Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras, C.A. 2011

Scuba Diving

Utila, Honduras

Roatan, Honduras

Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

Cozumel, Mexico

Florida Keys, U.S.A.



My Aquarium

Yet another trip down to Central America and the tiny island of Utila. Clearly I have fallen in love with the Bay Islands. On this particular trip I was doing all of my diving in Utila with Deep Blue Resort. A well ran, first-class operation. Be sure to give my dry-side a read to see all about the resort.

It was snowing several inches daily back home, so even if the weather and conditions in Utila weren't ideal for scuba, I was still better off where I was. It allowed me sights like this French Angel cruising the large appendages of a Pillar Coral.

A slightly more impressive view of the Pillar Coral...

It is not too often you find Atlantic Spadefish in a pair, nor is is common to find them in a shallow reef zone. Generally they prefer access to deep, open water and reside in large schools numbering 50 or more individuals.

Sticking with the reef-building corals of the Caribbean, Here is a rather large Elkhorn Coral. Not so common in the Caribbean anymore since the mass die-off.

Here is an example of an Elkhorn struggling. Note the tissue die-off in the center of the coral. Below is a close-up of the necrotic tissue.

Thankfully this sight wasn't all that common on the trip.

One last reef-building stoney coral. This guy covered a good 12 feet of vertical height as it plated up the wall. I am not confident in the ID of this coral, but I'm guessing it is a stoney coral of the Agaricia genus, more commonly called a Sheet Coral. From my aquarium experiences I'd say it sure looks like a plating Montipora, but those are only found in the Pacific.

This Grooved Brain Coral coral was magnificent. The slope downward seen here is a good 4 or 5 feet long, then it curves over the wall and drops back down the opposite side.

A closer view of the same coral.... I bet a good 50 Gobiosoma species set up their cleaning station on this coral as well.

Another type of Brain Coral with some interesting sponge growth taking shape.

I cannot offer a solid ID on this coral. I do know it kicked ass though. LOL.

Did someone say something about kick-ass stoney corals?

This upward plating coral is called a Lettuce Coral. It is home to all sorts of little fish, like the above photo'd juvenile Yellowtail Damselfish. It is also a good place to search for the Redspotted Hawkfish. I managed to snap a picture or two of one individual this trip, but he wasn't very cooperative.

That is the adult Yellowtail for comparison sake.

OK, enough with the reef-building corals. Switching to some fish photos. Here I snapped a photo of a Schoolmaster doing a fly-by, a note-so-common action by these fish.

OK, admittedly this photo sucks, but conditions were tough on this dive with heavy surf and the ensuing sand clouds. This is obviously a Barracuda with it's mouth wide agape. It was receiving a cleaning from various gobies and shrimp. I didn't have the courage to drift in closer for a better photo. Sorry, those teeth were a good deterrent for me to keep some distance.

Sticking on the predator theme, check out this nurse shark...

I snapped a good dozen of this guy, who measured about 7 feet long. Unlike the above Barracuda, I love how Nurse Sharks let you get up close for a photo without feeling threatened. What I really loved about this find was the juvenile Spotted Drum that frolicked directly in front of the large predator, and of course the resident cleaner goby. The photo really does a nice job of showing the sandpaper-like texture of the sharks skin.

A fantastic Tiger Grouper showing off for the camera...


I am always a big fan of finding the Queen Triggerfish. Thankfully I have never been harassed by one on a dive, yet, but this particular individual was spotted harassing a Lionfish. It repeatedly made strikes at the elaborate pectoral fins.

Our trusty Dive Master Marlo quickly finished what the Queen Trigger could not. Using her spear she managed to skewer at least 12 or 15 Lionfish on my 6 days of diving with her.

I always seem to have trouble getting a good photograph of the Black Durgon. They manage to keep their distance just far enough from me to make it difficult for my camera rig to get something that excites me. Maybe someday I'll stumble across a fresh nest of eggs and have the chance for an up close and personal meeting.

Perhaps not a fearsome predator to most, this Coney is still a Seabass and feared by small shrimps and fishes. They are quite abundant and are often found resting in between coral branches or on top of sponges.

The Red Hind, also a small Seabass.

Who doesn't love Angels? Especially Queen Angelfish. Queens were present on most dives, but on one particular dive I descended right upon a trio of Queens. My first thought to myself was, "Yep, this will be a good dive." I was right.

Here is a quick YouTube video of me swimming with a Queen Angel, followed by some surge action down around 50 feet.

Rock Beauty Angelfish are slightly less common, but still around. They are shy, however, so getting good photographs can be a challenge.

On one particular dive we were joined by a trio of Gray Angelfish. They followed us over to the open sand where we dug in the sand with our hands for some worms. Upon recovery of a worm we could hold it out in the water column and the fish would come eat from our hands. Rather enjoyable! Here is a YouTube video of the worm search. Even when we were not searching for worms the Angels stayed with us and were rather playful. I had trouble keeping them in my camera frame. Here is another video of the 3 Angels... note the surge and reef sand formations.

More French Angel love.

Switching gears once again, lets take a view of some soft, non-reef building corals. I always enjoy spotting a cluster of these Bell Tunicates, but when you mix in some Social Feather Duster worms.... Bonus!

A wonderful little Ricordia. Only it wasn't little. I bet this mushroom anemone measured 8 inches across. I have never seen one so large, nor have I ever seen this species so far south. They are really common in the Florida Keys but I think this is my first one of the Bay Islands.

Red Rope Sponge and Branching Vase Sponge growing together.

Here is a YouTube video of me swimming along the top of a reef. Note the reef surge and natural sway of the corals.

This is a 1 minute YouTube video of me dropping over a ledge. I swim down from 30 feet to roughly 80 feet in the video. At the end of the video the sand bottom was roughly 130 feet down.

I do not know what is growing on the tips of the coral, but I'm nearly positive it is not the coral itself. I'm guessing along the lines of a Hydroid. If anyone can ID them please give me a message with the ID. Thanks!

Here is another short YouTube video of me swimming along the top of a reef.

All sorts of life in those above photos, from various types of sponges and gorgonians, wire coral to sea plumes. Above, if you look closely, you'll also spot a Crinoid. Let's get a better look at Crinoids.

I seem to enjoy taking photos of these colorful Crinoids....

Here is one hiding deep inside a Barrel Sponge.

And one last one utilizing a Netted Vase Sponge.

Another good photo of a small cluster showing how many life forms can be attracted to such a small clump of coral growth.

I'm busting out some of the nocturnal animals now, so please go easy on judging the photos. They aren't the best... I'm just happy I captured some of the photos I did. Like this West Indian Sea Egg urchin.

A rare Reef Croaker

A Longspine Squirrelfish with some sort of crab in it's mouth for a soon to be meal.

Ahhh yes, the Glasseye Snapper. I have only managed to capture these guys in photo form a few times. If you look closely, behind the Glasseye you can see the fins of a Lionfish underneath the shelf.

Not the best photo, but I managed to capture everything needed to make a solid ID. A Pale Cardinalfish chilling out at the bottom on one particular evening.

Last nocturnal image is the Rough Fileclam for divers, but more commonly called a Flame Scallop for aquarium hobbyists.

OK, let's get to my favorite part of the photos... The critters!

OK, OK, I know they are technically fish, but I still like to group Seahorses in with the small stuff just because it is a prize to find them for me. This, unfortunately, was the only one we saw the entire week, and it was not very cooperative with the camera. Even still, a joy to locate and photo.

Look closely. This is EXACTLY how it looked when I found this little guy. It is called a Neck Crab - a type of Decorator Crab. After getting this image I swam in and, using my hand in a fanning motion, annoyed the coral polyps enough to get them to close. That resulted in the image below.

Still pretty tough to see, isn't it? They sure do a good job of hiding themselves. OK, it is time to put some light into this photograph.

Behold, an illuminated Neck Crab. Cute little guy, eh?

From tiny crab to huge crab, this is a very large Channel Clinging Crab. His claws were easily the size of my hands. I couldn't help but wonder how much he would miss one of those claws because it sure looked like a great dinner to me!

The infamous Pedersen Anemone Shrimp. This is a female carrying eggs. Want a better view?

There are the eggs, clear as day, tightly tucked under her swimmerets. In real life those eggs are smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.

This represents another cherished find of mine. This tiny little guy is a Wire Coral Shrimp. In real life adults measure no longer than 1/4" with the width closer to 1/10", so you can understand my excitement in not only finding one, but capturing a decent photo. In truth I found at least a dozen of these shrimp over the course of the week. Easy to find if you know where and how to look, but I bet 99.9% of divers swim right past them and never notice them.

Same image blown up a little bit. That shrimp is being shown at 8x Zoom on my camera plus a 200% image enlargement.

Some run-of-the-mill Coral Banded Shrimp. What I like about these guys was how easy it was to photograph them, and then slightly change the lighting for a rather neat shot.

Same shrimp, but this time with my strobe light located above the coral sponge flashing through the sponge. In this image it is easy to spot the female with her abdomen full with fresh eggs. She is on the left and the eggs are the blue. The blue represents the yolk the shrimp fry will feed off of and it will gradually turn to white as them consume all the yolk.

One last shrimp photo, and unfortunately not my best work.

My first photo'd Mantis Shrimp. I've seen them before, but I have never been quick enough to get a photo nor patient enough for it to come back out of it's home. This is the only photo I managed of this guy before it ducked into hiding.

This guy is an Upside-down Jellyfish from the top down.

Same Jellyfish, different angel.

OK, back to the fish.

Not the best photo, but not so bad either. This Barred Hamlet is rather common in the Bay Islands, as is the Indigo Hamlet pictured below.

These guys can be shy and uncommon, but not so near Utila and Roatan.

A school of Atlantic Blue Surgeonfish and Doctorfish form a grazing herd the likes of locusts.

This is a short but neat YouTube video of a couple species of butterfly fish feeding in a school. I would not classify that as normal feeding behavior.

A school of Chubs...

This little Harlequin Bass was a difficult photo. He didn't want to cooperate at all. But with just a little patience I was able to get a decent first-time shot.

Silversides (Food!) in the shallows as I prepare to exit on a shore dive.

I always have a tough time photographing a Blackcap Basslet. They are not exactly common, until they are - and they are everywhere for a brief few fin kicks. But my camera always wants to focus on the background and not the fish, and getting a Blackcap Basslet far enough away from the wall to get a mid-column shot is near impossible.

This neat little guy is a free-swimming Whitefin Sharksucker aka Remora. There was actually a pair of them. In dives past these fish will occasionally attach to the air tank of divers, but in this instance the pair just played together mindless of the 3 divers around them.

A particularly colorful Trumpetfish.

A Porcupine Puffer. I ran into, ur, uhm, swam into several of these during the week. They were all quite large.

These guys are always cute to watch. Adult Smooth Trunkfish hover around like spaceships from outer space, while the juveniles get tossed around by the currents. There may not be a fish that is worse at swimming than baby trunks.

A few Scrawled Filefish paid me a visit as well. Always nice to see one or two over a week.

The Tobaccofish is another one of those fishes that is fairly common, yet I have been unable to get a decent photo of before now.

Token wormfish photo from the trip. So many divers ignore these guys, but I always pay them a visit when I see them. Their head-bobbing is somewhat comical and it is always a challenge to get up close for a decent photo without them retreating into their holes.

A Yellow Stingray hiding from me. I was happy to find this guy as I was peeking underneath the rocks. Then moments later I stumbled across another free swimming the sand.

A teenie-tiny juvenile Drum. Just love spotting these guys.

And finally, one day of diving we were joined by Tec Divers. Freelance travel writer Brooke Morton was doing her introduction to Tec Diving course, so I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures.

Thanks for viewing my scuba photos from Utila 2011. You can find the dry photos from this trip, or check out all my other scuba adventures or my topside travels as well.

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Utila, Honduras

La Ceiba, Hondura

Roatan, Honduras

Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

Minocqua, Wisconsin




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