Honduras – Utila, San Pedro Sulas, Copan

Scuba diving — I love it although I am saddened by the decline of reef health. I went to Honduras because the reefs there are in relatively great condition. However, I cannot help but wonder, what has already been lost?

Despite my ruminations on the health of the reefs, I wanted to see the reefs in Honduras and that is exactly what I did.

I went to Honduras with three friends. The main goal of our trip was to scuba dive around the small island of Utila.

I was supposed to fly from DC to Miami and from Miami to San Pedro Sulas, Honduras and then take a bus from San Pedro to the port city of La Ceiba. The trip did not go as planned.

After departing on time from Washington Reagan National Airport, the captain informed us that our flaps were stuck in the 5% down position. We could not continue to Miami but we could not return to National because, as the captain stated, “Dulles has the longest runway in the area.” Think for a second — why would we need the longest runway in the area? Oh right, because the main mechanism for stopping our plane — our flaps — was broken. Scary. The harrowing emergency landing at Dulles included the entire fire, police, and ambulance corps of the airport arrayed on the runways directly parallel to ours. We used our brakes a lot (no flaps, remember), and were fine. Amazingly, American Airlines found us another plane within two hours of landing.

Since I missed my connecting flight and arrived in San Pedro Sulas late, my travel companions, per our pre-arranged contingency plan, left San Pedro without me. With some Spanglish and luck, I was able to find a “safe” hotel, a bus schedule for the next day, and walking directions to the bus station. The bus departed at 6am. I arrived in La Ceiba at 9:15 am. The ferry for Utila left at 9:30am. My friends were waiting for me. Phew, made it.

Unfortunately, the weather was terrible. Over 50% of our boat rejected their breakfast, including me, which is rare since I do not get sea sickness. Since the waves were higher than our boat, I do not feel quite as bad.

Despite raining for the first three days of our stay, Utila was amazing. The island is filled with interesting, diverse people. The diving is…amazing. On our last dive on the last day, we saw a whale shark! I snorkled behind it until it dove too deep. By then, I was in a massive school of tuna, who were darting all around me eating invisible krill. The birds were diving into the water, as well. It was an experience and adventure. I loved it!

Our small group then departed Utila for a 24hr excursion to Copan. Turns out the bus station in San Pedro, on the days before Christmas, is not the place to go. No one knows what is going on, least of all gringo touristas. We found a bus headed for Copan. It was supposed to be an “express.” It was not. Instead, we stopped every few miles. People got on, people got off. It was hot. There was no air conditioning and the kid behind me was sick. The police stopped the bus many times. However, they only got on it once and then spent ten minutes ignoring everyone on the bus but us. Shockingly, and to the credit of the Honduran state, we were not asked for bribe money and were allowed to continue. We arrived in Copan 5 hours after we left. In the US, this trip might have taken 90 minutes.

Copan was wondrous. It is considered the “Athens of Central America” for a good reason. Since our bus took three hours longer than we expected, we only had under two hours to visit before the site closed and our return bus departed. (Note, we could not miss the return bus or else we could have missed our flights back to the US). Luckily, two hours is really all you need to see the site. Another hour or two would have been nice but was not necessary. We saw all the main parts.

We flew out of San Pedro the next morning and were happy to have seen a lot of Honduras (and its people), some amazing reefs, a whale shark, and Copan.


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