an Educational Addition to Dive Travel,
by Bill Mashek
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A friend mentioned to me she was going to spend part of the
month in Mexico for Spanish language school. Primarily, because
this particular school included surfing as part of the program.
It was this conversation that inspired me to look into Spanish
language schools in a country where I could dive, run rivers and
or go surfing. Not only would I have a possible tax write off
but also a chance to develop my (Spanish) language skills.
After spending several hours on the internet looking up
language schools in different countries, I decided on Honduras.
Honduras is a wonderfully diverse country. As stated in the
Lonely Planet: Honduras is the original “banana republic”. It is
a democracy with a developing economy. The national language is
Spanish. However, English is dominant on the Bay Islands. It is
a cheap easy place to travel. Honduras has incredible natural
resources including, “world class” whitewater boating and some
of the best (and cheapest) diving in the Caribbean.
Central American Spanish Schools seemed to have the most
comprehensive program and a school on the island of Utila. They
also were the only school to offer “medical Spanish” as my
traveling companions. Viki, Dee and Lois were emergency
room nurses and needed the Spanish for work. Rafael, the
director, answered all my questions. He responded to my emails
the same day I wrote them. Best of all the price was right. Cost
was $185.00 per week including room and board.(room only on
Our first week was in the coastal city of La Ceiba. La Ceiba
is also the port for the “Bay Islands” and base for river trips
in the Pinto Bonito National Park and Cangregal River. Every day
we had different activities. Including, treks to the rain
forest, river canopy (zip lines), dancing, and class on the
beach. On Friday, we went to Oscar Perez’s Jungle River Lodge
where we hiked through the verdant rain forest of Pinto Bonito
National Park to a 600 ft high waterfall. The next day we went
rafting down the precipitous drops of the Cangregal river gorge.
I am a whitewater outfitter in California, Viki, a class V guide
and Dee a Class V kayaker we were all impressed with not only
the river but Oscars’ guides (Johnnie, Ricardo and Juan) and his
entire operation. Unfortunately, Lois had torn ligaments
and could not partake on our adventure. The next morning we
caught the ferry to Utila.
Utila is the smallest and flattest of the three major Bay
Islands, and is the closest to the mainland. The island is 9.5
miles long and 3 miles wide. Land transportation on Utila is
limited to a few pickup trucks, a couple unreliable taxis and a
ton of old mountain bikes. Utila is not only renown as one of
the best diving locations in the caribbean it is also known as
the cheapest. From mid February through March one can almost be
guaranteed a whale shark experience. Subsequently, the streets
are lined with dive shops. Because certifications are so cheap,
many shops have reputations as “dive master factories”. For as
little as $500. (Including lodging) One can spend a month on the
island completing a dive master course. My 12 dives cost me
I dived with Altons because that is the shop the school uses.
They were fine. The dive masters were young, mostly
inexperienced but competent and all were friendly. Dee did her
certification course through Altons, they were able to work
around her school schedule and she felt her instruction was
proficient. I have heard very good reports about Deep Blue
The best diving in Utila is in the morning. This is when most
dive boats go to the “north” side. Also morning offers the best
conditions. Unfortunately, I had school in the morning and dived
in the afternoon. By doing this I missed two whale shark
encounters. There are no bad dive sites on Utila. During my 12
dives, I encountered the largest lobster I have seen in the
ocean (20-25 pounds) several barracuda, jaw fish, octopus,
spotted drums, sea turtles, moray, scorpion fish, crabs, hog
fish lizard fish, large sting ray, eagle rays, corals, sea fans,
sponges and much much more. The dive sites included a
spectacular seamount at Black Hills, Rons Wreck,: unimpressive
as a wreck dive but lots of sea life- saw the green moray here.
Airport reef,(a good night dive) Blue Bayou, where I saw 2
turtles, barracuda and the “giant” lobsters. Black coral wall (2
deep dives here-good), Jack Neil, Big Rock, and Cabanas. The
visibility ranged from 60-100 ft. Though I did a couple of deep
dives (36 miters) the best diving is between 12-20 miters.
Lodging and food in Utila are as cheap as Thailand. We stayed at
the Colibri Hotel, a new hotel with the first pool in Utila. We
had a large room with 2 queen size beds and hot water for $25.
Per night. Most meals are under $3.00. A fancy diner will cost
about twice that. For non divers, Viki and Lois spent an
afternoon on Water Caye-(a small white sand island with palm
trees and no sand flys) an afternoon snorkeling, a hike to
Pumpkin Hill and explored some of the caves. There is also
horseback riding, shopping and people watching. But be prepared,
the bay islands are renown for some of the most aggressive no
seeums anywhere. Bring lots of repellent.
In conclusion, my only regrets about my trip is that my
travel was confined due to taking the classes. I would have
really liked to visit the ruins at Copan but that was on the
other side of the country. If you travel with Taca Airlines be
prepared to have your luggage delayed. This is a common event of
this airline. It was nice to have Rafael as an advocate to
hasten the process of getting our luggage to La Ceiba. The
cultural experience of not only, getting to know, but become
friends with the Honduran people I met was exceptional. In
addition we made many international friends with other students.
The entire trip was extraordinary
Jungle River Tours
Deep Blue Divers
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