Utila: Parrots Dive Center
Get There: Main Street, Honduras
Cost: $289USD for an Open Water course, which days 4.5 days and gets you two free dives
Who of us hasn’t dreamed of being akin to aquaman, living amongst the fish? Who of us hasn’t dreamed of experiencing the sensation of weightlessness? These two dreams collide in the magic that is scuba diving. And there is no better, cheaper or more tantalising place to take part in this other worldly activity than on the island paradise that is Utila in Honduras. And the cream of the crop of dive schools is Parrots Dive Center.
A locally owned and run dive institution (rare in thee parts), Parrots is in the heart of Utila, and offers a range of dive packages from fun dives to the basic Open Water course all the way up to Divemaster Training. Each package comes with free accomodation, and is only $5 for every extra night you stay. The rooms are simple, but that’s all they need to be, as you won’t be spending any time there – it’s all about the water in this place.
The staff are friendly and incredible. Tatiana, the main administrator, is a dream to deal with – full of helpful tips and information. She will take care of you. Most instructors are locals and are equally amazing: instilling trust and safety with professionalism under the water where you need it, but always up for a yarn and a beer at the in-house bar when they’re above the water (said bar has a solid happy hour and specials every night, often accompanied by activities and free food). The staff are also very patient, which helps if you are nervous or uncomfortable when it comes to breathing underwater through a mask. A lot of one-on-one time was spent with my may-as-well-be-allergic-to-water mate who went from not being able to swim (in the strongest possible sense of the phrase) to a qualified open water diver in just a few short days.
Speaking of the diving, it was something else. The coral reef is spectacular with an abundance of tropical fish. Throw in a hammerhead, some stingrays, a few barracudas and a wreck dive and you’ll fall in love too.
The island itself is a great place with lots of local food and bars, all at your classically cheap Central American prices. If there’s one way to describe scuba diving in this place, it would be in the immortal words of Admiral Akbar: “It’s a trap!” It is a seriously hard place to leave. I only intended on doing my open water, but stayed to do my advanced as well and was considering staying for the next two months to do my Divemasters.
This video should sufficiently explain the phenomenon:
Hobo tip: Don’t forget the Bushmans, the mosquitoes are rampant.