We had come to Honduras with one mission. Scuba diving. Mission achieved. This is Justin’s story of the deep blue sea and our brief moment at the Copan Ruins.
We arrived in San Pedro Sula – once the murder capital of the world (hence its dodgy reputation) after a long and tiresome 9 hour bus ride with King Quality (USD $45 per person) from San Salvador to be greeted by Pedro, the Manager at Micra Hotel Rio de Piedras, who shuttled us back to his hotel. A small family run operation, Micra Hotel is located safely behind steel gates, though he assured us, this particular neighbourhood was safe. The four of us agreed on KFC for dinner (New Year Resolution 1: Eat healthy), and us boys headed down the road to pick up our chicken. On our return we notified the girls that a number of 9mm casings littered the carpark...yep, this area must be real safe!
The next day and without dramas, we caught another rather long bus to Copan Ruins. We boarded the bus at 8am and by half past we were on our way. We arrived at the Ruins a little after 12pm and quickly agreed on a small restaurant for lunch. Our plates were packed with meat, salad, rice, beans and tortillas. It was delicious! Then it was off to see the ruins but not before we decided to check the final bus times back to San Pedro Sula. Our concerns were confirmed after every bus and taxi driver advised us 2pm was the last bus - it was now 1pm. Entry to the site is USD $15 per person so Amanda and Krystelle being the main photo snappers, decided they could see and photograph the ruins in an hour, while us boys waited outside to save $$$ and off they went at what could be described as a human canter!
They missed the tunnel tour and museum (both at separate and extra costs to see) but they saw the ruins and even the famous red macaws all in under 45 minutes, still having time to use the facilities and buy an ice-cream before another 3 hours on the bus!! It was a long day indeed so it was pizza for dinner (really sticking by that New Year Resolution) and an early night, ready for a new adventure the next day.
And what an adventure that turned out to be! We found ourselves boarding a rickety old ferry nicknamed the “vomit express” and made our way to Utila in the Bay Islands. Now the boat has this name for a reason. Before even leaving the harbour, two people had begun throwing up their lunch and it only got worse as we crossed the open sea. Thankfully Krystelle was drugged to the max on Dramamine and peppermint lollies so she was ok, but the smell?! Blah! It was awful.
We arrived in one piece and were met off the boat by Rebekah at Bay Islands College of Diving. She walked us back to the college for a tour of the facility and accommodations before allowing us to go check out other options and making a decision from there. After looking at two other places, we all agreed to stay at BICD and this is why…
Being from Australia, home to supposedly, the best scuba diving in the world, it’s hard to believe that we have never experienced the world under the sea. On numerous occasions we had been told that Honduras is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, offering visitors the opportunity to take courses at a fraction of the cost as back home.
We chose the Bay Islands College of Diving to do our course as we found their setup and their accommodation was suited to our group of four perfectly. While it was a definite that us boys (the “Justins”) would complete our Open Water and Advanced Open Water dive courses back to back, it was uncertain whether Krystelle could overcome her fear of deep water and join the lads at sea or spend the days relaxing on the island with Amanda.
Krystelle was first in the water after being offered the opportunity to suit up and jump off the dock for a trial dive (USD $25). After the first attempt at submerging she hit the panic switch and resurfaced. Determined to join the boys however, she talked herself in to having one more shot and while she completed some of the basic underwater drills such as removing and replacing the air regulator and filling the mask with water, she couldn't get past removing the face mask fully, it just freaked her out. Agreeing with her instructor that she wouldn’t be suitable for the full course, she resigned to being a lady of leisure on the island.
Then it was our turn to jump in the deep end. Our days were packed with training, diving and studying all the new information we had received, and though it sounds like we were busy, we still had time to enjoy the island life. On Sundays, the College has optional activities organised such as heading out to Neptune's for a swim and a few beers followed up by the Skid Row Challenge for anyone game to drink whatever it is in the bottle!
Another place worthy of mention that we found eccentrically hip and inspired by what seems to be an LCD induced psychosis, is the Jade Seahorse. A bar and restaurant where another man's trash, has been this guy's treasure. A most eclectic collection of recycled odds and ends put together to create every masterpiece within the garden. Entry is free but they do ask for donations.
The diving itself was an incredible experience. To be able to sit under water and swim with the creatures of the sea, weightless, is like no feeling I have had before. We completed several dives as part of our course including a night dive, drift dive, wreck dive and navigation dive, all under the friendly and professional supervision of Dive Instructor Kelsey and Dive Master Willy.
As the course offered at BICD is PADI endorsed, it’s internationally recognised allowing me to dive to 30 metres anywhere in the world. I’m glad we chose Utila Island to have completed it, full of great times and great people, it’s another place we have added to our list of possible return destinations.
So what did the girls get up to? One morning was spent horse riding through parts of the bush and along the beach, while other days were spent over coffee and crepes waiting for the men to come home.
For anyone heading to Utila for diving, we would highly recommend to do your research and head to the island on the morning ferry (there is one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and go for a walk around the island to talk to the shops in person and to see firsthand how they are set up and what deals they can give you for conducting your course with them. Most schools will offer a free dorm room for the length of your course with optional upgrades depending on your budget. We upgraded to an apartment with a kitchen for $10 a couple a night. Most schools close up at seven in the evening so if you catch the afternoon ferry and have nothing booked you will leave yourself just over an hour to find a place to stay.
Oh and did we mention that Bay Islands College of Diving is pretty awesome too? Here are their details if you want to get in touch; firstname.lastname@example.org or check their website; http://www.dive-utila.com/.
After Utila, it was the return ferry to La Ceiba. A bigger, less leaky version of the “vomit express”, we crossed back to the mainland without a hint of spew in the air. Back on the mainland it had started to rain, so we said a quick goodbye to our friends and travel buddies Amanda & Justin (http://theoneyearhoneymoon.blogspot.com/) before jumping in a cab headed to the bus terminal and our next destination, Tela.
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