The island of Utila, being the second largest of the Bay Islands, is located just off the coast of Honduras in the western Caribbean Sea. Visitors to the island have two options of getting here. The first, and preferred by international tourists, is by ferry from the nearby island of Roatan which hosts an international airport, or from La Ceiba which is located on the Honduran mainland, and is more suitable for those travelling across Central America by land. The second is by regional airlines, which offer flights on small island-hopper planes from Roatan, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and Tegucigalpa.
Once a British colony, Utila is now home to a unique culture with English language prevalent amongst the native island population and Spanish preferred by those who have migrated here from the Honduran mainland. It still maintains its small island look and feel, with no western brand outlets, only two bank ATM machines, and tuk-tuks as the only form of public transportation. Its local economy relies heavily on dive tourism. In fact, due to abundant availability of inexpensive accommodations and a small but vibrant night life, many young European and North American backpackers choose Utila as a destination where they stay, often for several months at a time, take SCUBA courses, and socialize with their fellow divers.
The island of Utila is surrounded from all sides by fringing reefs and seamounts that are part of the second largest in the world Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system. The reefscape varies from shallow underwater planes and labyrinth swim-throughs on the south side, to sheer walls, some of which on the north side of the island drop down to several hundred meter depths. This, combined with the nearly imperceptible current and water temperatures hovering near 28 degrees Celsius year round, make the island of Utila a perfect training environment, as well as a fun vacation destination for divers of all levels.
The reefs are home to several fish species from tiny blennies and seahorses to barracudas, eagle rays, and nurse sharks, while solitary or small groups of whale sharks feed in deeper waters that surround the reefs and, from time to time, offer divers a rare opportunity to snorkel with these gentle giants during surface interval. Octopus, as well as several species of crabs, shrimp, and other invertebrates rummage amongst the coral and sponge reef cover, while sea turtles lazily go about their business, and grace the lucky visitors to their world with their presence.