6 hours), we spent the night in La Ceiba and caught the ferry the next morning to Utila. Phoenix was still feeling pretty bad and figured out on the way that it wasnīt just ordinary travelerīs diarhhea that she had but actually the parasite Giardia. As soon as we got to Utila, she looked it up online, found out what kind of medicine was needed and went to the pharmacy to get it. The guy was just closing up shop when she got there, so she begged him to open up so she could get her medicine as soon as possible.
We found a nice dive shop (Cross Creek) that had cheap accomodations for people diving with them. The rest of the day we just rested and figured out what our plans were for diving. As we were walking down the street, a guy told us that a big hurricane was coming soon, and that it was supposed to hit the Bay Islands directly. We checked out the situation with some other people and it seemed that what he said was correct: Hurricane Felix was headed our way. That meant we had one or two days to get in as many dives as possible.
We decided to head out on the first dive boat in the morning. 7 AM we got our stuff and headed out on the boat with another 20 or so divers. We were headed for a dive site called Black Hills, a coral-covered sea mount that supposedly had some black tip reef sharks hanging around. The ride out there wasnīt too fun for Phoenix, who was paranoid of being seasick, but we hoped it would be worth it. Our divemaster, Ross, was very enthusiastic, and very positive, and understanding that this would be our first dive in more than a year. As soon as we got in the water, everything came back to us, and it was amazing. The corals were beautiful, and there were so many fish we didnīt know which direction to look. Phoenix forgot all about not feeling well and just enjoyed the weightless feeling in the water and the magical reef all around us. We saw a small school of giant yellowfin tuna that were heading right for us. We also saw a big green moray eel hiding in the coral, and so many brightly colored fish that we didnīt know all the names of - butterfly fish, parrot fish, little tiny purple ones, and even smaller yellow ones. It was a great dive, even according to Ross, who had been all around the island. It didnīt matter that we hadnīt seen the sharks, it was awesome. In between dives, our captain, Paul, saw a fin sticking out of the water and we all looked excitedly, hoping it was a whale shark, or at least some other kind of shark. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a sizable marlin, which was still pretty cool to see. The next dive, at Airport Caves was great, too. A giant barracuda was heading straight for us.  We saw another big green moray (about 5 feet long) that looked annoyed at our presence and actually came out of his hole to try to scare us off.
After the morning dives, we got back to the shop and had to decide what we were going to do - go out for another 2 dives in the afternoon, or rest and wait until the next day. We checked the Felix situation and found out that it still wasnīt clear when it would be coming, but that there was a chance we would have to take off on Tuesday morning or Monday night, which wouldnīt leave us much time to dive, since it was already Sunday. We decided to not take any chances and to go out for two more dives that day. So we quickly got some lunch and headed back to the boat. This time there were less people on the boat and the sea was calmer so it was more relaxed heading out there. We went to a few more dive sites on the south side of the island. They were nice, very relaxing, but not as spectactular as the morning dives. On our last dive, we did see a really cool red frog fish hiding in some coral.
Back on land, we found out that Felix had strengthened to a category 5 hurricane and was still headed right for Utila, due to arrive the next evening. That made up our minds for us, as we didnīt really want to be around for a big hurricane and risk getting stuck on the island for several days. We decided to leave on the first ferry out in the morning. So much for the night dive we were planning to do on Monday night! But at least we managed to get in some diving while we were there. On the ferry we saw a few people who had arrived with us or after us and who hadnīt gotten to do any diving or anything.
Our next destination was the ancient Maya site of Copan, on the Honduras-Nicaragua border. Because we had left Utila so quickly, we gained back some of the time we had ĻlostĻ from our itinerary, so on the positive side, we would have more time in Guatemala.
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