The island of Utila in Honduras is one of the cheapest places in the world to get your PADI diving certification. Here’s how I did it.
Many travelers & backpackers learn to SCUBA dive in Utila. It’s smaller and cheaper to visit than it’s bigger next door neighbor, the island of Roatán. Because of it’s popularity, there are many dive shops on Utila, and it can be hard to choose one.
That’s why my buddy Richard and I teamed up to check out a bunch of different Utila dive shops and find the best deal for an Open Water Diving Course. This way we could cover more ground.
Choosing A Dive Shop
After interviewing staff at a few different places, we decided on Parrots Dive Center. This is the criteria we used for choosing a dive shop:
- Are the employees energetic & friendly?
- Is the instructor experienced?
- How many people will be in a class?
- How many instructors are there per class?
- Are there additional “fun” dives included?
- Is accommodation included? How many nights?
- How nice is the accommodation?
- What’s the quality of the equipment?
- What time is class in the morning?
The employees at Parrots seemed laid back, professional, & fun. The shop was locally owned too, another important factor. We even received 5 free nights in a double room away from Utila’s noisy main street, when most places only offered 4 nights in a busy hostel environment.
Two free fun dives were included with the course as well.
There were 6 of us in the SCUBA class. Our 4 day course started with our instructor Alan teaching us basic diving principles of depth, pressure, & breathing air underwater. In the mornings we sat in a classroom, in the afternoons we practiced our new skills in the bay.
Learning How To SCUBA Dive
Some of the underwater skills we needed to learn: equalizing the pressure in our sinuses, clearing a flooded mask, sharing air with another diver, and proper timing of our dives at different depths to avoid Nitrogen Sickness (aka “The Bends”).
For one of the tests the instructor turns off your air tank underwater! This important test is to simulate running out of air. You don’t want to panic in a real emergency, so this experience lets you feel the effect due to an equipment (or human) error.
When the air is turned off, it takes a second to notice. The effect isn’t instant. You will slowly begin to have trouble breathing.
When this happens, you get the attention of your buddy with hand signals in order to share his/her air supply with a backup regulator mouthpiece that every diver carries.
So now I know what it feels like to run out of air deep underwater…
The real fun started when we finally went diving for the first few times. Slowly sinking 60 feet down to the ocean floor is an incredible experience. But it keeps getting better!
Once at the bottom, you press a button on your BCD diving vest and inflate it with a bit of air from your tank.
Because you’ll be wearing a weight belt (mine was 14 pounds) to help you sink, adding this air to your vest will level you out. This makes you weightless underwater. You won’t sink to the bottom, or float up to the top.
It lets you hover at one depth, neutrally buoyant.
I ❤ SCUBA Diving!
I thought I knew what weightlessness would feel like, but I was wrong. True underwater weightlessness is an amazing experience! You can control your body just by breathing.
Want to go up a bit? Breath in a bit deeper. Want to do down? Breath out a bit longer.
Hang completely upside down, swim sideways & backwards while spinning, or do 20 somersaults in a row. We removed our fins to engage in Matrix-style movie stunts, jumping at each other feet first, followed by backflips.
We’re all just a bunch of grown-up kids down there. ★
Location: Utila, Honduras [Map]
Company: Parrots Dive Center
Cost: $260 USD
Useful Notes: You don’t need to book a course in advance, it’s actually better to visit all the shops yourself to make a decision. Some places have a wild party vibe, others are more relaxed.
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