Wednesday, March 31, 2010


We came to Utila for the scuba diving.  After a few days of just enjoying island life, David started his PADI Open Water course, and of course turned out to be a natural.  I waited for him to get through the book and skill stuff, and then joined him out on the boat for a "scuba tune-up", which was advisable since my last dive was in Puerto Rico in 2002.  So while David was getting his first taste of breathing 60 feet underwater, I was off with a divemaster practicing all the same things he was learning - taking your mask off and putting it back on underwater, finding your regulator should a shark startle you and make you accidentally spit it out in surprise, that sort of thing.

All the divemasters at our school were straight out of central casting.  Young, tanned and beautiful, and all with fun accents.  David was primarily with Ethan from Australia, and mine was Alice from Norway.  I was really spoiled my first dive because it was just Alice and me on our own, so we just swum around and she kept finding moray eels and parrotfish and some totally amazing sea cucumbers for me to see.

After David finished his course, he had two more dives scheduled, so I got to join him.  We had been hoping to go to the north side of the island, which is where the elusive whale sharks tend to be sighted, but the weather was too rough to make it.  In fact, while I would have suffered through any seasickness if it meant I would get to see a whale shark, not a single one was sighted the entire ten days we were on the island, even though this is technically the season.  The whale shark may have eluded me for now, but while whale sharks can run, whale sharks can´t hide, at least not forever.  Another time we will have to go to Holbox in Mexico or maybe Ningaloo in Australia to hunt one down.

In any case, both our dives were excellent.  The water was warm and the visibility was high.  We saw several lionfish, which are gorgeous with these feathery spines fanning out, a warning to everyone of how poisonous they are.  (As a general rule of thumb, if anything is the ocean is especially ugly or especially gorgeous, it is probably lethal.)  While David proved quite adept at handling himself underwater, not everyone else on our dive was quite as graceful underwater.  One guy seemed to crash down to the bottom or up into rocks with an almost purposeful drive.  My tendancy is always to stick close to the guides, so you can see the cool things before other people scare them away (or in this case, steps on them).  However there were a couple of girls who couldn´t quite figure out the concept of "personal space" underwater and kept crashing on top of me.  So David and I retreated to the back of the pack, and contented ourselves to finding the things the others swam right by. 

The best example of this came right at the end of the second dive.  Diving for me is like flying, and I really enjoy swooping down to just about the sand to sail through tight spaces between the rocks.  As I came through one particular passageway, the first thing I realized was there was a hidden cave underneath the rocks, and the second thing I realized was there was a six foot long nurse shark sitting in it looking at me.  I managed NOT to spit out my regulator in surprise, and just admired it for a second.  Then I swam up to David and the rest to make them come back and look.  This was Alice´s 80th dive on the island, and it was the first time she had seen a nurse shark, so we were all pretty excited to have found it.

Our last day on the island we hiked up and around to the north side.  It was great to see the water, but kind of depressing to see all the trash that had washed up from the sea, plastic bottles and the soles of shoes mostly.  But we have enjoyed the wildlife.  There are two types of iguana here, one that is endemic and endangered, but that lived right in the backyard of our hotel which we could watch over lunch.  Another lizard we enjoyed was maybe eight inches long, bright green and with a vivid blue belly.  It would run a few inches, and then stop and wave at you.  Yes, you read that right.  Every time it would stop it would wave its front paw like it was saying hello (or perhaps a hopeful goodbye to get you to leave?).  We looked it up and it is called the Shakey-paw lizard or something like that.  The third kind was bigger, and when it would run away from you it would do it on its back legs, its front legs just sort of dangling there, which was always funny to watch.  Finally we found another spider, hairy and mean looking.  It ignored us when we took its picture, and we weren´t sure if it was alive or not, so David poked it with a stick.  It attacked and bit the stick with rapid vengance, and we screamed like little girls and jumped back about ten feet.  So yeah, alive.

Besides not finding a whale shark, the other tragedy was the fact that our dive shop was out of t-shirts, so we don´t get to show off our PADI cred.  Hate that.

1 comment:

  1. Still sitting here laughing at the mental picture of you two poking at the spider. I've never scuba dived. Maybe I can go out with the two of you sometime!