Merely 18 miles/29km from the mainland, Utila is the home to 5,000 residents. This number is difficult to nail down as it frequently changes depending on the time of year, tourism, and how many expatriates stay on. In the past, the majority of visitors were backpackers traipsing though on their way north or south along the “gringo trail”. However, with the introduction of 24 hour power (previously 18-0 hours), high speed internet, and a new airstrip, a higher end of tourism has developed more recent years bringing a new type of tourism to the small municipality. Now Utila is a more well rounded empire of divers of all ages and backgrounds looking for a great place to dive.
Diving is known to be very affordable and most dive shops offer a package deal including room and diving with certifications. The majority of the masses take the introductory PADI Open Water course. Although there are several certifying agencies, including NAUI and SSI, PADI dominates Utila. The hierarchy of courses leading up to becoming a scuba instructor may seems daunting at first. However, once in the groove of daily diving and surrounded by fellow divers speaking of nothing but courses, it falls into the normal slang of everyday life. It is easy to get swept into the race to obtain more and more certifications. The ultimate goal of most who stay on Utila and wish to make a living is that of Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI). At that point you can extend your stay indefinitely or take your hard earned card and move on to the next best dive spot in the Caribbean!
The PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) is an intense 10 day class in which the student reviews all other courses plus focuses on how to then teach everything they have learned on land and in the water. Once this has been successfully completed, the candidate will then be in a position to take the 2 day exam. If passed, the newly certified instructor can begin teaching within a few weeks. And begin living the dream!
Currently there are over 12 dive shops. Five of them are IDC centers and are actively recruiting and teaching IDC’s. Candidates from all over the world and all walks of life, come to Utila for at least 2 weeks and stay anywhere from luxurious rental houses to shared dormitories. All have the shared goal of becoming a PADI instructor and teaching people to dive. Some may move on or return to their home, others may make Utila home for awhile. No matter where they go or end up, their passion of diving will be passed on!