Rubicon Adventures in conjunction with Central American Spanish School presents a combination of Class IV and V rafting , World Class Diving, (learn to dive programs also), Mayan Ruins and "Emersion Learning" Spanish Classes.
Spanish School, an Educational Addition to Dive Travel, 2004:
by Bill Mashek
A friend mentioned to me she was going to spend part of the month in Mexico for Spanish language school, primarily, because this particular school included surfing as part of the program. It was this conversation that inspired me to look into Spanish language schools in a country where I could dive, run rivers and or go surfing. Not only would I have a possible tax write off but also a chance to develop my (Spanish) language skills.
After spending several hours on the internet looking up language schools in different countries, I decided on Honduras. Honduras is a wonderfully diverse country. As stated in the Lonely Planet: Honduras is the original "banana republic". It is a democracy with a developing economy. The national language is Spanish, however, English is dominant on the Bay Islands. It is a cheap easy place to travel. Honduras has incredible natural resources including, "world class" whitewater boating and some of the best (and cheapest) diving in the Caribbean.
Central American Spanish Schools seemed to have the most comprehensive program and a school on the island of Utila. They also were the only school to offer "medical Spanish" as my traveling companions. Viki, Dee and Lois were emergency room nurses and needed the Spanish for work. Rafael, the director, answered all my questions. He responded to my emails the same day I wrote them. Best of all the price was right. Cost was $185.00 per week including room and board.(room only on Utila).
Our first week was in the coastal city of La Ceiba. La Ceiba is also the port for the "Bay Islands" and base for river trips in the Pinto Bonito National Park and Cangregal River. Every day we had different activities, including treks to the rain forest, river canopy (zip lines), dancing, and class on the beach. On Friday, we went to Oscar Perez's Jungle River Lodge where we hiked through the verdant rain forest of Pinto Bonito National Park to a 600 ft high waterfall. The next day we went rafting down the precipitous drops of the Cangregal river gorge. I am a whitewater outfitter in California, Viki, a class V guide and Dee a Class V kayaker we were all impressed with not only the river but Oscars' guides (Johnnie, Ricardo and Juan) and his entire operation. Unfortunately, Lois had torn ligaments and could not partake on our adventure. The next morning we caught the ferry to Utila.
UtilaUtila's official website
Utila is the smallest and flattest of the three major Bay Islands, and is the closest to the mainland. The island is 9.5 miles long and 3 miles wide. Land transportation on Utila is limited to a few pickup trucks, a couple of unreliable taxis and a ton of old mountain bikes. Utila is not only renown as one of the best diving locations in the caribbean it is also known as the cheapest. From mid February through March one can almost be guaranteed a whale shark experience. Subsequently, the streets are lined with dive shops. Because certifications are so cheap, many shops have reputations as "dive master factories". For as little as $500 (including lodging) one can spend a month on the island completing a dive master course. My 12 dives cost me $160.
I dived with Altons because that is the shop the school uses. They were fine. The dive masters were young, mostly inexperienced but competent and all were friendly. Dee did her certification course through Altons, they were able to work around her school schedule and she felt her instruction was proficient. I have heard very good reports about Deep Blue Divers.The best diving in Utila is in the morning. This is when most dive boats go to the "north" side. Also, morning offers the best conditions. Unfortunately, I had school in the morning and dived in the afternoon. By doing this I missed two whale shark encounters. There are no bad dive sites on Utila. During my 12 dives, I encountered the largest lobster I have seen in the ocean (20-25 pounds) several barracuda, jaw fish, octopus, spotted drums, sea turtles, moray, scorpion fish, crabs, hog fish lizard fish, large sting ray, eagle rays, corals, sea fans, sponges and much much more. The dive sites included a spectacular seamount at Black Hills, Rons Wreck,: unimpressive as a wreck dive but lots of sea life- saw the green moray here. Airport reef,(a good night dive) Blue Bayou, where I saw 2 turtles, barracuda and the "giant" lobsters. Black coral wall (2 deep dives here-good), Jack Neil, Big Rock, and Cabanas. The visibility ranged from 60-100 ft. Though I did a couple of deep dives (36 miters) the best diving is between 12-20 miters.
Lodging and food in Utila are as cheap as Thailand. We stayed at the Colibri Hotel, a new hotel with the first pool in Utila. We had a large room with 2 queen size beds and hot water for $25. Per night. Most meals are under $3.00. A fancy diner will cost about twice that. For non divers, Viki and Lois spent an afternoon on Water Caye-(a small white sand island with palm trees and no sand flys) an afternoon snorkeling, a hike to Pumpkin Hill and explored some of the caves. There is also horseback riding, shopping and people watching. But be prepared, the bay islands are renown for some of the most aggressive no seeums anywhere. Bring lots of repellent.
In conclusion, my only regrets about my trip is that my travel was confined due to taking the classes. I would have really liked to visit the ruins at Copan but that was on the other side of the country. If you travel with Taca Airlines be prepared to have your luggage delayed. This is a common event of this airline. It was nice to have Rafael as an advocate to hasten the process of getting our luggage to La Ceiba. The cultural experience of not only, getting to know, but become friends with the Honduran people I met was exceptional. In addition we made many international friends with other students. The entire trip was extraordinary.
Website linksAltons Diving
Central American Spanish School
Jungle River Tours
Deep Blue Divers
Utila's official website