Utila has on record over 220 species of reef fish and 50 species of coral, as well as an untold number of reef invertebrates.
One of the most attractive aspects of diving on Utila is the wide variety. The island is circumnavigated by over 80 buoyed dive sites. These range from sheer wall dives like the 'Great Wall' to sandy-bottomed shallow reefs like 'Little Bight'; from deep wrecks like the 'Halliburton 211' to sloping fringing reef like 'Airport Caves'. Wherever our boats take you, there is one thing to be assured – you are not going to see the same thing twice!
To better understand the different types of diving on Utila, please see the breakdown below. We have divided the island into five sections. These sections have been determined by the type of diving you will do there. There is also a list of some key sites in each area.
For many people this is the highlight of diving in Utila. Turtle Harbour is a nationally protected marine reserve and is home to some of the most awe-inspiring of Utilas dive sites. It is located on the far North side of the island and is a 45 minute boat ride. Part of the attraction here is the sheer depth of many of the wall dives. The reef drops off from 15-20ft/5-6m and rapidly reaching recreational limits. For this reason this part of the island is best for the more experienced diver. These sites are great for seeing many of the bigger fish such as Groupers, Barracuda, Nurse Sharks and the beautiful Midnight Parrotfish. It is not uncommon to see large schools of Snappers and Spadefish at these sites too. Certain sites in the harbour are also perfect for seeing invertebrates such as sea slugs. Take a closer look at the shallow reef on CJ's drop off – you'll be surprised how much you see!
Also on the North side of the island, stretching from the Utila Cays towards Turtle Harbour, are the Northwest group of dive sites, a 25-30 minute boat ride away. This part of the reef is particularly noteworthy because of the abundance and range of healthy hard and soft corals. The sites start at around 20-25ft/6-8m and slope off (sometimes gradually, sometimes steeply) beyond recreational limits. For many people, the sheer diversity of life on these sites make them must-dives for many of Utila's experienced divers. Some special species to look out for here are the beautiful Flamingo tongues and the shy Harlequin pipefish, but don't forget to look out into the blue occasionally – you don't want to miss the Eagle Rays 'flying' by!
The Southwest side of the island is the biggest area we have chosen and also the one with the widest variety of different sites. Boat times to these sites vary from 10-25 minutes. The fringing reef here starts at the edge of East Harbour and runs all the way to the Utila Cays (around 5 km). In this area you will find all types of sites, from shallow banking reefs to smaller wall dives. Fish life is wide and varied throughout these sites but divers often like to explore the labyrinthine spur and groove formations that make up the shallows of many of these sites. Here you have a good chance of finding a sleeping Nurse Shark or a peaceful Green Moray. With the reefs on these sites starting as shallow as 3ft/1m, there is plenty to see for everyone. Some of the best snorkeling on Utila can also be found at these sites.
The South East end of the island is attractive because of the quality of diving and the easy access. With boat rides between 2 and 10 minutes many divers choose these sites for their afternoon trips. This section of the reef boasts 3 wrecks and limitless swim-throughs and caves. The reef here starts very shallow (5ft/2m) and has a maximum depth of between 50ft/15m and depths beyond recreational limits. The lure here really is the chance to explore and find those nooks and crannies bustling with Glassy Sweepers and Dog Snappers. Common sightings on this part of the reef are Seahorses and Eagle Rays.
Whilst Utila's fringing reef has plenty to offer, sometimes it's nice to take a break from the islands' sites and explore offshore! With outstanding diving available on the many banks that surround Utila, this is a must for everyone exploring the island. A particular favorite for many of Utila's resident dive pros, Black Hills offers an unbeatable volume of schooling fish including Atlantic Spadefish, Creole Wrasse and Horse-eyed Jacks. Other banks off the South West side offer incredible views of soft corals unequalled anywhere else on the island. These banks tend to be a little deeper than the fringing reef starting at around 35-40ft/10-12m. Boat times to the banks vary from 10-30 minutes.