I’m sitting on an old, frayed, beige couch and it’s full of holes. It’s the kind of couch you see in frat houses or crappy dive bars. But it’s comfortable, and in this case, I wouldn’t be anywhere else…it’s the greatest couch in the world. It’s attached to a dive resort on the island of Utila, off the coast of Honduras : Underwater Vision. Cooling trade winds rush through the bar and battle the unrelenting heat that grips the island of from mid-morning to sunset.
As I sit here watching ‘Ace Ventura – Pet Detective’ on American cable television, I think about the last 3 days and how surreal, serene, and spectacular they have been. The bulk of my stay has been spent bouncing in between the water, the classroom, one of the local bars and my bed. I’m now a certified, PADI-recognized, Open Water Diver. Think of it like a white belt in karate. You start off learning the basics: how to not kill yourself, how to safely use the equipment, testing yourself in shallow water with fictitious dangerous situations (out of air, broken equipment, flooded mask), doing a few dives (no deeper than 18 meters) all around the beautiful coral reefs that span Honduras’ Caribbean coast.
The problem with all of this: it’s impossible to just do one course. As soon as you see the reefs and start diving you will want to do more, go deeper, dive shipwrecks and stir up the phosphorescent organisms on one of the amazing night dives.
I came to Utila about a week ago, and on a friend’s recommendation to Underwater Vision; not the biggest dive center on the island, but they take scuba very seriously and for the hours in between your dives, they have an amazing restaurant and bar for relaxing.
You will meet phenomenal people (the best part of any trip) as all of the instructors and dive masters are also cool, young people who you will end up socializing and drinking with and ultimately, becoming friends with. They offer all the different options of PADI ranks, all the way up to the assistant instructor course (black belt) and a full range of specialty courses. Besides the amazing bar that encourages inebriated socialization, the dorms are only $5 a night (or free during the duration of your course!). Also, all over the island you will find amazing, humungous baleadas (a typical Honduran dish, consisting of a large flour tortilla, folded in half and filled with beans and various meats and vegetables.) for as little as $1.50, and local beers for the same price.
So I’ve just signed up to do my ‘Advanced Underwater diver’ course (yellow belt), starting tomorrow. I’ll be able to go down to 30 meters, check out those wrecks and night dives, and do a whole heap of other cool dives.
The advanced under water dive consists of 5 dives. 2 of which are compulsory:
-The Deep Water Dive (going down to 35 meters and experiencing Nitrogen Narcosis, where your mind is affected by the excess levels of nitrogen in your blood and results in a kind of high that’s similar to smoking a joint. (Or so I’ve been told.)
- The Underwater Navigation Course where you learn navigation patterns, natural navigation (without a compass), compass navigation, underwater map making, how to judge distances underwater, among other skills.
The next three adventure dives are your choice. You take your pick of:
Wreck – explore a ship wreck.
Night – leave the port at sunset and dive with a powerful flashlight.
Peak Performance Buoyancy – specialized buoyancy control techniques.
Drift – start in one location and drift to another location where the boat will collect you.
Fish Identification – learning all about the different types of fish and corals that you see.
And loads more.
Utila is well worth a look, especially if you’re interested in learning to dive, if not for the fantastic reef (the second largest in the world), then for the fact that it’s the cheapest place in the world to do your training. Open Water or Advanced Open Water courses will cost you around $260: a steal. Check them out at www.underwatervision.net and tell them World Travel Buzz sent you!