Approximately eighteen miles off the Honduran mainland, the small island of Utila basks in the gentle glow of the Caribbean sun. Throughout history Utila has been a beacon for people from all walks of life, be they pirates of old or modern day backpackers looking for new treasures to return home with. It’s for these reasons that out of all the places in this wide and wonderful world I chose to do my Instructor Development Course (IDC) and become a PADI instructor. My thoughts are interrupted as the ferry from La Ceiba (affectionately known as ‘The Vomit Comet’) steams into the port and I catch my first glimpses of the Pirates paradise, the numerous rickety wooden docks tumbling out over the still bay. You can see the waves breaking on the shallow reefs which surround Utila making it a lure for divers of all levels and passions.
Several weeks prior to my arrival I emailed several dive shops that offered the Instructor course and after all was said and done, Utila Dive Center (UDC) rose head and shoulders above the rest. Not only were they more than happy to provide information about courses and their dive facilities (as expected), they gave me first hand advice alongside tips and tricks for travel, accommodation and general island life which made me feel that I was returning to a home away from home before even setting foot on the plane in London.
On arrival, I touched base at the dive shop which is located a ten minute walk from the main pier. Utila Dive Center is alive with the hustle of dive briefings and the bustle of tanks and equipment carried, like ants, by Divemasters to and from boats. UDC boasts first class tuition and facilities, hitting the nail on the head as so to speak, which is consequently the aim of the game in the beloved past time‘Nails’, one of many activities that make up its buzzing post-dive social scene .
After a few days of acclimatization including good food, good drink and good people the IDC began and we’re introduced to UDC’s holy trinity embodied in Suzy, Jhair and Mary, each a shining example of what we could achieve with the right mind set and attitude. The days are filled with classroom, pool and open water sessions which slowly and surely over the course of 2 weeks whittled us down in to lean mean SCUBA instructing machines. Delicious hot buffets were dotted through-out the fortnight serving as milestones congratulating our progress but also acting as an incentive to complete the next leg of training. The course structure was perfect with days that were full but weren’t stuffed to the rafters allowing for post class tomfoolery to ensue on more than one occasion.
Following a focused couple of weeks, the first dive which could be legitimately counted as fun provided a much needed buffer between IDC and the Instructor exam. Martini’s Law (the fastest boat in the UDC armada and captained by local legend Ryan) steamed towards the North side and CJ’s drop off, a dive site appropriately named as the wall the title describes cascades dramatically downwards into the desolate depths below. An abundance of marine life call the wall itself, the plateau situated on top and the impenetrable blue just off to the North, home. It’s not unlikely to spot turtles gently pulling themselves towards a cleaning station or an Eagle ray as it soars towards an unfixed destination. Needless to say that this was the perfect balm to soothe our tired minds which, at that moment, were still trying to sort and file PADI standards, dive theory and the reality of the rapidly approaching Instructor Exam (IE).
The following morning as I wiped the sleep from my eyes and stumbled aboard the Fishfinder it dawned on me that I was in fact well prepared for this test and the anxiety fell away. Two days and four tests followed which were aced by everyone involved and after all that I was an PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor.
Looking back on it now you can see the course run by UDC is the result of a lot of hard work and experience gained by staff as a result of teaching large amounts of instructors. This, to me, seems like a great advantage over other shops as any problems encountered are ironed out without issue and time is spent one on one overcoming any hurdle you could imagine being it technical or academic. In addition I found the bigger class sizes at UDC hugely beneficial as it allows for a more interactive experience meaning you don’t only learn from the IDC staff but from other candidates supplementing the required learning.
In conclusion I would strongly recommend anyone considering taking the next step in PRO level training to come and do it with UDC in Utila. You’ll learn so much more than what the curriculum demands and make some great friends along the way.
Wish you were here,
For more info about UDC and Utila see the links below.