Utila offers a wonderful variety for underwater adventurers. The reefs are packed with life and the corals are in pristine condition. It is not uncommon for divers to play with manta rays, swim with dolphins and gasp with wonder as the biggest fish in the sea, the incredible whale shark, goes by.
Divers on Black Hills seamount
Utila has some of its best diving on the south side of the island, just minutes from the town. The shallow coral spur and groove formations are perfect for beginner divers. Sand patches abound and open water classes have plenty of space to practice their skills without damaging the fragile reef. It is hard to imagine a more ideal environment for those awe-inspiring first visits to the underwater world. Every instructor working at Utila Dive Centre can tell stories of classes where nurse sharks or dolphins have passed close to wide eyed students just moments after they have been underwater for the first time.
The north side of the island offers advanced divers the opportunity to do some deeper diving. The continental shelf actually meets the island at Turtle Harbor Marine Reserve and even the most experienced of divers will be delighted by the amazing drop-offs. The walls start at just 5m (15ft) and drop vertically down to over 1000m (3300ft). CJ's drop-off and Duppy waters are famed in The Bay Islands for their vertigo-inducing views into the deep. Hawksbill turtles, eagle rays, reef sharks, moray eels and sting rays are all common, as well as giant sponges and a tremendous variety of soft and hard corals.
Diver at the edge of a North side drop-off
As well as fringing reefs, Utila has some spectacular sea mountains which rise from the ocean floor to just a few feet from the surface. These act as magnets to filter feeding fish and, of course, to the fish that like to eat other fish. Black Hills, a favorite site, is one of the top dive sites in the Bay Islands. Sharks are common and large schools of jacks swirl around you as you drop down the coral encrusted hill top. Only the best local captains can find it, using secret coconut trees as markers as they steer away from the island.
Diver watches a school of Atlantic Spadefish
If you are an experienced diver, you will find that Utila has much to offer. On the west end of the island the currents allow for some wonderful drift diving. There is also a great wreck dive; the Halliburton 211 was sunk as an artificial reef by the Utila Dive Operators Association in 1998 and is already attracting a lot of fish. It lies just minutes from Utila Town and has become a favorite dive site with our instructors for their advanced course dives.
The diving around Utila has rightly become legendary amongst divers who like to break away from the 'production line' diving which is unfortunately now becoming the norm in an ever more popular Caribbean. Things tend to move at a relaxed pace in the Bay Islands and in particular on Utila. Dive boats are rarely crowded and dive sites are strictly limited to one dive boat per buoy. You will never experience the feeling that there are more divers than fishes!
Endangered Elkhorn Coral
If you like adventure and want to experience something different in the Caribbean, then Utila is the place for you. The crystal clear warm waters, the unhurried atmosphere and the friendly nature of the people will combine to give you an experience you'll never forget!