Shark Dives & Natural Disasters

We left Utila on Monday on the ‘Lady Julia’, a private boat owned by Captain Willard. After waking up at 6am to catch our boat and realising we hadn’t gotten our passports back from our hostel the night night before, there was slight panic, as we were supposed to be at the meeting place for the boat at 7am. Kelsey decided to head to the boat while I waited for the first worker to arrive to the hostel, grabbed our passports from her, and headed to the boat. The eventful morning got even more eventful once on the boat… First, we spotted some dolphins swimming along side our boat. Unfortunately it was a ‘blink and you miss it’ type of event but a cool experience nonetheless. Shortly after, we were continuing motoring along with Roatan visible in the distance when suddenly, the boat just stopped. The captain and his assistant pulled open the door to the motor room, did some fiddling around, and then we were off again (I think it was a leak in the fuel line or something like that). Anyway, we were only running for another 2 minutes or so before the motor stopped again. This time, there was a lot more  swearing by both the crew members and a longer repair time as the boat swayed powerlessly in the open water. After about Good thing it was was  calm day at sea or the whole event would have been a lot more scary.

Finally arriving safely back in Roatan, we checked back into our old stomping grounds, Splash Inn, and signed up to do an afternoon dive for later in the day. Unfortunately, we were both ‘underweighted’ for this dive (despite having told the shop how much weight we dive with) which meant that we had to spend almost the whole dive blowing out to empty our lungs and then were floating up to the surface as our O2 tanks emptied and we became more boyant towards the end of the dive. Needless to say, it was not an enjoyable dive and we both came out of it feeling confident about the weight we need and knowing not to let people talk us into lower weight in the future.

Kelsey had signed up for a “shark dive” the following morning. I was conflicted over whether to participate or not, not because I was afraid of the sharks but moreso because of potential ethical dilemmas and the cost. I ended up feeling comfortable enough to do it, knowing that I’d be annoyed if Kelsey came back with raving reviews and I had missed out. We were transported to another part of the island, provided with a briefing of how the dive would go and then headed down 21 metres deep to meet the sharks. The sharks have become habituated to know that when the boats come, they are going to be getting a little treat so when you go down there are already some sharks swimming about. We sat on a sandy patch at the bottom of the ocean and watched the sharks swim around, we were then invited to swim with them for a while, and then returned to the sandy patch before watching the sharks feed. After which most of them disappear and we are invited to search for shark teeth that may have fallen out during the feeding. I actually found one! (well one of the staff members found it and pointed it out to me). Unfortunately, I put it in my mask to disassemble my dive equipment and then someone else handed me my mask from the boat and the tooth was lost in the kerfuffle.

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Diving with the reef sharks

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We spent the rest of the day taking it easy, buying some souvenirs and duty-free alcohol, and preparing to leave the next day however, it wasn’t long before a storm starting approaching. The locals all seemed to think that we might not be able to leave as scheduled the following day and sure enough, that evening Kelsey got an alert from the airline that Tropical Storm Earl may be causing flight delays and cancellations. We woke up the next day to a confirmation that our flight was indeed cancelled so we headed to airport to try to reschedule something, made new arrangements and spent the rest of the day reading, napping, drinking, eating, and watching TLC (one of the only channels airing TV shows in English).

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Tropical Storm Earl

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Waiting out the storm in our room

The next morning we woke up with fingers crossed that we’d be able to leave as scheduled, negotiated an affordable cab ride to the airport and our journey home finally began.

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Beginning the journey home 😦

 

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Life in Utila

I knew as soon as we arrived on the small island of Utila that I was going to like it. There are only 2 intersections on the island and you mainly follow the one road that runs along the south coast. Many of the houses are built on stilts and painted brightly with lovely wrap around porches. This island seems to cater to all people-there are many expats lounging on their porches each morning-young and old. Divers from around the world have become dive masters or instructors here and have been living and working on the island for a few months or many years. Many dive masters we met had planned to continue travelling but never left after finishing their dive courses here.

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The boats of Utila-view from our dive center.

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Sun sets in Honduras.

As usual, when we walked off the ferry, there were tuk tuks lined up and ready to give us a ride. Being such a small island we were just going to walk but sometimes this is also a good chance to ask about accommodations and find a good deal without having to go ask everyone separately. We ended up agreeing to visit Altons Dive Center and just stayed there. It was certainly not much compared to our 5 star lodge but it was only $11 each a night and free on days we dove. We didn’t have AC however, so we both struggled to get enough sleep.

We spent much of our days laying out in hammocks by the ocean, walking around, kayaking and people watching from the restaurants. My favourite restaurant was in this beautiful yellow beach house right on the ocean. We watched the sun go down while eating pasta they make in house. We decided to spend our last dinner there and even splurged on wine instead of beer.

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Lazy hammock days.

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We only partly flooded trying to get back into the kayak after our snorkel. Making our way to the public beach.

We also did 4 dives total. It’s mostly reef walls here where the reef drops off and you spend most of the dive swimming beside a wall of coral reef. We saw many stingrays, pufferfish, green and moray eels, barracuda, parrot fish, squid, lobster, crab, groupers, lion fish (which are not native to Honduras and have become a huge problem for the reef-divers are encouraged to spear and eat them!) and lots more. On our first dive I kept hearing a high pitch squeaking noise. I was worried it was my air, slowing draining out of my tank… but I found out as I boarded the boat that it was dolphins! Our captain then attempted to follow them so we could snorkel with them but they had disappeared before we got there. On our final dive I got so excited when the dive master showed me the sign for ‘shark’-and this wasn’t even a site where they expect shark. I swam a bit further and sure enough, a nurse shark! She made her way to a patch of sand and relaxed on the bottom of the ocean floor for awhile. It was the end of our dive so we took our 3 minute safety stop right above her. We didn’t see any whale sharks unfortunately but it seems like your average person needs to stay longer than 5 days for this special privilege.

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Cute little yellow guy

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Nurse shark! I will guess she was 3 meters long.

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Spotted eel

We have now arrived back in Roatan because we were unable to find a boat to bring us back tomorrow. However, I can’t complain when you leave one paradise for another. Two days here and we will begin the journey back to Winnipeg!