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Dive Review of Laguna Beach Resort in
Honduras/Utila

Laguna Beach Resort, Apr, 2005,

by Rick Cavanaugh, MD, USA . Report 1651.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Belize, Bonaire, Little Cayman, Grand Turk, Provo, Salt Cay, BVI, St. Vincent, Bequia, Tobago Cays, St. Martin, Cozumel, Domonica, St Croix, Florida, North Carolina
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, cloudy, dry Seas calm
Water Temp 76 to 78 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50 to 75 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 130 feet max, no reverse profiles. 60 minutes maximum dive.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks > 2
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 1 stars Tropical Fish 1 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 2 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments Good for macro, lots of dead coral rubble for critters. Saw 100's of cryptic tear drop crabs and at least 2 different varieties of neck crabs.

Each boat has a camera rinse tank, but no real good place to change film, lenes etc. There is a table in the stern that is used by everyone to store whatever, and is quite wet. Each boat has a large rinse tank dedicated to cameras on the dock. No film processing.

Good Whale shark photos are nearly impossible to get due to the boat advancing on the shark rapidly. Whale sharks would dive. Average time with whale shark is 15 seconds. No Scuba diving with Whale sharks.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 2 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments Airline schedules don't exist, I think the plane leaves when they have enough people to fill it. Our plane out of San Pedro Sula left at about 4 pm (over 2 hours late which was good for us!). No weight restritions that I am aware of.

The Resort.
Laguna beach resort is located a short boat ride from the main town in Utila. The resort is very nice. The management goes overboard to make sure your visit is very pleasant. There is a nice beach on the Caribbean side. The air conditioned cottages are located on the lagoon side with private docks for watching sunsets or anything but boarding a boat(the water is about 12 inches deep). Meals are served according to the scuba boat schedule. Meals are varied and excellently prepared on the Caribbean scale. Bugs were only a problem on one windless night otherwise there were no problems with insects. (I would still bring DEET). There is no nightlife unless you make it and no shopping. Most night I closed up the honor bar at about 9 pm.

The Town
You can visit the town by taking a short boat ride to the other side of the lagoon. The town is a short 1 mile walk. Bicycles are available. A taxi ride is about $3 US. The town is full of hippies. Many young Americans and Europeans tour this area with backpacks since it is so cheap. Overnight rooms are as cheap as $4. If you go to town, check out the Jade Seahorse. It is hard to describe, but quite interesting. The best way to describe the Jade Seahorse is an artist with too my time on his hands.

Scuba Diving
Very Disappointing. The reef has sustained substantial damage over the years. This is not the type of damage that has occurred overnight. I am troubled by so many reports of the diving as being excellent. It is not. I talked to some repeat visitors and asked them how the reef has changed over the years. The told me "it has not changed at all, that is why they keep coming back!" This resort has many repeat visitors who are quite happy.

The majority of the coral is dead, bleached or diseased. I saw white band and black band disease and significant bleaching. There is significant algae growth. There are some patches of vibrantly colored healthy coral.

There are very few large fishes on the reef. There where plenty of small gobies, damsel fishes and a few angels. I only saw 1 small grouper, no reef shark, no nurse sharks, no large southern sting rays (saw a couple of small yellow sting rays). I would attribute the lack of fish to the condition of the reef.

There were large patches of coral rubble on many of the sites. It appears to have been there for quite some time. Many have said that the damage is from hurricane Mitch. I would say it is from agricultural run off from the main land. Honduras has significant farming of pineapples and other fruits.

Most of the dive masters went too fast to see the macro life that is quite abundant. I literally saw hundreds of cryptic tear drop crabs. Almost every sponge contained one. I saw 2 different varieties of neck crabs. There was a good amount of macro life to be seen if you would go slow enough.

Nitrox is available but it is an extra $8 per dive! There is no longer a one week discount. Most of the diving is very shallow and easy. There is a maximum of 1 hour bottom time so nitrox is not a huge advantage. Few used nitrox due to the price.

The better dives were the wreck of the Haliburton and the sea mounds located off shore.

Whale Sharks.
Each encounter would last about15 seconds before the shark was out of site.

The captains were excellent in finding whale sharks. You are not allowed to use scuba gear with the whale sharks. We saw whale sharks on at least 3 different days and some days we saw 4 different whale sharks.

We got to snorkel with dolphins 1 time as well.

The area with the whale sharks was crowded with up to 4 other boats. It as a bit of a zoo as the different boats put their craft into position for their snorkelers to jump in. I found it to be a little dangerous to snorkel with that many boats trying to get to the shark. I surfaced one time to be facing a bow of a boat headed right at me that was 20 feet away.

The whale shark encounter should be between the 1st and 2nd dive of the days surface interval. On some days, many on the boat wanted to skip the second dive to go whale shark hunting. Expect good sunburns and seasick occupants when this happens as you sit on a slow moving boat always on the ready (you usually only have 2 minutes or less to get ready) for 2 to 3 hours. The resorts policy is that if one person wants to dive, the whole boat dives. If this is you, expect pressure from everyone else on the boat.

If you really want to see whale sharks, I would do a private charter during the lunch hours when there are no boats on the water. I think this was around $75 an hour for a small boat. Split that 6 ways and it is quite cheap.

If you want to see Whale sharks with some scuba diving, this is the place to go.

If you want beautiful pristine diving on a healthy reef, go elsewhere.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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