Mesoamerican reef diaries. Utila

Almost a year ago we went to Honduras. We had only diving in plans, so headed to Utila and Roatan.

Utila was a kind of spartan place: sleep-eat-dive-sleep, or sleep-eat-snorkel-eat-sleep. On one of those snorkel days we feel asleep in a hammock at the beach. Next day I woke up with itchiness attack, and the following night I couldn’t sleep because everything was even more itchy! When we packed our bags to Honduras we’ve heard something about sandflies, but didn’t think of it as of something serious – like “hey, we’ve been to the bunch of mosquito countries, we are not scared of this stuff!” And there we were…

That was how our vacation in Honduras began:)

We lived in a dive hotel approximately in the middle of the south shore of the island. There was none except the two of us and we had the cook for ourselves. We dived in small groups and because of the weather we were not able to go to some locations. 17464516900_8ecedca567_z

Heavy rain on Utila ©Marina Kudrya

Our divemaster was looking mostly for the small stuff – and, well, we didn’t see any big animals on Utila. She would show us some tiny slugs or the things I didn’t even know were alive… This animal below, for example, is called black and white crinoid and it sticks to you when you touch it. It attaches itself on the top of the reef, or on sponges, or on sea whips, where it lives on grabbing and filtering out any plankton that comes near.

Some crinoids have a lot of arms, while others have very few. The number of arms varies greatly so it’s hard to put an estimate on the number of arms a crinoid will have. One of the explanations for this is possibly due to how much food is available for the crinoid. If the water has a lot of plankton, then the crinoid doesn’t need as many arms to catch food, while if there is not a great supply of food, the crinoid will need a larger number of arms to comb and filter the plankton from the water.

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Black and white crinoid ©Marin Kudrya

Crinoids are common in the Caribbean, but was Utila when I first see them.

Those are the decorator crabs. They are about 5cm long. Decorator crabs use materials from their environment to hide from the predators (and do it successfully). I would never think that this thing were a crab; that’s why a good dive master is important!:)

Decorator crabs ©Marina Kudrya

That thing below is a green sea slug (I’m still not sure what about its full name). This one lives around pine cone algae, where it also puts its eggs on (pictured).

Sea slug on a pine cone algae ©Marina Kudrya 

The following creature is a slender filefish. Filefish grow up to 10cm long and can alter their colour and pattern to match their surroundings and deter predators. This little fish is a master of quick change. It is able to change its appearance in between one and three seconds.

Slender filefish feature a small tube-like mouth, horn-like dorsal fin and almost flat body. Also, this tiny filefish are closely related to the triggerfish, trunkfish and even pufferfish.
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Slender filefish ©Marina Kudrya

On Utila there are not so many lionfish because it’s popular to kill this invasive beauty. You can take a course on how to kill them, obtain a special slingshot and go harvesting the fish. They even have a lionfish “killaphone”. Eat them or feed them to the sharks, there are a few present.

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Lionfish ©Marina Kudrya

There is a divesite on Utila called Black hills that is most vivid in my memory. It is said to have hammerhead sharks there. We haven’t seen one, particularly because it is a very popular place, and not only between scuba divers but also among free divers (Utila has a couple of free diving schools) – overall the place was crowded. On the other hand it was one of the most lush sites that we’ve been to on Utila (most of them were sandy bottoms with macro life). Black hills resembles just one hill covered in rich corals, fans, gorgonians with aquarium fish and crabs and with schools of tuna and durgons flying around it.

 

Corals on Black hills ©Marina Kudrya

That was our week on Utila. We hoped to see a whale shark and we saw one… from our plane to Roatan.

Stay tuned for Roatan.

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