So there I went, to Utila, one of the bay islands in Honduras to do my divemaster course. I was planning to stay one month. I ended up staying 2 months in total…! Like they say: ‘You can never leave’.
Before I tell you more, here is a video I made of Utila underwater:
If you happen to come from Guatemala, make a stop at Copan Ruinas, a beautiful village at the frontier between Guatemala and Honduras with colonial houses, paved roads, and Mayan ruins. Definitively a nice stop if you come from Guatemala.
Do not make the trip direct between Antigua and La Ceiba, that was a super long 18 hours bus ride on my way back. Way too long.
After Copan, I headed East, to Utila, extending my time there every week. I had the time of my life swimming with whalesharks, dolphins, spotted eagle rays, and great people!
On my 200 dive with a spotted eagle ray. Picture by Ashley Kirkham.
So what’s the divemaster course like?
Did some deep dives, drifts, confined water assists, an unforgettable night dive swimming in the dark and seeing the strings of pearls.
I also lead some dives and loved it, got to dive 4 times a day with my fellow divemasters as many days as I could. This is great to be trusted and go just wherever you want, at the pace you want, with whoever you want underwater.
With my favorite buddies: Deirdre, Katie, Rachel, AJ and myself.
Also, as part of the divemaster you get to practice 24 skills under water and do them at a demonstration level, which was lots of fun. Did an equipment exchange with a super tall Spanish guy, using only one regulator for both of us, and having to swim with fins that were 4 sizes bigger than my feet was a memorable experience.
During that course we also simulated panic divers at the surface and underwater, did many swim tests (that we should definitively do while seeing the whalesharks, I never swam so fast in my whole life), rescued people, got lost underwater and found our way again, learnt about tides, knots, decompression sickness, and most importantly gained lots of experience assisting on courses.
I assisted 5 different instructors in 5 courses, 2 open water, 2 Advanced and one Rescue course.
At Utila Dive Center with some of our Advanced students.
And this was just great. Scuba diving is about making sure people have fun underwater. They must feel confident and safe. It is a lot of psychology, how you make people trust they can do it, help them develop themselves.
And finally it is very rewarding. I will never forget all the students I assisted, the sparkles in their eyes after they saw all the marine life underwater. Overcoming their fears of being underwater, or snorkeling with the biggest fish in the world, the whalesharks we saw were between 10 to 16/18 meters long I think.
Before I started my course I had done about 140 dives. I definitively felt confident underwater.
Now after 90 something more dives and everything I have learnt, I feel I could handle any situation underwater. Which is a really nice feeling.
Also, how many times have I had the luck to swim along dolphins, whalesharks and rays for more than a few minutes. And when they just let you swim along and sometimes even come back to you, you tend to forget you are not one of them!
Last but not least, the…. snorkel test! That was TOUGH but part of the whole experience.
So with my friends there Deirdre, Katie and AJ, we just decided to do it all together, this picture below was BEFORE it, with our mentors ready to make us suffer…
Now, for the ones who want to do their DM or IDC course in Utila…
Why doing your divemaster or Instructor development course in Utila?
Utila attracts a big crowd of travelers in Latin America who either want to go professional, or novice who want to do their Open water – first certification in Scuba diving.
That means you can learn from professional instructors with extensive experience, and also many opportunities to practice what you learnt with newly certified students.
Definitively recommend UDC, it is the most professional diveshop I have dived with. The level of instruction and the bonds the staff share are very strong. Good positive energy that makes you want to learn and stay.
UDC staff at the Olympics barbecue night.
What to do in Utila?
The island also has a very cool lifestyle, with many places to eat and go out.
– Best restaurant in town is …Mango Tango! I can’t recommend enough the home-made Tagliatelle with shrimps in a creamy white wine sauce. Heaven. And their strawberry frozen mojitos.
– The tuk tuks will bring you anywhere for a dollar or two. Also, eat a baleada! The local tortilla with beans, sour cheese, eggs and salad for 1 to 2 usd. My favorites are La Casita and the ones at the supermarket in front of Treetanic.
With my friend Dimitri in front of La Casita.
– Spend a day at the beach at Neptune’s and day dream of your next destination. Wait are we ever leaving?!
– Rent an ATV and go through the island muddy tracks. DO NOT forget mosquito repellent if you do not want to end up with polka dots!
– Practice your English and Spanish. Si señor!
– Every bar has a ‘shot challenge’ and you can be sure you will do at least one, as everyone here, and get a cool tee-shirt after that.
THAT night… With Katie, Deirdre, Rachel, AJ, myself, Betty and Mariana.
At Tranquila’s. Well as everyone said it was a Banksy shirt, we had no choice but to do it!
– And finally, swim with whalesharks!! That was definitively a reason for me to get there. And I was not disappointed. After more than 5 weeks of waiting, I finally got to snorkel with them for 3 days. See them while they are feeding was an unforgettable experience.
Thank God he does not think I am food! 🙂