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Vacation Date 30-July-2005 to 6-August 2005
Report Date: 8th August 2005
Author: Charlie Johnson
What I can say is that Utila (with the help of the dive staff) offers an UNLIMITED potential for beautiful photographs – wish I could live up to the potential.
Basic Personal Dive Statistics:
16 dives over 6 days, 3/day except got blown out due to squalls on one night dive (thanks, Sven, for the masterful boat handling on the other!!!!), and the last day is morning dives only due to flying. One night dive (beautiful!!!) Three wall dives, one true wreck dive, one sea mount - the rest - just simply amazing coral reefs (along with some of Tex’s “interesting bottom features”! Longest dive 1:01, deepest 107 fsw, 25 min bottom time on the wreck at 94 feet. Seas nearly flat until the last two days, then the normal East trade winds picked up with 2 to 3 ft seas and a moderate surface current. There are basically no other currents at depth.
Most of the dives were moderately deep - 60 to 80 fsw at the beginning of the dive - but with the amazing viz, usually 75 to 100 ft +, you didn't think you were that deep! Only did two classic reef dives where the deep part was 50 fsw or less. The coral reefs there all generally taper to about 200 fsw. One wall (Duppy or "Ghost" Wall) the bottom was 2,000+ fsw - when you looked down, just amazing deep blue water below you. Coral outcroppings, swim through's, even a small cavern at about 90 fsw.
The wreck was a Halliburton oil platform tender, intentionally sunk - and prepared for penetration. Kristi and I penetrated the forward cargo hold, even watched Tex fill an air pocket and take a couple of breaths from it. The ship was sunk 7 years ago, and has a fair amount of soft coral and sponges, but not nearly as much as would be apparent off the NC coast - grows slowly down there. All the local shops have formed a Reef protection group and everyone must "qualify" on the first dive to make sure your buoyancy control is good - or you get a one-on-one course with a DM until you're ready.
Notable group sightings - 8 ft green moray, 3.5 ft sea turtle, nurse (?) shark (Utila is noted for its 50 ft + Whale sharks, but not a lot of other sharks - spent a few hours chasing a whale shark sighting - couldn't find it - rats!), beautiful octopus during night dive, squid, "upside down jellies", barracuda, 5 ft spotted eagle ray, skates, lobsters, and of course lots of local reef fish and more that I didn’t see. I'll be spending a few weeks with the fish id books and photos, figuring out what they all are!
Great group of folks - 19 of us - group gelled together real well - no one hurt, all had fun. My deepest personal thanks to all of you who made my trip so enjoyable and memorable - I hope to dive with you again! The surface intervals were always interesting and the banter reminded me of some of our local NC get-togethers! Didn’t seem that anyone had any trouble finding a similar diver in terms of interest and skills to buddy with. Some of the folks are pretty amazing photographers.
Our host Steve (UK), is a phenomenal diver - never known anyone who could do a 100 fsw dive for about an hour on 800 psi of air! Must be the gills. Tex (from, of course, Texas), our principal DM was also pretty amazing - been on Utila for 4 years, knows the sites really well, briefs extremely well, knows the diving and is also a fish in the water. The other two DM's, Shawna (Norway) and Noa (Dutch) - did a great job pointing out the interesting features of the various sites and keeping the various herds together! The resort is really nice, Jasmine and Steve go out of your way to make you feel at home. I even fixed stone ground grits for breakfast one day! I cannot recommend Deep Blue Utila, the resort, and Deep Blue Divers, the dive shop, more highly!!!!! I will return!!! (Steve, Jasmine – et al – you have been warned!)