October 18-28, 2016
Fun Diving with Alton’s
This tiny island has so many cultures to offer that just one visit here would not be enough to soak it all in. Sure, there isn’t much to do on the island unless you are a diver, but you can lounge on Chepes Beach, rent an ATV and head thru the jungle to Pumpkin Hill Beach or to Big Bight beach, discover all the small cafes in town and chat with people from every corner of the world. This trip did have a purpose, however, and that was to get footage for a short film I plan to produce on sea plastics. I did manage to get the footage I wanted, plus a ton more footage from my dives and trips around town, and it will take me the better part of 2 weeks just to merge and stitch footage before I can even really start to edit anything!
Being that this trip was shorter, and I had an agenda to keep to, I didn’t get to meet as many people as I would have liked to. But I did make friends with the owners of the new Texas Mule Saloon (met them at the beach cleanup), the woman who’s been pushing the beach cleanups, Tiffini Lopez, as well as some new diver friends from Alton’s. I do have to say, the people I meet in Utila seem to have some of the most amazing stories. Most of them are on “Around-The-World” journeys and will gladly tell you stories of places they have visited as well as share their plans for the months ahead. A few of them have come to Utila to change the pace of their lives, relax a little and enjoy the Caribbean sunshine, but all of them know how to enjoy the paradise that can be found here.
Of course, I would return during the rainy season, and we pretty much had rain every day there except for one. It never rained all day, and honestly it doesn’t really matter if it rains because you are diving, but sunshine does help the colors come out more in the videos, so I made the best of it. We did have one dive with a lightning storm happening above, and those are always amazing to watch from the bottom of the ocean, but its very difficult to catch on film.
Of course, this trip couldn’t happen without some kind of mishap either, and that mishap was CM Airlines somehow forgetting one of my bags in San Pedro Sula, on my flight from SPS to Utila. Lucky enough it was found, and made its way to the island the next day. I say lucky enough because my mask, fins and my Phantom 3 4K drone were in that bag! Thank god it arrived as those are all crucial to my stay on the island (sure, I could have used rental fins and mask, but the drone would be irreplaceable there). Since I had shots planned for the drone, I needed to get my bag ASAP, and luckily for me, the airlines had delivered it to Alton’s by mid-day the following day.
So I ended up doing some snorkeling and testing of the 360 camera on Sunday, right off the dock of my hotel. Jump in, water is warm, and immediately find a juvenile French angel has taken up residence at the end of my dock, choosing to live in a cinder block home decorated with all kinds of algae and sponges found in the bright sunlight. Watching this little guy proved to be rather entertaining as he would provide cleaning services to the various tangs and grunts that came by. Seeing fish line up and wait to be cleaned of parasites is unique and different, and shows that fish have a level of intelligence higher than we usually give them credit for, and seeing how they recognize this little angelfish as a cleaning services provider and not a source for dinner just reinforces this. Obviously, I watched this little guy for some time, and have some video of him around that I need to dig up.
Monday morning was the Big Bight Beach cleanup, and we met everybody at the Utila Firehouse. Not as many volunteers as I had hoped, but still glad there were volunteers there to help. I think there were 6 at the start, and 9 at the end (the 3 guys from the Texas Mule Saloon were dropped off where we were cleaning and we brought them back to town when we finished). Yeah, its interesting cramming 9 people into / on top of a small pickup truck, but we managed! At the cleanup I ended up getting some good footage from the air, and before I knew it, we were ending the cleanup. Quite a short gig I thought, we clocked probably 2 hours there, but they ARE making huge strides in cleaning the beaches! So back to town we go, and its a rainy afternoon so I end up fiddling with the video from Sunday, making sure my underwater stitches worked as well as the aerial stitches from the beach cleanup.
Tuesday thru Sunday was a whirlwind, we did 2 dives a day (3 on the day we had a night dive), and we got to swim with a whale shark (my 2nd time!), a pod of spinner dolphins, and even a pod of very curious and playful bottlenose dolphins who stayed with us for over 20 minutes! I met some new friends, Ted & Linda from the US, Talia & Chen from Israel, Janne from Germany, Cohen and Claire from England and some others I am surely forgetting, and ran into a few old friends as well.
All in all, the 10 days flew by too quickly (they always do!), but I think I have some solid footage for my little project, I managed to get in some awesome dives with my new friends, and managed to have fun doing it all. The dive footage seemed to get better, but I also figured out the 360° camera’s limitations on re-introducing red (it works ok, but only to a certain degree / depth. Still think that red lenses are needed), and I also managed to polish up some of my cinematography skills while diving.
Tuesday morning would come quicker than expected, and we would end up taking 2 small planes just to get from Utila > La Ceiba, and La Ceiba > San Pedro Sula. Then another 2 jets thru Atlanta and into Newark, NJ. A day that would start with a 6am Tuktuk ride to the airstrop, and end with a 10:30pm car ride home. Yes that’s 16 hours of travelling. But its definitely worth it!