Utila, the smallest of the Bay Islands, offers a wide variety of easily accessible dive sites with varying underwater terrains. Sitting at the edge of the largest barrier
reef in the Western Hemisphere, Utila’s waters are teeming with colorful marine life. Utila has over 100 charted dive sites which include sea mounts, shallow fringing reefs and plunging walls that circumnavigate the Cayman Trench.
The shallow fissures with sandy bottoms and beautiful purple coral gardens just off Utopia’s shores will tantalize shore divers. Utila’s crystal blue waters host over 90% of marine inhabitants found in the Caribbean, including schools of Blue Tangs, Southern Sennetes, and scores of other brilliantly colored Tropical fish. Everything from a myriad of juvenile reef residents to the larger Whale Shark, Manta Rays, Spotted Eagle Rays, and Moray Eels can be sited.
The North side of Utila is best known for its drop-offs, which are considered deep dives. The upper edge of the wall begins anywhere from 55-85 feet, with each dive site having its own personality and marine growth. Inshore from the drop-offs, excellent medium to shallow coral reefs can be found with diving depths ranging from 20-55 feet which allows both novice and expert divers to enjoy the sites. Utila’s waters also house three wreck sites in varying sizes and depths. With water temperatures averaging 80 degrees or warmer, gentle currents and 100 feet of underwater visibility, Utila will be a dive destination you will never forget.
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The Halliburton (wreck dive)
The Halliburton, Utila’s favorite and largest wreck, is 100 feet by 25 feet. The wreck sits at 100 feet in depth and is situated on a sandy bottom making it perfect for the Advanced Diver and those hoping to earn specialties in wreck, nitrox, and deep diving. The Halliburton was sunk in 1998 to create an ecosystem that would add to Utila’s diverse underwater world. Look for Grouper, Southern Sennet, Flameback Angelfish, as well as, Yellow Pencil Coral, Bearded Fireworm and Pore Rope Sponge.
The Aquarium dive site is appropriately named for the colorful wall filled with coral and encrusted sponge. Hang out with a big school of Southern Senate as you initially descend from this dive mooring. Upon approaching the wall and turning left, enjoy watching the surf hit the lava rocks above you. Here, there are two caverns shaped by the waves which mold them into sweeping arches. These caverns and over hangs are great places to search for Octopus and Glassy Sweepers. You will see everything from Greater Soap Fish to hundreds of juvenile reef residents congregating at this dive site.
At Jack Bight, drop down East of the buoy to 30 feet and find banded Coral Shrimp and a huge Green Moray Eel peering at you from within a chimney hole. Further along there are narrow canyon swim through passages to deeper parts of the reef where an open basin of soft Coral heads reside.
This dive site gets its name from the volcanic rock that forms the wall running parallel to the shore. The upper section of the reef is at 20-30 feet and filled with abundant soft and hard coral heads. At 60-85 feet, swim past a series of caverns and view everything from huge lobster to Goliath Grouper. There is a light current at Blackish Point making it a perfect drift dive.
Ted's Point is approximately 45-50 feet deep. Descend onto sandy area with a large coral head that sports a cleaning station. Southeast past the coral head, at 65 feet, is a sunken concrete hull sailboat approximately 41 feet long where you will see a sandy patch littered with Southern Stingray and Spotted Eagle Rays. Toward the West of the mooring are swim through canyons filled with Permit and Bermuda Chubs. Listen to the Toad Fish as you swim by at approximately 60 feet. East of the buoy, in the shallows, you can see turtles and an abundance of soft and hard coral.
The Pinnacle is named for the tall coral formation and several chimneys that are typical of this area. Below the dive buoy are two small caverns that begin at 60 feet and drop to 160 feet. To the East of the mooring, there are several swim through tunnels and sandy patches where you can find Nurse Sharks loitering under the rock ledges. The second channel gradually slopes to a depth of 80 feet where it disappears to a depth of 130 feet just over the wall.
Cabanas I and II
The Cabanas are favorite sites just in front of Utopia’s shore. Cabana is Spanish for bungalow and the site is named for the small cabana sized coral heads. This fringing reef area begins at 15 feet and gradually drops to 90 feet. This is an excellent multi-level dive featuring great soft coral formations. Look for Nudi Branch and Sea Slugs in this area.
Jack Neal Point
Jack Neal Point is just East of Utopia and hits sand at about 90 feet. This is a great site to view Southern Stingray and Spotted Eagle Rays. Photographers will enjoy the “macro” marine life found in a perfect depth to make your safety stop.
Located 1.5 miles off the coast of Utila, Black Hills is a must see dive site. You will love the “aquarium” like atmosphere at this seamount that ascends to 35 feet, with a light current surrounding it. At one side, the Cayman Trench drops from 165 feet into the abyss below. Huge schools of Horseeye Jack, Yellowtail Snappers, and Barracudas frequent this area. The aquarium like atmosphere hosts thousands of brightly colored Tropical fish. Enjoy!