Utila is one of Honduras’ idyllic Bay Islands. Covering an area of just 45 square km (17 square miles), it’s a small but activity-packed island that’s renowned for being a popular backpacking destination. The nightlife here is a major draw but Utila is also a favorite among those that want to get their scuba diving certification for a reasonable price.
Scuba diving is the main activity on the tiny island of Utila, and this is largely due to it being among the best places in the world to dive with whale sharks. It’s a fun and affordable destination with beautiful reefs and deep walls. It also offers a unique opportunity of doing a night dive to see some bioluminescent tiny crustaceans that create an eerie atmosphere in the dark.
Butterflyfish. Photo by Scubaben
Diving is possible year-round in Utila, but the rainy season that lasts from October to January may impact the diving conditions and prevent you from fully enjoying everything the underwater world has to offer.
If diving with whale sharks is what you’re after, it’s best to visit during March-April. Utila is one of the only places on the planet where whale sharks are reported in every month of the year.
The water temperature in Utila ranges from 25° C/78° in the winter to 28° C/82° F or more in the summer.
One of the reasons why Utila is such a great diving destination for novices is the mild current you encounter on many of the dive sites here. Nonetheless, there are some great drift dive sites suitable for more experienced divers.
Utila has been blessed with outstanding visibility that often exceeds 30 meters (100 feet). The visibility is dependent on weather and drops during the rainy season.
What makes Utila so special is the fact that whale sharks can be observed throughout the year here and they can be seen close to the shore, which is also quite rare. Whale sharks are mostly found in deep waters off the northern coast of the island. The whale sharks inhabiting the waters of Utila measure 6 to 10 meters (20-33 feet) in length and weigh 15 to 20 tons. Although they’re solitary animals, during migration periods, they can be seen swimming in small groups.
Elkhorn coral. Photo by Scubaben
Utila sits on the edge of the Mesoamerican Reef System, the second-largest reef in the world. The reefs surrounding the island are teeming with life, with more than 500 species of fish, 300 species of mollusks, and over 60 species of stony coral. The reefs of Utila contain coral species such as elkhorn coral, brain coral, mountainous star coral, pillar coral, yellow finger coral, branching coral, as well as a multitude of sea fans.
A variety of marine animals have been documented in the waters of Utila. Even if you don’t get to see the majestic whale shark, you can still feast your eyes on some amazing creatures that are here year-round. Dolphins, Hawksbill turtles, spotted eagle rays, yellow stingrays, angelfish, trunkfish, porcupinefish, frogfish, seahorses, blennies, spiny lobsters, and coral shrimps are some of the common inhabitants of the reef.