Adventure176 embarks on a diving adventure of a lifetime, learning about the science, technology, safety, customer service and seamanship aspects of becoming a professional diver.
In this article you should takeaway:
1. A little about Honduras and the Bay Islands
2. An introduction to the Divemaster course and Utila Dive Centre
A distant Caribbean lightning storm amplifies the crescent moon. Dark, warm water, teeming with life, flashes intermittently with our torchlights. We’re night diving off the coast of Utila, one of the Honduran ‘Bay Islands’, patiently searching for wildlife.
I’ve signed up to complete a PADI Divemaster – a first level professional diving qualification – with Utila Dive Centre, recommended by a friend two years ago for their professional training, value for money as well as the clarity and warmth of the water (a steady 29-31˚C). I’ve completed 10 dives since 2016 and need to hit 40 to commence the Divemaster. Here goes!
One of the first 'Fun Dives' to get my numbers up.
The life around Utila is plentiful, here my dive buddy glides past a large brain coral.
The trip marked the first occasion to try out my new GoPro Hero 7 White.
All in all (apart from having the incorrect spec waterproof casing) the camera produces excellent footage.
I’m guessing Honduras probably isn’t top of your destination list…. Gang crime is an epidemic – San Pedro Sula is often labelled the most dangerous city in the world – with corruption, theft and trafficking of any kind also commonplace. It is changing though, albeit slowly, and let’s remember that London isn’t exactly a picture-postcard of safety and security these days…
The Honduran mainland is home to some incredible scenery, with protected rainforests, mountains and ancient Mayan ruins. Copan in particular (a UNESCO world heritage site discovered in 1570) is a treasure trove of Central American history, architecture and sociology.
The Mayan ruins at Copan are protected by UNESCO and offer a lens on the country's extensive ancient civilization past.
I arrived into San Pedro Sula from Miami. An easy taxi ride to the Crown Plaza where I stayed for one night prior to flying to Utila.
The city has an extensive forest covered mountain range to the North.
A brilliant flight with CM Airlines from San Pedro Sula to Utila.
Around 30mins in total, the flight visits all major Bay Island land masses, starting with Utila.
Honduras (Bay Islands)
In contrast to the mainland, the Bay Islands seem to be in a world of their own. Utila especially, feels safe and calm, perhaps because tourism supports pretty much every aspect of life here.
Forming one of eighteen Honduran departments, the Bay Islands consist of eight large land masses (the biggest of which are Utila, Roatan and Guanaja) and fifty-three small cays. English is the primary language, although more and more Spanish speaking Hondurans are moving to the islands for work.
Under British rule until 1859 when an agreement with the United States forced the UK’s hand to pass control to Honduras, Utila has a population of just over 4,000 (+9m in Honduras overall). Many of the English speaking residents feel staunchly British and are still saddened that other former colonial islands in the Caribbean were treated much more favorably by the crown in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I’d be interested to hear the opinion of the indigenous Mayan population that was no doubt wiped out by early European settlers but hey hoh….
An inlet just down the road from UDC, together with a classic example of the stilted house design that's so common here.
Some local graffiti on the way to my accommodation.
At the suggestion of UDC, I stay at the Mango Inn until I can find a longer term apartment. The vast majority if guests here are all trainee divers, so you build a community pretty quickly.
Utila Dive Cetre (UDC)
Effectively a boot-camp for divers, UDC is located in the South Eastern portion of the island, towards the East end of the main high street. It offers all means of qualifications, from entry level right the way up to to Master of Scuba Diving Training (MSDT) and beyond, as well as more specialized courses such as spearfishing, underwater photography, side-mount etc..
Now ten days in, I’ve completed my ‘Tune Up’, Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Response and (nearly) the PADI Rescue Diver course, all fundamentals to commencing the Divemaster. Make no mistake, this is intensive. Jedi Master intensive; complete with classroom tutorials, written exams, practical exercises, extensive research and homework. Strange going back to school, but what an environment to do it!
UDC is located to the bottom right of this image, East of the main the main town.
There are roughly 8 x other dive shops on the island, but UDC is the largest with 5 x customer boats.
Launched back in the 90's, UDC employs experienced instructors to patiently guide amateur and professional divers across a myriad of disciplines.
More details on the specifics of the course to come, but for now wish me luck hitting my 40th dive - adiós muchachos!