Two Islands and two Resorts

This will be long report since we took advantage of the “Too Good to Be True” package, one week at CoCo View and a week at Utila Lodge. Plus I want to post a lot of pics! I will break it down to a review of each resort, the comparison of the two everyone always want and a comparison of CoCo View vs. AKR since we stayed there last year. Let’s start with saying we had a great trip! Diving, company, facilities were very functional. At both locations it was their slowest weeks so far this year. CoCo View, I estimate, can handle about +65 divers we had 15 split between two dive boats. At Utila Lodge only 6 divers, including my wife and I. In essence it was like having private resorts. So our experience might be a little different than if the resorts were full. Comparing these various operations is like comparing Van Gough to Monet, both are wonderful but we all have our “personal favorite”.

DON’T wait in the Customs line, find Nora, give her your Passport, etc… and go wait for your bags. CCV is on its own little island so after a short bus ride you get picked up by the dive boat and taken over. It is a beautiful setting and you feel insulated from the world.


We had Bungalow A, which was over the water, spacious and to our surprise air-conditioned. There was a King bed which was very comfortable; there was plenty of storage room and a little fridge for drinks. They are basically a “duplex” so you share a wall and deck with a neighbor. Bungalow A is the closest to the Bar so it could be a little loud at times. (FYI we are an early to bed, early to dive couple). If we had it to do again we might pick Bungalow D which is the farthest from the bar looking out over the Key.


The main facility/dinning hall is large, with a pool table and plenty of board games. There is nice entertainment center upstairs. It was fun to hook up the various laptops and camcorders and review dive pictures and videos taken each day. The food was good and varied. Breakfast was just about anything you wanted and lunch and dinner there was always a choice of main courses. Don’t expect gourmet, it’s pretty simple fare and if you are a vegetarian you might have a fairly limited menu.
CCV is definitely set up for easy diving. Upon arrival you get a locker that is just about 9 steps from the boat you will be diving on. There is plenty of room  to leave all your gear and it is safe. There are showers and rinse tanks no more than 15ft from your locker. The only thing I hauled around was my camera. The boats are specious with plenty of room (remember we only had total of eight on our boat) and working space for cameras. To take advantage of the shore dives you just pull a tank from the rack anytime you want and walk all of 15yards and your diving! You have a little tag on your locker, if you leave it hanging the Dive Master will set your gear up for you for the first dive, if you so desire.

There is nothing better than having a great breakfast wandering out to the boatat 8am seeing your gear set-up, pulling on your wetsuit and 10-15minutes later to be diving! Oh, that’s unless you prefer a “sunrise” shore dive on either of CCV’s incredible walls, then have breakfast and go to the boat….


Typical routine is 8am boat departs for a dive on one of many wonderful sites. After about an hour dive, a ½ hour to 45 min surface interval you are dropped off on Newman Wall. At a leisurely pace you can view Newman Wall, the wreck and hit the shore in less than 45minutes, so take your time! Then lunch, read, relax and the next boat goes out at 2pm. You do another guided dive, SI and then are dropped off at the CoCo View wall. Navigation is ultra simple, keep Newman Wall on your left, swim straight; keep CoCo View wall on your right, swim straight. The shore entry/exit point is VERY well marked and VERY easy to find.


Our DM was Tulio, he and the boat captain were great. Like all good DM’s hefound things I would have never seen. At one site he found three Seahorses all within 20 ft of each other. We were diving with a fairly experienced group so Tulio was able to concentrate on finding critters, which is wonderful for all, especially photographers. In general they were fairly willing to let you go at your own pace but they do want to keep 1st and 3rd dives to 60min or under. This is because you can take all the time you want on the 2nd & 4th unguided dives. On the 2nd and 4th dives I typically would cruise around the walls for +1:25 since they are fairly shallow walls at most points, –60ft. Believe me, YOU WON’T get tired of the two Walls. You just have to vary your dive profile, deep, mid-range, and shallow. They are healthy, vibrant with great topography.


Two of our favorite sites for fish and corals were Gold Chain and Menagerie. All the diving was great and the reefs very healthy we did not see a great deal of large animals, sharks, turtles, etc… but there are plenty of tangs, angels, wrasses, etc… You could not go 2ft without running across an Eel. None of the boat rides were more than 20minutes and never was there another boat on a site we wanted to dive. If you are a photographer pack your 105mm or go out and buy one it is a Macro Dream World. All I have is a 60mm and was very envious of the shots a fellow diver was getting.


Over 20yrs I have seen plenty of sharks in the wild but have always shied awayfrom organized shark dives. I just don’t want to turn them into the equivalent of Bears foraging garbage in the National Parks. But after being convinced by a member of our group, Joe, who 70% of all his dives are shark dives, we gave it a try. It is run by Sergio of Waihuka Adventure Diving Center a short cab ride away from CCV. CCV has a sign up sheet and you split the $25 cab ride between how many people go, billed to your room. It’s not cheap, $75 per diver, $50 for DVD (a must), $15 for shirts, Sergio does an excellent briefing and then you load up and go. We had five divers, which was perfect. It is in 70ft of water, on a small sand patch, backs to a tall reef. The sharks know the routine. We had about 15-18 gray reef sharks, all females, 3-4 obviously pregnant, show up. First you sit/stand, back to the reef, as they start to arrive, no food has been given to them yet. Then… and this is the best part, you get up and SWIM WITH THEM!! This was a great experience. In my excitement rather than turning my flashes to brighter I dimmed them thus the very blue pictures. After you swim with them for 15 minutes or so you return to kneeling at the reef and the feeding begins. They do not hand feed and only a minimal amount of food is in the bucket. As you swim with them you almost forget what these creatures can do but once that lid comes off the bucket they are all business. The rush to feed, the speed and power of these creatures is awe-inspiring. The food is gone in no more that 1-2 minutes. After that the sharks stay another 5 or so minutes than swim off into the blue. I almost went again the next day it was such a great experience.

(Note: The ride out can be rough and there can be a good current on decent.Sergio mentioned August is not a great month for the sharks as the water gets too hot and they move deeper down).


Take advantage of the “dinner in town” we went to Gio’s (sp?) it was good and everyone had a great time. The King Crab was massive, everyone that ordered steak said it was excellent, and the drinks powerful. Only two minor issues. Roatan itself was having problems with power over the two weeks. We understand power was out 7-8 times. Unfortunately CCV’s generator was not working so it got a little hot, but everyone took it well and it was just another excuse to go on a shore night dive. Do double-check your departure times; we had a minor mistake for our flight to Utila. Fortunately we were able to get on another airline and CCV worked w/Roatan Charters to make sure we were reimbursed for the tickets.


We found 4 dives per day a good pace, it gave us time to read, sun and relax.On a couple of days I did “sunrise & sunset” solo dives which for a photographer are a great opportunity to go at my own pace and catch creatures when they are moving a little slower. So if you are an avid to “animal diver” CCV is the place for you! When we go back, there is no doubt we will return to CCV and it I have no problem heartily recommending it to you!


CoCo View vs. Anthony’s Key Resort
We found most of the divers at CCV were more experienced than at AKR. This madethe diving more enjoyable on the boat and in the water. We also found fewer competitor boats at dive sites with CCV and much shorter boat rides. The diving facility at CCV is really well organized and makes your diving experience a pleasure. The advantage of being able to dive whenever you want is a huge advantage over “3 boat dives” at AKR. The shore diving a CCV is light years better than AKR.
 Diving: Hands down, no contest, CCV
We had a Junior Deluxe Suite at AKR that was on the far side of the Key. What we liked was it was secluded and quite. We had a small bedroom with a separate sitting room and our own dock over the water. It was more rustic than CCV (no AC) but it was like our own hideaway.
Accommodations: By a hair AKR
Food is the same at both, AKR just has waiters. If you have a slow waiter orthe place is full this can be a disadvantage. I do have to say the AKR eating area has one of the best views around.
Food: By a hair CCV

You will take a small prop plane to the mainland; wait maybe an hour or so thanover to Utila. The operating word here is HOT so be prepared. The return flight is really hot since, as you can see, the Utila Airport is a little rustic. A cab driver meets you at the airport and takes you to the lodge all of about 4 minutes. We arrived at the end of Carnival just in time for the Parade. If the flight is full your bags might follow on a later flight, about an hour or so, so pack extra stuff in your carry-on. Unlikely you will dive your 1st day to Utila.


The lodge is over the water, sort of a “rustic motel”, with separate eating, relaxing and bar area. From your room to the dinning hall to the boat is no more than 40ft. We had room E, which I think was the best. It is on the top floor, closest to the water. The room was large, had A/C, a double sink bathroom, and our own screened porch. The only thing they could add is a King bed for us “old married couples”. The lodge has room for about 22 divers so it has a very cozy feel with a very helpful staff. Being from Seattle, coffee capital of the World, having our coffee delivered to our room every morning was a pleasure. The food was some of the best we have had at any resort and we looked forward to meals. They even hold meals until the boats come in just in case of a Whale Shark delay, etc… Like CCV it is serve yourself.
  We liked the fact that it was “downtown”, quite but just steps away from the main street. Utila is small, the main drag is about 10ft wide and most get about on foot, bike or golf cart. There are several shops, little open-air restaurants and bars. It is a “backpacker” town meaning laid back and we thought fun.


Given it so small the “facility” is a room where all could hang up wetsuits and gear. It is locked at night. Most people leave fins, weights, and masks on the boat every night. The DM, Ruth, will rinse and store your BC, regs, etc., for you, then set them up in the morning. She only asks you deal with your wetsuit, and you know why! Your room is so close you just shower off there after diving,

The routine for us was, coffee in bed at 6am, they ring the bell for breakfast at 7am, and board the boat at 8am. Two morning boat dives, back for lunch and then 2pm departure for a 3rd boat dive. Then Monday and Wednesday the afternoon dive is replaced with a night dive departing at 6pm. If you need that 5 dives a day fix you can do the 2 morning dives, then go out with the Dive College (part of Utila lodge) and do two afternoon boat dives, cost $25, then the Lodge boat night dive. Dive sites are anywhere from 10 minutes to 45minutes away. Most of the larger walls and best places to see Whale Sharks are the longer boat rides and no we did not see a Whale Shark. We knew this was not the time of year for them. We got close once but it dove before we could get in the water. The routine for finding Whale Sharks is simple. During your SI Willie cruises likely spots while looking for “Boil” were schools of small fish turn up the surface trying to get away from the Whale Shark. The Sea Sprit is a comfortable boat; best seat for long rides is the bench seat on the flying bridge.

Our dive master was Ruth who knows the area; great at finding stuff and one of the best DMs we have met. She and Willie, the Captain, were stupendous. Ruth is English and in some ways very proper and Willie is local, the best Captain on the island and a real character.  Ask him about the crocodile story. The reefs and walls on Utila are even healthier than we saw in Roatan. Many of the sites we dove were Sea Mounts or good-sized walls with some really great topography. We saw turtles, spotted eagle rays, big green moray eels, and incredible macro life. We never saw so many free swimming Morays than we saw at Utila. There are walls there that are “Banded Shrimp Cities”. Julie and I both felt is some of the best diving we have seen anywhere, and we been just about all the majors in the Caribbean, Far East and Med.

In the End
Utila reminds me of Koh Samui and Koh Tao back the early 80s before big hotels and paved roads. The reefs in Roatan/Utila are much healthier than Samui even back then. If you are in love with deep diving or big “Cayman” walls than neither Roatan nor Utila will appeal to you. These are just not tec destinations. If you like clear, warm water with great fish, in less than 80fsw and macro life, book now!
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