The big question: Roatan? Or Utila? Which is best?
While I don’t think that one is better than the other, and that you will definitely get to see plenty of sealife, it really depends on one principal thing:
We were definitely on a tighter budget. Generally, we also prefer smaller islands than bigger ones. So we opted for Utila: which we ended up LOVING. The island has a population of 6000 people (whereas Roatan is much bigger) and there is one main street, many restaurants and bars, and also an abundance of dive shops.
So how to choose one over another?
Tips on choosing a dive shop in Utila:
I do not think that one is particularly better than the other, but here are a few things that could influence your choice of who to dive with for the week (or month, or more!)
Visit more than one dive shop, walk in and chat with the staff. Ask them your questions and see how they answer. Feel the vibe and see if you like it and feel like you would fit in.
Ask for their prices for what you plan on doing (fun dives, course, specialty dives etc.)
Some dive shops will offer you accommodation for free if you are taking a course with them (Or you can negotiate this!)
Get a tour of their facilities: see what activities they organize during the week. I even saw a dive shop that included a free yoga class or beach volleyball/soccer tournaments
Check out their diving gear and make sure it is safe and in good shape
Peru’s Pacific coast is famous for its beaches and for its waves and surfing. However, one would not necessarily think of going down into the ocean to discover its richness and diversity in underwater life. Scuba diving in Peru is not particularly popular, yet. Which is also one of the reasons why it is well preserved and full of bio marine surprises. The merging of the Pacific Tropical current and the Humbolt current has created rich and unique ecosystems that are full of marine life. This results in over 2700 marine species in Peru, which include different types of fish, molluscs, crustaceans, and mammals such as dolphins, humpback whales and sea lions.
The first PADI school in Peru, Spondylus, is located in Mancora and they offer everything from discovering scuba diving, to fun dives, to the certification courses offered by PADI. (Visit http://buceaenperu.com/eng.php)
This diving site is located 6km from Órganos in the province of Piura. A big colony of green turtles live in the area. This type of turtles is in danger of extinction because of the fisherman who hunt them for their shells in order to make handicrafts. This dive site is not very deep, about 7-8m, and is perfect for beginners. Although it is fairly shallow, you still get to see these wonderful creatures, as well as an incredible amount of fish, and we were lucky enough to see two seahorses as well!
I did some research before heading out to Margarita about scuba diving there. There wasn’t that much information but I was able to find the worthwhile sites I wanted to visit if location permitted. I also emailed the two school recommended by PADI, but only got a response from one, which is the operator I decided to go with. Now, in this blog post, I do not want to focus on the disaster of services we got, because in the end solutions were found and it was OK, but overall it was a very big disappointment. I guess because I had a cold it worked out for the best in a way. October is low season in Margarita, so I would have thought that finding staff and boats to go diving would not be so problematic. Anyway, I ended up going diving with my partner while he was doing his OPEN water certification.
The site is called Farallón and is recommended for beginners, as maximum depth is 10m. There are not a ton of coral reefs but still lots of fish, spider crabs and we saw two big french angels. Also, there is a submerged Virgen del Carmen that you can see underwater. She is meant to protect the coastal waters of Venezuela. There are actually two, one has been there since the 1970s, but coral and plants have taken over her and you cannot even tell the statue is there. The other one, is much taller and you can clearly see her underwater, like in the picture here.
Next time, however, I definitely want to go back to a site called Los Roques (a small little island near Margarita where you take a flight to get to it, which is meant to be THE BEST for diving in Margarita).
Did you know that the water has a visibility of 70m? It has some of the clearest water in the world and divers come searching for just that. There are many different types of dives that can be done, and for all levels: caves, cliffs, and arches and bridges. There are many colorful fish, but the island is known for its abundance of sea turtles.
One of the Moai can be found 24m under water as well. It was submerged by Mike Rapu in 2004 in honor of his grandfather. Also, Orca is another diving school that does various expeditions to different sites. Apparently, the owner of Orca was on Jacques Cousteau’s tripulation during his expeditions, and still gives lessons! so if you have a chance to walk in and he is there, definitely go speak with him!
Diving in Peru is not something that you hear about very much. Of course, when one thinks of Peru, automatically ceviche, Machu Picchu and surfing come to mind. However, there are some dive operators in Peru. In the Northern part I found two: One in Punta Sal (no website) and the other in Mancora.
Unfortunately, we were not able to go diving because there were too many waves. This is what happens: When the surfing is good, the diving is not.
A few important things to note: I would not recommend anyone doing their first diving experience in Peru, because of the waves, but this depends when you go. The water is also very cold, a wetsuit is definitely needed and provided. During the first week of January when I was there, visibility I was told was between 4-10m.
So last night I slept terribly. Partly because I was really, really excited to dive the Galapagos, and also because I was scared not to be able to because of my cold. Last time I tried diving with a cold or the end of one rather, I ended up going down 5 meters, getting excruciating pain in my sinus and not diving at all. And so after all precautions and attempts to get rid of the stuffy-ness, I was just really worried. Also, the diving in Galapagos is getting pricier by the month. Last month it was 150$, this month it is 170$ for two immersions. Luckily, I have started getting pretty good at bargaining here and was able to get it for 150$. When you put that amount of money for diving and can’t get down, you are quite angry, and plus, they do not refund you (not even for the dive you don’t try to do!). So at5 am, one hour before the alarm, I started google-ing it to reassure me, which it did. If you can equalize on land, you probably will be fine underwater. Also, the trick is nasal salt water stuff, which I had no idea but will definitely be added to my travel bags ahahhaa.We set off by car, and then by boat.
I did have certain expectations that were quite deceived with the operator we ended up going with. Firstly, yesterday when I asked what level were the people, if they were all beginners, I was told it was a mixture of both, that it was a good group and two instructors would be there. Ok, that works. However, after speaking with people today, I was with all beginners, 7 of them which meant we were quite a large group. It is not like I have that many dives myself, but four of them were doing their first dive after the Open Water course, so no experience at all. Then, the instructor made everyone go in the water to check the weight belts, made everyone get back in the boat to then go to the diving site. I thought this was ridiculous and a complete waste of time. The times I have gone diving, the instructor brings extra weights in case people do need more. Then, to get in the water they made 4 people sit on one side and 4 people on the other side of the boat and said 1-2-3-go for everyone at once to get in the water. I have never seen this and it is the stupidest thing ever, especially with inexperienced divers who aren’t sure or don’t know what they are doing. The result was that Cosima got hit by an unknown swimming object on her head.
The whole time the crew of dive masters were helping everybody out with their equipment, or rather just doing it for them. They kept trying to do the same with me but I didn’t need help and it was just really annoying because I can tie my BCD by myself thank you. All in all, going down during the first dive went well with my sinus and ears and so I was really happy. However, the dive was a disappointment for me. There were nice fish, we saw some eels and sharks but they were trying to get photos of everyone, it was a photo session more than anything. Everyone was all bunched up together and really we did not cover much terrain at all. I also had a lot of air left and could not dive for longer even though I was told I could they gave me the sign to come up. Up until then, the morning was not at all what I expected with the instructor and the way things were going, plus, the marine life was not what I expected either. At least, we were in turquoise crystal clear water and I was watching pretty fish, for 150$ ahahaha. (Maybe I had high expectations because of what others had told me, maybe we did just get unlucky you never know what you see!).
The second dive was much, much better. We went to another area and I have never been surrounded by so many fish and schools of fish in any snorkelling or diving experiences before. So that was really cool. There was much more diversity in marine life and well, unfortunately there were some troubles with my ears. The dive went much better and was less of a photo session. After maybe 30-35minutes, people were running out of air and going up, but this other girl and I stayed longer with the instructor. It was going well, but I was a little annoyed and uncomfortable with my left ear but kept making sure I was equalizing it properly and not going deeper if I didn’t need to. Next thing I know we are right by a school of whitetip sharks! Like about 25 of them just swimming around! It was really cool to see. The whitetip shark is about 2-3m long and is a reef shark. It is very tranquil and shy and so it swims away if you get too close to it. I really really wanted to see a hammerhead shark, but unfortunately I didn’t! I would have had to go to another site known as Gordon Rocks where there’s a 99% chance of seeing them. Cosima doesn’t have many dives and it is meant to have stronger currents. Also, it was hard to arrange a diving day during which she went to one and I went to the other, so we stuck together!Anyways, I think my biggest disappointment of the day happened at the end of this dive. The instructor signalled that we were meant to finish the dive, after about 57 minutes so that was cool. I still had air left but it had been a very good dive. So as we go up, I know that we must make a security stop, because of the depth of the dive and you are always better safe than sorry right! Well anyways, I gave him the 3minute at 5meters safety stop sign, which he ignored and told me to come up and I was slowly ascending and tried to signal him again but he would not care. And so as I am doing my safety stop after a minute he is getting angry and pointing at the boat and telling me to come up. I did in the end which I really shouldn’t have because of the risks involved. I was very disappointed in this unprofessional and unsafe way of working and at the same time am angry at myself for not listening to myself, especially when I know I am completely right. All in all, if diving in the Galapagos, I do not recommend Sharksfriends at all.
In the end it was a good day, really there have been worst days worst that this one in a lifetime, and I take the experience as a learning one, only adding to my knowledge and experience in diving as well as in attitude. I do not think it was a waste of time or money and would have gone again, if my ear was not still blocked at the moment and if I had more money in my pocket.
So the day after my last post, I was convinced by my German buddy divers to do my first night dive EVER with them! Usually you do it when you do your advanced course, which I don’t have. But one of them is a dive master and the other is doing his course to become a dive master so I felt comfortable to go with them, especially after doing two day dives in their company….I want to specify that I was still SUPER scared! Just the thought of going diving in the dark was a scary one…but the water is very clear and I was with the right people. We went down, and at about 5m I had some trouble with my right ear, but after a few minutes it was okay. So down we go, into the darkness and all we see is our own and other people’s flash lights. I was just trying not to look anywhere else, just where my light was pointing because then, its just pitch f*ck*ng black.
We saw lots of nice life underwater: many big starfish, sea urchins, lobsters, spiny lobster, shrimp, 3 or 4 trumpet fish, many sleeping fish as well, an octopus (!!!), I think an eel or some sort of slithering black and white spotted thing, and a huuuuge baracuda. It was a long dive, 76 minutes under water and with one tank because it was not very deep. Half way through, the local dive master made us go in a circle on our knees at the bottom and signalled us to shut our lights. I started shaking my head and thinking: ah! ya right no way then we are going to be in pitch black ocean water. But then the other dive master took my hand and we closed all our lights. It was something like I have never seen: it was like there were stars under water. It was fluorescent everywhere coming from corals, fish, starfish powder and plankton. We stayed there just looking around us for a while and continued diving. The experience was amazing and I would definitely do it again! Unfortunately there are no pictures! But here is a trumpet fish I got off the internet so you can see what it looks like!