Salute to the Rock

March 2nd, 2012
by Gunter Kordovsky

[private] Utila PerpectiveI fell in love with the rock in 1970. Not the well known rock of Gibraltar or Alcatraz, but Utila, the smallest in the Bay Islands chain. Only 18 miles from Honduras’ mainland (a good swim) makes travel from La Ceiba to San Pedro or Tegucigalpa easy.

Thousands of tourists and expats have fallen in love with the jewel of Utila, same as I did years ago when I first glimpsed it from the window of a little three-seat Cessna being swayed by a strong east breeze. The sport of diving originally attracted me from the freezing ski slopes of Quebec to this island, whose breathtaking underwater world has become a diving Mecca.

According to geologists, the island has been submerged and has risen three times due to volcanic activity, a history which reef systems thousands of years old in the interior prove. Since Utila is of volcanic origin there are miles of cliffs which have beautiful caverns and caves. In some of the hidden inland caves, traces from the Paya Indians can be found.

The turquoise blue shallows and dark blue recesses of the deep, the razor sharp cliffs, the green lush of the bush, the awe-inspiring panoramic views of Pumpkin Hill and Stewards Hill-all are priceless.

Utila’s population of around 8,000 souls includes descendants from the first settlement in the early 1800s on Pigeon Cay and Jewel Cay, which are connected by a bridge and are part of the Utila Cays. Some of these cays-the ultimate get-away from it all–can be rented for the price of a hotel room.

Utila has very reasonable accommodations and restaurants, well in the budget range of most travelers. Additionally, many dive shops offer super deals for those taking dive courses. With the reef only a stone’s throw off the beach, shore diving is an excellent, easy option.

For those who enjoy topside entertainment, Utila has a thriving artist population and several galleries. There are also many trails for hikers or bikers, birds for birdwatchers, and hidden solitary beaches for explorers. If you love to watch a beautiful sunset and hope to see the green flash, Babalu Bar is the place, where owner Dado plays classical music to accompany the incredible color display. And you don’t have to watch your purse! The locals are generally friendly, daytime crime is rare and nighttime is safe if you use common sense. If you’re part of the crowd who loves non-stop spring break partying, there is always plenty of night life on the rock.

Many people who came for only a week’s visit find themselves still here, the island having grown on them–including this underwater aficionado who has survived 42 years and well over 10,000 extreme dives here. The laid back pace of the place is definitely attractive to those stuck in the eight to five rat race. After all, there is no place like the rock. [/private]

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