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Captain Morgan’s Dive Center :: Jewel Cay, Honduras

When you step off the ferry onto the island of Utila, you are immediately bombarded by the tourism and chaos that makes Utila so entertaining.  The island vibe is pervasive, giving inhabitants and visitors a “no worries” attitude.  This way of life funnels itself into a culture of partying, drugs, and drinking.  Young, tan tourists of every nationality stroll along the street in bikinis and board shorts, and bars, restaurants, and hotels repeat themselves in a line that runs a semi-circle through the island.  Interspersed in those hotels and restaurants are nearly 20 dive shops, and all but one train students on the shores of Utila.  Captain Morgan’s Dive Center trains students on Jewel Cay, one of the many cays that surround the island of Utila. The location on Jewel Cay provides easy access to diving areas on the Utila’s north shore that other dive centers do not offer.

Jewel Cay can be safely compared to Utila as it’s fraternal twin – they are located within the same group of islands, yet lack any similarity.  The cay, which is connected to Pigeon Cay by a small bridge, holds 500 people within the two islands.  Within this population are seven churches.  The tiny township of Jewel Cay is extremely conservative, and its inhabitants can be heard singing gospel hymns in church on numerous days of the week.

Although Jewel Cay is not the best place to go bar hopping or to a rave, it is the perfect setting to work on your diving skills.  The turquoise water is crystal clear, the wildlife is clearly abundant through merely snorkeling, and you are surrounded by divers who never tire of talking about the water and the animals that live in it.  And not to worry – Jewel Cay is also perfect for drinking beers on the dock at any time of day… team Ramble Writer tested this on numerous occasions to ensure your enjoyment.

Nick and I came to Captain Morgan’s for different purposes: Nick, an experienced diver, came to complete his Advanced Openwater Diver training.  I, on the other hand, had never even snorkeled before.  I was at Captain Morgan’s to get my Open Water Diving certification.

I was a bit nervous about my certification.  The thought of descending 30 feet and breathing underwater through a regulator left me breathless just thinking about it.  Fortunately for me, Jewel Cay has calm, clear, and warm waters, and my instructor, Gina, was a patient and encouraging teacher.

Gina is a vibrant and energized woman from Switzerland, and has more piercings than I can count by memory.  She began diving two years ago and never stopped.  Gina dives almost everyday, and her excitement for life underwater is infectious.

To become a Certified Open Water Diver by PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), my course was required to include three facets: 1.) Instructional videos, completed book chapters, and discussion of this material with Gina, 2.) confined diving (practicing skills in shallow waters), and 3.) open water diving (diving in depths that range from 10-30 feet, which includes further skill practice).  This course is intended to last 4 days, which includes two “fun dives” (dives that are without formal instruction of skill practice), once your training is completed.

During a beginner diver’s stay at Hotel Kayla, Captain Morgan’s hotel on Jewel Cay, the four days of training are packed with studying, becoming familiar with the dive gear, and skill practice.  Becoming accustomed to underwater breathing was difficult for me, so I took a day off to practice mask removal and general breathing underwater while snorkeling.  After my “day off” from training I was ready to dive – we began skill practice under 10 feet of water, and the following day dove to a depth of 30 feet.

I cannot compare diving to any prior experiences in my lifetime.  Swimming amongst marine life is peaceful and stunning, yet exciting and fascinating.  The sensation of swimming in deep water is delightful – it can be graceful and fluid, or awkward and wavering, depending on your proficiency in buoyancy control and movement.  I swam with animals that I had only ever seen on television or in pictures.  I spotted eels, clown fish, halibut, angel fish, lobster, and even a spotted eagle ray.

Captain Morgan’s Dive Center gave me a new appreciation of the northern Honduran coast and the many experiences it’s natural settings it has to offer.  Diving was exciting, and my first experiences deep underwater were supported by a professional staff and well-maintained equipment.  All of these aspects, in addition to a price fit for a rambler’s budget, make our decision to dive with Captain Morgan’s a no-brainer.
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Thinking of diving in Honduras?
If you are traveling in Central America with limited funds, Honduras is an optimal place to dive.  The Honduran northern coast is beautiful, and prices to dive are much cheaper compared to Belize and Costa Rica.  At Captain Morgan’s Dive Center, my Open Water Diver Certification and Nick’s Advanced Open Water Dive session cost $278, which includes all 4 free nights at Hotel Kayla, 2 Free dives, snorkel and kayak usage.  If you are training to dive at Captain Morgan’s, any additional nights at Hotel Kayla are $5 a night.

Visit Captain Morgan’s website at  www.divingutila.com for more information.

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