So Utila. I stuck around an extra few days waiting on a travel buddy, to wrap up my time in Utila with final experiences, and to check out the Dive Festival going on right now. A few festival events sparked my interest: the Guinness Wold Record diver pyramid, the $10 sidemount/rebreather try dive, and the lionfish hunt, for instance. None of these I made it to, but instead: the UDC “fancy” fun dive for $15 (instead of the usual $30). By fancy I thought they meant formal attire, but apparently they meant the British ‘fancy’ meaning ridiculous. Well, I can do that too.
I rummaged through my pack and found a costume I deemed appropriate: a mismatched electric blue and pink bikini combo over hot aqua leggings. My friends Nick and Sophia, who have been housing me for the past few days since my apartment lease ran out, approved. I strutted down the street from my new temporary home at BICD to UDC. Strangely to my mind, I got more cat calls and comments walking down the street than normal (which is none), even though I was wearing more clothes than a normal bathing suit. “Wonder woman!” “I like your new style!” “What you wearin’, girl?!” *whistle* At UDC, Deckland said once I dove that all the parrotfish would flock to me, calling “Mommy!!!!”.
I rocked up to UDC at 12:45pm, timely enough for my 1pm dive. That’s when I was told I was the ONLY ONE signed up for the fancy dress dive. WHAT?! Seriously people? Where is the sense of fun!? We were switched from the Old Tom to a small motor boat, Reefer Madness, that only accommodates six tanks. My guide congratulated me and told me I had won the dive. My prize? An unheard of golden egg: I got to pick my dive site. Any site on the south side of the island. All other dive boat go to someplace the captain picks; divers have no say unless it’s a special site suitable for a course. Picking your own dive site is a big deal.
|Me jumping for joy aboard the Reefer Madness.|
I chose Labyrinth. As the name implies, the site is a maze of channels and semi-enclosed passageways through the reef just big enough for a diver to explore. One thing I had not done in Utila or ever before was a swim through, and I desperately wanted to. Now was my chance. My guide was keen: “Let’s go see some cool shit!” and we set off.
|Taking a little superhero-inspired pose as we approach Labyrinth.|
I ticked off another first on the way into the water: the James Bond roll. Entry from all other UDC boats I’ve been on is a giant stride off the back of the boat, but not possible on our little enclosed motorboat. I sat on the rail, held my mask and reg, and threw myself backward off the boat with such force that I did a complete backflip under water. Always going for style points! Pretty awesome way to kick off what would be a totally badass dive.
This dive had it all. The swim throughs were indeed all that. I love needing to tightly control buoyancy and navigating your body through a puzzle course. Neither my guide nor I had dove earlier in the day, so we decided to throw in a little deep dive for kicks and made it all the way to my max depth, 29.5 meters. We ascended along the gravelly bottom; I pretended I was one of the cavern students and did my very best Zoni-inspired hover just above the seabed. Back in the reef, we saw two Hacksbill turtles taking shelter in the reef; one we discovered immediately to our right by only a few feet at the top of a vertical swim through. The visibility was clear, the sun was bright, and sea life was abundant. We also saw a golden spotted eel, a King Crab, and I noticed flamingo tongues (I’ll always think back to my first fun dive when CJ put one of these in my hand).
We came up exhilarated. Wicked dive, probably my favorite fun dive yet. All in all, best $15 I ever spent.
P.S. So… contrary to the title of the post and what I thought at the time, the fancy dive actually turned out to be my second to last dive. The final dive actually happened the next day: a fun dive with Sophia, Nick, and Ross. With newly-minted Advanced and Open Water credentials, Nick and Sophia were on their first fun dives in Utila after their coursework and ready to just go have fun on the last day. A few dock pics capture that post-dive glow.
|Aww… couldn’t ask for better people to take me in off the streets. Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.|
|The team. Wahooo! Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.|