Utila is one of the world’s most renowned scuba diving locations and one of the reasons Geof met me in Honduras – he wanted to check out the reknown Utila dive center. After picking him up in the airport and spending a night in dodgy La Ceiba we caught an early morning ferry to the island to find a dive shop in Utila.
As soon as we exited the ferry there was a mob of people flashing brochures of dive shops and hotels, promising cheap prices and free accommodations. It was completely overwhelming but Geof hadn’t planned to dive for a few days so we decided to put our bags down and start the trip off right with brunch and a few cuba libres at the corner bar, Las Pirates.
There we met John, an expat Canadian who ran the bar and offered his services if we were in trouble as he was a member of the Canadian Embassy. At that time our only problem was choosing the right dive shop as all the prices are practically the same. John suggested we put together a list of questions as that would begin to separate the shops and while we had no idea what to ask, fortunately John did.
Our situation was a bit unique because Geof was diving and I was not, but these questions are a good starting point to help decide which is the best shop.
What is the cost for the course?
Does it include all of the equipment?
Does it include any fun dives?
Does it include the mandatory reef fee?
If I pay with a credit card what is the additional fee?
How many people are in a course?
How many instructors on each dive?
Where do you dive? How many times do you go to the North, where the best diving is (according to Lonely Planet)?
Can we see the equipment?
How large are the air tanks?
Are equipment rentals free for snorkelers (non-divers) staying at the hotel?
What kind of boat is used?
How many people are on the boat?
Is it covered for mid-day sun?
Is lunch served on the boat? Will there be food? Water?
Can I come on the boat to snorkel when Geof dives? For free?
How many nights free are included in the course?
Can we see the room?
Is there Internet or Wifi?
Is there a kitchen?
Is there purified water?
Are there any additional costs for me to stay?
Are there any kayaks? Are they free?
When is the last time you saw whale sharks?
While it appears that the shops offer similar services with comparable prices the answers to these questions helped us see the differences. In the end we chose a shop that we knew had a great reputation and good price, but what won us over was their easy going attitude and they didn’t charge extra fees for me on the boat or using their gear as it didn’t cost them anything.
If you have been to an Utila dive centre let me know in the comments where you’ve been and how you liked it!
If you liked this post check out when I eventually learned to scuba dive in Mexico.