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Vacation Date: May 2006
Report Date: 6th July 2006
Author: Neil Stead (GLUG - Gay & Lesbian Underwater Group)
Just wanted to say a big THANK YOU! to Steve, Jasmine, Shirley, and all the other staff at Deep Blue Resort. GLUG is a Gay & Lesbian Scuba club, based in the UK. It's often difficult to find resorts in the Caribbean which have great facilities and great diving, but where there is no homophobia.
From my first contact with Deep Blue, it was clear that our sexuality simply wasn't an issue with them - there are far more important things in life to worry about - like the state of the planet's oceans, for example!
This was one of the biggest and most complex trips that GLUG has organized - we had a total of 35 divers over a 2-week stay, most staying for 1 week, but a few of us from the UK staying for the full 2 weeks. As well as 9 divers from the UK, we also had divers that we'd invited from other Gay & Lesbian clubs in Florida, California, and France. Deep Blue were incredibly patient and helpful with the organizational side of things - dealing with a total of over 40 separate payments via national and international bank transfers, and credit cards, and special thanks go to Shirley, who organized the Internal flights for us, despite people flying in to Utila from three different Honduran airports on two different dates!
The facilities at the resort were just as advertised on the website - so often, you arrive somewhere and discover that the website shows only the very best rooms, or that the photos were taken many years ago, and things have since deteriorated. This was definitely not the case here. The rooms are bright, with hammocks on the balconies, air-con that works, comfortable beds, and en-suite bathrooms with hot showers.
The diving was excellent. We had three great dive guides: Mike, Jess, and Orlando, as well as Steve on some dives. Another pet gripe of mine is that at some resorts, even experienced divers are herded around underwater like sheep. Not the case here, at all. Every dive was preceded by a good briefing, giving details of the underwater topology; the things we were likely to see; and any specific things (seahorses, etc.) that they would point out, if we chose to follow them.
Following them was not a requirement however, and many of us enjoyed the freedom of just being able to dive as a buddy pair and explore for ourselves. That's not to say that they didn't keep a careful eye on the less experienced divers among us, however, and offer assistance under and above water where needed.
The dive sites themselves were varied - on the north side of the island are big walls and drop-offs, while to the south is a typical fringing reef, but with some interesting canyons and swim-throughs. We also visited a couple of interesting wrecks, the largest of which was sunk about 8 years back, specifically as a Dive site.
One of my favorite dives, though, was "Black Hills". This is a sea mount about a mile off the island, with its top at around 25 feet (8m), and its base at 100 feet(30m) plus. Our skipper, Swin, had no problem finding it, even though there is no surface buoy. Because the mount is away from the island, there were fish that we hadn't seen elsewhere, including a huge school of Spadefish.
I also saw an Eagle Ray, Barracuda, a resident Toadfish, and three Hawksbill turtles (including a baby!). There are no currents to speak of in Utila - Steve told us that a Utilian drift dive is one where the divers swim in one direction, and the skipper moves the boat! Each day, the resort staff would take our kit down to the boat in the morning, and in the evening, they would take it back, and wash it.
Those of us staying for 2 weeks were offered boat dives on the changeover day, Saturday, but we decided to give the dive crew a rest, and opted to do a couple of shore dives instead. Our dive kit was taken down to the beach for us, and collected again after the dives - we really didn't have to lift a finger. (BTW, the shore diving is easy - there is a single sand channel that cuts through the reef wall, near to the resort, so finding your way back home is easy. We saw Eagle Rays and Turtles on the shore dives).
Deep Blue are clearly passionate about protecting the environment - each guest is given a single water bottle for their stay - but it can be refilled whenever needed from the supply in the lounge - thus helping to slow the creation of a plastic mountain on Utila (which has no facilities to recycle the bottles). Likewise, a proportion of the water used by guests comes from rainwater, which is collected in huge gutters around the buildings, and stored in underground tanks.
A special mention must go to Shirley, who was tireless in tracking down missing luggage. Missing luggage is a problem when flying to Utila - it rarely disappears altogether, but quite often loses its way for a day or two. One of our divers missed a flight connection on the way, at which point he parted company with his bags. Shirley spent hours on the phone to the local airlines, to TACA, and to Continental - at various points during the week, it was reported as being in San Pedro Sula, in Roatan, or still in Houston.
Eventually she tracked it down, and got it to the island the day before we all left!. At least he had clean clothes to travel home in! I'm sure without Shirley's help it would still be sitting in a baggage claim somewhere!
Steve, Jasmine, and Shirley were great hosts, and we whiled away many an evening in the bar, exchanging dive stories with Steve (he had far more than any of us!), or watching DVDs or Videos about Whale sharks, many of which he'd been involved in making... ...unfortunately, we only got to see one whale shark in the whole two weeks.
This was not for want of trying - and there were several occasions when Swin (the skipper) spotted a boil, but it disappeared by the time we got there. A couple of times we even saw a shark from the surface, but it dived as we arrived, and didn't come back. Still, I did manage to get a photo of the one we saw, and the reef diving was good enough that few people were too upset. Perhaps we'll have to come back again!
All in all, a really great holiday, and I one I would recommend.