Utila Tec Diving Sites - Explore with UDC
Utila is part of the string of islands that lay on the upper level of the Bonacca Ridge, which forms the edge of the Honduran continental shelf and parallels a deep ocean trench, creating an exhilarating section of the Great Western Barrier Reef (second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia).
It was initially in 2001 that a technical diving community started to grow on the island, with the purpose of exploring the deep North side walls of the island and the outer banks that lay between the islands, previously only visited by local fishermen. There is a plethora of sites to satisfy the most inquisitive explorers, from the fringing reefs of Utila’s South side to the deep drop offs and steep walls on the North. Maybe you’d prefer the offshore feeding grounds of the ‘sea mounts’? The dive sites on the North side of Utila are in an area that is a protected marine sanctuary named ‘Turtle Harbor’, on the edges of a great wall that drops thousand and thousands of feet to the continental shelf and bears great similarities to the Cayman Wall. Along this wall coral ledges, cracks in the wall and caverns highlight how the islands were once much higher than sea level until raising ice age waters flooded the Bonacca ridge. Our technical diving team have explored the reefs and outer banks of Utila in order to provide training and certified technical divers with a variety of dive sites to explore.
As you pass the East end of Utila and head towards the North side, you’ll see the landmark of Pumpkin Hill to your left. Then you’re soon approaching the site of ‘Whale Rock’. This dive site is a peninsular that extends from the fringing reef of Pumpkin Hill, and when viewed from the seaward side resembles the head of a whale. There is even a swim through at 150ft/46mt where the eyes of the Whale 'appear'. Directly above the eyes at 130ft/40mt, is the whale's 'blow hole'. The sea bed lies at 170ft/51mt and further dives are underway to explore the deeper regions of the site. An ideal profile at this site involves 20 minutes on the bottom navigating the rock, then heading in shore upon ascent to be surrounded by barracudas, jacks and curious grunts whilst surveying the colorful reef on deco time.
Pumpkin Hill Bank;
Approximately 3km off the North side of Utila, out from Pumpkin Hill, you could be forgiven for assuming there wouldn’t be anything of much interest for a diver. Well, like most assumptions, you’d be wrong! 100ft/30mt below sea level sits the surface of one of the most colorful and strenuous dive sites of Utila, the Pumpkin Hill inner bank. Previously, this site was only frequented by local fishermen due to the richness and variety of aquatic life that feeds on this mound. However, since we obtained the GPS co-ordinates we have discovered this site is not for the faint hearted. Strong currents exist here, and on the West side of the mount there is a down current that flows down the deeper sides of the bank. Definitely expect to make every decompression stop in the blue as a drift hang. The rewards of this dive are worth the challenge, though - you’ll spend most of the dive at 160ft/49mt, surrounded by groupers in excess of 20-30lbs and schools of horse-eye jacks!
On the North side of Utila, as you pass the Pumpkin Hill landmark, heading westwards there lies a deep bank that rises off the seabed and runs parallel to the shoreline, home to large schools of groupers, hogfish and dog snappers. This dive site originally got its name from local fishermen who would use the bank to set anchor and then drift their fishing boats over the deeper trenches on each side of the bank to look for their catches. The top of the bank is at 100ft/30mt, and on either side of the bank you can reach depths up to 180ft/55mt. Unless using a CCR, you’ll find that turn pressure is usually called before fully exploring this bank, warranting multiple visits. As strong currents heading outwards to open sea can exist in this area and decompression will normally be completed in the blue with surface boat support