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Under The Sea

Written on: Wednesday June 11th, 2008

A journal entry from: Luke in Central America

Another week, another country. This time it was Honduras and my first stop was the small but perfectly formed Copán. Right next to the Guatemalan border, Copán is a pretty but extremely hot town bathed in tropical plants and flowers. We arrived in town in the middle of a power cut so my first few hours were very sweaty. The entire shuttle bus had been forced to stay here as there was a protest going on in nearby San Pedro and so the roads onwards into the rest of the country had been blocked off. I spent a pleasant afternoon with some stranded ozzies, wondered around town and learnt more than I could possibly remember about butterflies in the local Butterfly Breeding Centre.

In the morning I headed to the town's main attraction, the Copán Ruins. This was most definitely to be my last set of temples on this trip. The buildings were quite large and there was some very ornate sculpture but as a whole the site couldn't possibly compare to the huge cities further north. A pleasant enough diversion but I think I have now completely quenched my Mayan thirst. I spent one more evening in Copán having a very confusing Spanglierman conversation with some germans and meeting an incredibly talkative architect who lives in Holmes Road in Kentish Town (literally about a minute away from where I grew up in London). In the morning I accidently wound up taking a very posh bus up to La Ceiba which came with free food and drink! A fantastic change from my recent leg-numbing shuttle bus experiences.

From La Ceiba I caught the boat up to Utila, a small tropical island just north of Honduras. The reason everyone comes here is to Scuba Dive and I was no exception. After one night of wondering about and sussing out the different dive shops I finally settled on Cross Creek, a friendly and energetic hostel-style shop where I immediately ran into Janice, one of the Canadians I'd climbed the volcano with in Antigua. She was travelling with another English guy, George, and later that evening Josh (the other volcano-climbing Canadian) showed up. Together with one American and one Danish girl we all began our Open Water PADI Diving Ceritfication that evening.

At first the idea of being completely dependent on one tank and a few tubes 18m below the surface of the ocean was a little daunting but once I had my head around how all the equiptment works and what the safety measures were I felt very reassured. By the following afternoon we were already out on the reef practising the essentials like taking your mask off underwater, using your buddy's regulator etc. After the few rather shocking first breathes I managed to settle down and found it actually to be suprisingly easy.

Being out in the ocean for our first dive was an amazing experience and it meant that straight away we were swimming about amongst the coral and parrot fish. I was totally entranced by everything. To find yourself swimming beneath the fishes is an unforgettable experience and even the floating particles in the water looked incredible. As we swam through them they hung, unmoving in the water so it looked like you were swimming through resin.

I had a few minor problems later on in the course, mostly to do with running out of air but I quickly learnt that this is never a massive problem as you can always use your buddy's alternate air-supply without any trouble. Apart from this I fell completely in love with diving. I could have spent hours swimming amongst the coral and watching all the Angel Fish, Sergeant Majors, Moray Eels, Lobsters, Sting Rays, Fairy Basslets, enormous Groupers and so many more. I've always been drawn to marine life and this was just like a dream come true. One of the most amazing moments came when we were swimming over an outcrop of coral only to run straight into the path of a young Olive Ridley Turtle. We halted in the water, expecting it to turn and swim away from us but instead it decided to swim right towards and check us out. At one point it was about half a meter away from Janice just staring her in the eyes. Unbelievable.

Life on land was just as enjoyable. We had several barbecues at the Hostel and one all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink affair on the beach which lead to some seriously naseous people on the boat the next day. As well as this there were several rather odd bars (in tree-houses, buried out in the jungle and on stilts out in the ocean) where you could knock down a few Cubas and watch the poor people who were completing their Divemaster course have to take the ¨snorkel test¨(this involves everything you can possibly imagine being poured down the snorkels of the victim who has no option but to keep drinking).

In fact, life on Utila was so pleasant that I couldn't bring myself to leave once I'd completed my Open Water and so I decided to stay and do my Advanced certification as well. This was an excellent decision. The course involves 5 specialist dives. The first was down to 30m (a slightly scary experience at first but you soon realize it barely feels different than being down at 18m). The wreck dive was just like being in a movie as we explored the huge carcass of The Halleburton complete with rideable bicycles, a huge Green Moray with a hook trapped in its mouth and enormous Grouper living in the wheelhouse. The most spectacular of all the dives, however, was the night dive. The ocean looks like a different place once the sun goes down and the glowing phosphorescence and luminous jellyfish that light up the water have to be seen to be believed.

All in all it was a truly amazing experience and I have no doubt that I will definitely be doing it again at some point (although I don't think my budget can afford any more diving on this trip). And so it was with a heavy heart that I caught the boat one week after I landed and arrived, drenched, back on the mainland. I spent one pleasent night at a small hotel/microbrewery in Lago de Yojoa but then decided to move swiftly on, out of Honduras and into Nicaragua.