Greetings from California Sport Divers, Caribbean Sub-Office.
We're now back in San Pedro Belize after visiting the Honduras Bay Islands where we visited Utila, Cayos Cochinos and the west end of Roatan. Utila is a cheap place to dive and serves the "grimy backpacker" set. It costs $129 to get PADI certified, and a 2 tank boat dive with ALL gear rental is $30! There are a lot of dive operators and just a few resorts and restaurants in town.
The south side of Utila faces the Bahia de Utila which extends 20 miles to the Honduras mainland and is never deeper than 200'. There are nice walls of various angles of slope on this side, but in many places you can dive to the bottom of the wall. There are lots of moorings and we dove these from our inflatable.
The north side of Utila faces the south-west end of the Cayman Trench - it's 15,000' deep a few miles offshore. More walls and other interesting topology and generally better diving on the north side. Utila is also known for Whale Sharks which appear regularly on the north and east sides. Apparently, yummy stuff wells up from the trench and lots of filter-feeders and bigger predators turn up to feed. The dive boats go looking, during the surface interval, for surface 'boils' of bonita (tuna) and that's where they find the whale sharks.
We couldn't dive the north side alone so we went with Deep Blue Divers. We did three trips before they found a whale shark. When they did we all lined the rail and dropped in to snorkel with it. I have about 20 seconds of one on video. The other interesting video I have is of Giant Barrel Sponges spawning! Even the divemasters on board had never seen that before.
Cayos Cochinos are a small group of cayes nearer the mainland in Bahia de Utila, so they're surrounded by water that's 150-200' deep with coral walls and slopes. It's an unspoiled marine park where we were not permitted to anchor - we had to use a mooring. There are also a number of dive moorings which we visited. On the largest caye (Cohino Grande) there's a resort (Plantation Beach Resort) who maintain the moorings, but no other tourist facilities. There are species of fish here which are rare in other parts of the Caribbean, like Large Eyed Toadfish and Quillfin Blennies (both of which we saw). Also lots of colorful sponges.
Roatan is a much bigger island than Utila. We anchored only at West End but explored the rest of Roatan by car. The town of West End, Roatan, is a bit bigger than the town of Utila; it has more dive operators and resorts. We found about a dozen dive moorings within dinghy range of the anchorage, all on the north-west side of Roatan. More good walls! I'm sure there's good diving elsewhere around Roatan, too.
There are a lot of resorts on Roatan, and one of the biggest is Anthony's Key Resort. This was at the north end of our dinghy diving range and we also visited it by land. They have a huge dive operation with maybe 15 large dive boats.
There's one live-aboard in the area - Bay Islands Aggressor. It's based in Roatan and but it also visits Utila and Cayos Cochinos.
After 5 weeks in the Bay Islands we left and stopped for a few days at Glovers Reef (the fourth and final coral atoll for us to visit in this hemisphere). We did four (wall) dives. There are a couple of resorts and dive boats come to the area from the Belize mainland.
Then we went back to Lighthouse Reef for 10 days - definitely our favorite dive area this trip.
Now we're on our way back to the US of A, but bad weather has forced us to wait for a few days in San Pedro Belize.
Happy diving! See you soon.
Martin & Ginger