Little Cayman

Little Cayman is the least developed of the Cayman trio. With a resident population of less than 170, most of Little Cayman remains uninhabited. Only 10 miles long and a mile wide, it still offers that rare combination of sun-blessed solitude, glistening beaches and miles of untouched tropical wilderness. Here, shy iguanas and rare birds outnumber humans.

Total Relaxation
On Little Cayman, you’ll find privacy and total relaxation. Bask yourself on empty beaches. Venture to remote South Hole Sound Lagoon for a private swim. Or row out to tiny, deserted Owen Island to enjoy a view of nature in its most pristine form. Here, you can truly ease the body and soul.

A Spectacular Diving Experience
On Little Cayman; diving is the main attraction – especially on famous Bloody Bay wall and Jackson Point. Bloody Bay Marine Park is one of the world’s truly legendary dive sites: the sheer coral wall begins at 20 ft. and plunges to 6000 ft. Colourful coral gardens, wavering sea plumes and exotic tropical fish thrive among more than 50 unique dive sites.

 

 

 

 

Activities and Attractions
Exceptional fishing can be done on Little Cayman.  Bonefish, small tarpon and permit, particularly in South Hole Sound lagoon, challenge anglers looking for light tackle action along the coast. The 15-acre Tarpon Pond is always filled with small, but feisty, gamefish.

Little Cayman also has the largest known breeding colony of the Red Footed Booby (5000 pairs) in the Caribbean, a breeding colony of Magnificent Frigate Birds and large heronry, the country’s first RAMSAR site, the 203 acre Booby Pond Nature Reserve, now under National Trust protection. Groundbreaking took place on 22 July, 1995 for the Little Cayman Trust House, a Caymanian-style building overlooking the rookery, which opened in late 1996 and serves as the headquarters for Little Cayman National Trust activities. It also provides an observation deck with high-powered telescopes for year-round viewing of the sanctuary’s bird life. Little Cayman now has its own museum located across from the Booby Pond Nature Reserve.

Little Cayman also has a resident indigenous Little Cayman Rock Iguana population estimated at 2,000. Signs painted by local artists were erected in 1995 cautioning motorists to watch out for iguanas along the main coastal road.

The local chapter of the National Trust organizes outings and activities on a regular basis. The mile-long Salt Rock Nature Trail provides glimpses of Little Cayman’s natural habitat. 

Watersports
Golf
Sports
Nature Tours
Kayaking
Diving
Snorkeling
Fishing
Sailing
Tours

Beaches
Little Cayman beaches are pristine and look like they were cut right out of a magazine. With soft white sand and every shade of blue the water is an ideal place to get some sun and explore the shores of the island. Easily seen from Sourthern Cross Club and Little Cayman Beach Resort you can rent snorkel gear to explore the wonders under the water. Take a kayak and picnic out to Owens Island and enjoy the feeling of being the last person on earth. 
                                                                                                       

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Honduras

A friend mentioned to me she was going to Mexico for Spanish language school, primarily because this particular school included surfing as part of the program. It was this conversation that inspired me to look into Spanish language schools in a country where I could dive, run rivers or go surfing. Not only would I have a possible tax write off, but also a chance to develop my Spanish language skills.

After spending several hours on the Internet looking up language schools in different countries, I decided on Honduras. Honduras is a wonderful country. As stated in the Lonely Planet: Honduras is the original banana republic. It is a democracy with a developing economy. The national language is Spanish. However, English is dominant on the Bay Islands.

Honduras has incredible natural resources including world class whitewater boating and some of the best (less expensive) diving in the Caribbean.

Central American Spanish Schools seemed to have the most comprehensive program and a school on the island of Utila. They also were the only school to offer medical Spanish as my travelling companions, Viki, Dee and Lois, were emergency room nurses and needed the Spanish for work. Rafael, the director, answered all my questions. He responded to my e-mails the same day I wrote them. Best of all the price was right. Cost was $185.00 per week including room and board. (Room only on Utila).

Our first week was in the coastal city of La Ceiba. La Ceiba is also the port for the Bay Islands and base for river  trips in the Pinto Bonito National Park and Cangregal River. Every day we had different activities including: treks to the rain forest, river canopy (zip lines), dancing and classes on the beach. On Friday, we went to Oscar Perez’s Jungle River Lodge where we hiked through the verdant rain forest to a 600 ft (183 m) high waterfall. The next day we went rafting through the precipitous drops of the Cangregal river gorge. I am a whitewater outfitter in California; Viki, a class V guide and Dee a Class V kayaker: we were all impressed with not only the river but with Oscar’s guides (Johnnie, Ricardo and Juan) and his entire operation. Unfortunately, Lois had torn ligaments and could not partake on our adventure. The next morning we caught the ferry to Utila.

Utila

A stone fish hides on the reef, copyright Bill MashekUtila is the smallest and flattest of the three major Bay Islands, and is the closest to the mainland. The island is 9.5 miles long and 3 miles wide. Land transportation on Utila is limited to a few pickup trucks, a couple of unreliable taxis and a ton of old mountain bikes. Utila is not only renown as one of the best diving locations in the Caribbean, it is also known as the cheapest. From mid-February through March one can almost be guaranteed a whale shark experience. Consequently, the streets are lined with dive shops. Because certifications are so cheap, many shops have reputations as dive master factories. For as little as $500 (including lodging) one can spend a month on the island completing a dive master course. My 12 dives cost me $160.

I dived with Altons because that is the shop the school uses. They were fine. The dive masters were young, mostly inexperienced but competent and all were friendly. Dee did her certification course through Altons, they were able to work around her school schedule and she felt her instruction was proficient. I have also heard very good reports about Deep Blue Divers. This dive resort and shop is owned by an English couple who claim that Honduras is the cheapest place in the world to dive with the the world’s second largest barrier reef.

The best diving in Utila is in the morning. This is when most dive boats go to the “north” side. Also morning offers the best conditions. Unfortunately, I had school in the morning and dived in the afternoon. By doing this I missed two whale shark encounters. There are no bad dive sites on Utila.

Reef at Utilia, copyright Bill MashekDuring my 12 dives, I encountered the largest lobster I have seen in the ocean (20-25 pounds) several barracuda, jaw fish, octopus, spotted drums, sea turtles, moray, scorpion fish, crabs, hog fish, lizard fish, large sting ray, eagle rays, corals, sea fans, sponges and much much more. The dive sites included a spectacular seamount at Black Hills; Rons Wreck – unimpressive as a wreck dive but lots of sea life, saw the green moray here; Airport reef (a good night dive); Blue Bayou, where I saw 2 turtles, barracuda and the “giant” lobsters; Black coral wall (2 deep dives here-good), Jack Neil; Big Rock and Cabanas. The visibility ranged from 20-30 m. Though I did a couple of deep dives (36 m) the best diving is between 12-20 m.

Lodging and food in Utila are as cheap as Thailand. We stayed at the Colibri Hotel, a new hotel with the first pool in Utila. We had a large room with 2 queen size beds and hot water for $25. Per night. Most meals are under $3.00. A fancy dinner will cost about twice that. For non divers, Viki and Lois spent an afternoon on Water Caye (a small white sand island with palm trees and no sand flies) an afternoon snorkelling, a hike to Pumpkin Hill and explored some of the caves. There is also horseback riding, shopping and people watching. But be prepared, the bay islands are renown for some of the most aggressive no-seeums anywhere. Bring lots of repellent.

In conclusion, my only regrets about my trip is that my travel was confined due to taking the classes. I would have really liked to visit the ruins at Copan but that was on the other side of the country.

If you travel with Taca Airlines be prepared to have your luggage delayed. This is a common event of this airline. It was nice to have Rafael as an advocate to hasten the process of getting our luggage to La Ceiba. The cultural experience of not only getting to know, but become friends with the Honduran people I met was priceless. In addition we made many international friends with other students. The diving was extraordinary. The experience was phenomenal.

by Bill Mashek
http://www.rubiconadventures.com/

Contacts:
Altons Diving: altons@hondutel.hn
Deep Blue Divers: steve@deepblueutila.com
Central American Spanish School: info@ca-spanish.com
Jungle River Tours: jungle@televicab.com


Other Views and Dive Sites

Here are some comments on diving in Honduras from other users of the SCUBA Travel site.

Honduras

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I recently spent a diving holiday on Utila and had an amazing experience putting together a film about the diving out there – amazing.”
Steve Hurford, 2006.

Here is Steve’s film, including some lovely shots of whale sharks – you need Flash 8 on your computer to view it…(copyright Steve Hurford, http://www.myspace.com/shurford)

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The Canyons, Utila

“The Canyons dive site (Utila) has beautiful coral gardens and canyons.”
Rob

Black Hills, Utila

“Ocean mound, thousands of fish, enough coral to fill a textbook, great.”
Frank

The Sand Shoot, Elbo Cay near Pyrmid Is

“100 ft + visibility, desending pathway through old coral reef eastward to deeper water. cullminating with deep water exit @ 140 + feet.”
Lloyd

Coconut Tree Divers, West End, Roatan

“I was in Roatan in January and lucked into a great little dive shop right in West End. Coconut Tree Divers were amazing. Owned and run by two lovely Brits, Gay and PJ. The staff is young, enthuastic and very knowledgable. They also showed great respect for the reefs upon which we dove. It was the best diving of my life thus far. I’m returning for a week in August to reconnect with these fantastic people. They also have a great boat captain, Cap’n Carl who knows the reefs better than anyone. Ask for Will or Tim, great instructors. Coconut Tree had very reasonable rates on dive packages too.”
Simon MacArthur

Texas, Roatan

“A very rarely dived site, on the west tip of the island..very very healthy, good chance of Hammerheads.”
Kaj Maney

Port Royal, Roatan

“Coral reefs with neon colored fish. Whale sharks in winter, and a great depth visibility.”
Grace

Cara a Cara, Roatan

“My husband and I did a shark dive in Roatan in December 2005. It was a great dive. Approximately 22 caribbean reef sharks up close and personal. You can actually swim around with them at 70 ft in a place that is called “Cara a Cara” – face to face. We dived with Waihuka Adventure Diving.”
Teresa Hemphill, C&D Diving, Inc., SpringHill, TN

“Shark dive, 10 to 30 Caribbean grey reef sharks. Plateau at 24 meters, plastered with soft and hard corals and fish. Schools of yellow fin tunas, big groupers, moray eels and of course the sharks!”
rob

Mary’s Place, Reef House Resort, Roatan

Rating: 5 stars

“Magical.”
Tracey Lantz, United States

40 ft Point, Reef House Resort, Roatan

Rating: 5 stars

“Thousands of fish, beautiful coral, facinating creatures.”
Tracey Lantz, United States

Calvin’s Crack, Reef House Resort, Roatan
French Harbour, Roatan

Rating: 5 stars

“Beautiful coral and wildlife.”
Christine Reynolds, 2010


Dive Operators

Recommend a dive operator or list your diving company on this page.

Utila Watersports

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Utila Water Sports
Main St.
Utila
Bay Islands
Honduras
Tel: (504) 425-3264
Fax: (504) 425-3264
E-mail: Dive@utilawatersports.com

“My husband and I (both in our 50’s) had never dived before and were quite nervous. Our son did his Divemaster with Utila Watersports so naturally we went along doing both openwater and advanced. They are an extremely professional dive shop and made us feel very welcome and got rid of our nerves. We would recommend them to anyone. The dive sites were great and clarity of water better than Thailand where we have been since.”
Eleanor

“I spent a very happy 3 months, gaining my dive master at Utila Watersports – a fantastic, friendly, very small diving shop/school, with only 3 instructors. It is true that Utila churns out alot of dive masters and the quality of the school depends on the quality of the dive master turned out, however for all potential dive masters a good thing to remember is that there are so many students that pass through Utila that you gain a lot of experience very quickly.
 
If you want to do your dive master (or any padi course) shop around, ask to check quality of gear, boats, find out how and who does their air and nitrox, what class tuition you get and the level of mentoring / supervision as a dive leader, do they teach you specialities for free (e.g. deep, nitrox, wreck, etc) chat to current dive masters. Some shops operate a strict rota about when you can dive, others let you out as much as you can fit in. The diving there really is second to none, but don’t expect to practice your spanish on Utila, it’s almost totally English / Patois / Creole / Spanglish !”

Kate Baker

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Spear Fishing

Two divers go spear fishing. They catch a lot of fish and return to the shore.
The first one says, “I hope you remember the spot where we caught all those fish.”
The other answers, “Yes, I made an ‘X’ on the side of the boat to mark the spot.”
“Are you crazy!” cries the first,  “How do you know we will get the same boat tomorrow?”

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The Atocha Shipwreck

Spanish expansion in the New World was rapid and by the late 1500’s Mexico City, Lima and Potosi had populations that exceeded the largest cities in Spain. It would be another half a century or more before the chief cities of colonial North America; Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, were to be founded. Colonists were granted huge tracts of land to grow tobacco, coffee and other products for export to the mainland.  More important to the throne however, was the continent’s mineral wealth of silver and gold, which were vital to Spain’s continued growth.

Trade with the colonies followed a well-established system. Beginning in 1561 and continuing until 1748, two fleets a year were sent to the New World. The ships brought supplies to the colonists and were then filled with silver, gold, and agricultural products for the return voyage back to Spain.

The fleets sailed from Cadiz, Spain early in the year, following the approximate route that Columbus had taken years before. Upon arrival in the Caribbean, the two fleets would split up, the Nueva España Fleet continuing on to Veracruz, Mexico and the Tierra Firme Fleet to Portobello in Panama. Here, the ships were unloaded and the cargo of silver and gold brought aboard. For the return trip the divided fleets reassembled in Havana, then rode the Gulf Stream north along the coast of Florida before turning east when at the same latitude as Spain.

The treasure fleets faced many obstacles; the two greatest of which were weather and pirates. It was well known that the hurricane season began in late July, so for this reason the operation was timed for an earlier departure. For protection against pirates, each fleet was equipped with two heavily armed guard galleons. The lead ship was known as the capitaña. The other galleon, called the almiranta, was to bring up the rear. A recently constructed 110 foot galleon, the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, was designated the almiranta of the Tierra Firme Fleet.

The fleet departed Spain on March 23, 1622 and after a brief stop at the Caribbean Island of Dominica, the Atocha and the Tierra Firme Fleet continued on to the Colombian port city of Cartagena, arriving in Portobello on May 24th. Treasure from Lima and Potosi was still arriving by mule train from Panama City, a port on the pacific side of the Isthmus. It would take nearly 2 months to record and load the Atocha’s cargo in preparation for departure. Finally, on July 22, the Tierra Firme Fleet set sail for Havana, via Cartagena, to meet the fleet returning from Veracruz. In Cartagena, the Atocha received an additional cargo load of treasure, much of it gold and rare first year production silver from the recently established mints here and at Santa Fe de Bogata. It was late August, well into the hurricane season, before the fleet arrived in Havana.

As a military escort, the Atocha carried an entire company of 82 infantrymen to defend the vessel from attack and possible enemy boarding. For this reason, she was the ship of choice for wealthy passengers and carried an extraordinarily large percentage of the fleet’s treasure. Unfortunately, firepower could not save her from the forces of nature.

On Sunday, September 4th, with the weather near perfect, the decision was made to set sail for Spain. The twenty-eight ships of the combined fleet raised anchor and in single file set a course due north towards the Florida Keys and the strong Gulf Stream current. The Atocha, sitting low from its heavy cargo, took up its assigned position in the rear. By evening the wind started to pick up out of the northeast growing stronger through the night. At daybreak the seas were mountainous and for safety most everyone was below deck seasick or in prayer. Throughout the next day the wind shifted to the south driving most of the fleet past the Dry Tortugas and into the relatively safe waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Atocha, Santa Margarita, Nuestra Señora del Rosario and two smaller vessels all at the tail end of the convoy received the full impact of the storm and were not so fortunate. With their sails and rigging reduced to shreds, and masts and tillers battered or broken, the ships drifted helplessly toward the reefs. All five ships were lost, the Atocha being lifted high on a wave and smashed violently on a coral reef. She sunk instantly, pulled to the bottom by her heavy cargo of treasure and cannon.

The next day, a small merchant ship making its way through the debris rescued five Atocha survivors still clinging to the ship mizzenmast. They were all that were left of 265 passengers and crew.

Salvage attempts began immediately. The Atocha was found in 55 feet of water with the top of its mast in plain view. Divers, limited to holding their breath, attempted recovery but were unable to break into the hatches. They marked the site and continued searching for the other wrecks. The Rosario was found in shallow water and was relatively easy to salvage, but the other vessels could not be located. While the salvagers were in Havana obtaining the proper equipment to retrieve the Atocha’s treasure, a second hurricane ravaged the area tearing the upper hull structure and masts from the ship. When they returned, the wreck was no where to be found and salvage attempts over the next 10 years proved futile. However, the Santa Margarita was discovered in 1626 and much of her cargo salvaged over the next few years. But, time and events slowly erased memories of the Atocha. Copies of the ship’s register and written events of the times eventually found their way into the Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain. These documents, like the treasure itself, were to lay in obscurity waiting for the right set of circumstances centuries later.

The twentieth century was a period of tremendous technological advancement. For the Atocha, one of the most significant occurred in 1942 when a French naval lieutenant named Jacques-Ives Cousteau developed the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, or SCUBA for short. It allowed divers to remain underwater for extended periods of time. SCUBA contributed to the discovery of ten wrecks from the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet near Vero Beach, Florida. This highly publicized 1960’s salvage operation, conducted by Real Eight Corporation, ignited an unprecedented interest in Spanish colonial shipwreck salvage, which remains strong to this day. It was this event that drew people such as Mel Fisher into the industry and onto the path of the Atocha.

After participating in the 1715 fleet salvage operation, Mel formed a company called Treasure Salvors and began searching in earnest for the much talked about Atocha. His effort over a sixteen-year period from 1970 to 1986 is a book in itself. But, in short lead to the discovery of the Santa Margarita in 1980 and the Atocha on July 20, 1985, her hull lying in 55 feet of water, exactly as recorded by the first salvagers in 1622.

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Seabreacher

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Tusa Liberator Fins

Tusa Liberator Fins

The Tusa Liberator fins are designed to maximize energy transfer to provide optimum propulsion. The side rails of these fins are made with a specially designed pliant material that gives the entire blade a flexible bending force. Dynamic stabilizers on the blade surface and rails facilitate water flow which generates maximum propulsion with minimum exertion.  This racy design is made from the most advanced and durable materials to provide ideal flexibility and stability.

Sorry all…photos wouldn’t post for some reason.  Tusa fins are my fav’s.  They are lite weight with nice blade length/width and  provide  good propulsion!

Until next time…

the scuba lady

 

 

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Parrotfish

This fish gets its name because its teeth resemble the beak of a parrot.  The parrotfish uses its teeth to scrape algae from rocks & coral; when you are near a parrotfish under water, you can hear them chomping on the coral!  Parrotfish are very important to the ocean ecosystem.  By eating algae, they prevent plants from becoming overgrown & choking coral.  When they eat coral along with algae, the coral moves through their bodies and ground into sand. 

 One parrotfish can produce 198 lbs of sand each year!

 A number of parrotfish excrete a mucus cocoon, particularly at night.  Prior to going to sleep, some species extrude mucus from their mouths, forming a protective cocoon that envelops and secures the fish at a particular location and, presumably hides its scent from predators.  This mucus envelope may also act as an early warning system, allowing the parrotfish to flee when it detects predators such as disturbing the protective membrane.

 This is really something to witness in person!

http://scuba-explorers.com

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