Utila, Honduras — “Get ready guys, snorkels in … jump in now!” cried the captain of the small boat as it rode the azure ocean waters like a bobbing cork. I hesitated and despite my instincts screaming in protest, I slid into the water. I could scarcely breathe, even with my snorkel and mask on, as I spotted the seamless movements of a looming whale shark just metres directly below me. This is definitely one of life’s unforgettable moments, I told myself, as I watched the massive fish glide slowly through the water, with its huge mouth gaping open to feed on plankton.
The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is the world’s largest fish — slow moving and filter-feeding, it is harmless to humans and can reach more than 14 metres in length and weigh 30 tonnes. The elusive fish is simply one of many species of marine life in this corner of the world. The coral reefs surrounding the island of Utila — at the southern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system, second only in size to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef –—are teeming with life including schools of dolphins, manta rays and countless colourful fish, creating an oasis for divers and snorkellers.
This is what lured us to the island located 29 kilometres off the Caribbean coast of Honduras — the whisper on the traveller’s grapevine that spoke of exceptional diving in a tropical paradise. My boyfriend (now husband) Simon and I had been on the road exploring Central America for months and were enthralled with the idea of slowing down to soak up the sunshine and dive the ocean depths.
A small island smack in the middle of the collection of Bay Islands, Utila is about 12 kilometres long and five kilometres wide, with tiny cays dotted on its south side. The population (which averages around 2,500 people) lives almost entirely in one settlement on Eastern Harbour.
A slow-paced, welcoming place, Utila’s laidback vibe is evident as soon as you step foot on the island. Brightly-coloured shops and food wagons crowd the narrow streets and the locals and visitors interact frequently, unlike in resort-littered islands, making for a unique, refreshing island experience.
There are literally dozens of dive shops vying for your attention when you arrive and it’s no wonder — there are more than sixty diving sites located around the island among its extensive reefs…continue Utila review at Pique.
by Dawn Green
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