*Shelley and I Scuba Diving Utila!*
*Snorkeling With Spinner Dolphins*
A few weeks ago I returned from a fun-filled trip full of diving, volunteering and EATING Lionfish!! My main reason for diving Utila was to swim and snorkel with whale sharks in the wild. Utila, Honduras is considered the "Whale Shark Capital of the Carribean" and I did not want to be disappointed! After a failed attempt at seeing whale sharks up close last year in Placenica, Belize, I thought for sure my week would be filled with lots of bubbles and spawning tuna. Unfortunately, the boat captains and divers of Utila have not seen any whale sharks since mid January and my week was also whale shark free. Many locals and expats explained to me that the weather has really changed over the last few years due to global warming and the effects are already being seen. The warmer water is messing up the spawning seasons of the tuna & groupers therefore the whale sharks are going elsewhere looking for food. :( Yet another reason we MUST act now to combat our ever changing climate!
My week long trip however did not go in vain. I had the pleasure of diving with some awesome intructors (Chris & Brett from the Utila Dive Centre) as well as volunteer at a local spay & neuter clinic that takes place twice a month for the local villagers pets!
*Delivering Donations to Pilar & Volunteer Monica*
Sherry "Pilar" Thorn, found of Helping Hands for Hounds of Honduras, also made the trek from the Hondruan capital of Tegucigalpa to meet me on the tiny island where I delivered toys, blankets, medications, vet supplies and treats for all the stray dogs and cats she takes in to her shelter. Sherry, a retired University professor, has dedicated her life to helping street dogs and cats find a safe haven, food and necessary vet treatment when needed. She has saved countless lives and the locals know her as the go to woman for help when it comes to four-legged creatures (and birds.....snakes....pretty much anything that has a heartbeat!). Sherry invited my travel buddy Shelley and I to attend a local spay & neuter clinic that is run by two American expat vets who live in Utila. I had such a wonderful time seeing these volunteers dedicate their time, money and expertise to help control the unwanted stray population on the island of Utila!
*Helping A Local Dog Get Neutered*
*Brothers Now Neutered!!*
*Shelley and I With The Incredible Volunteers!*
Shelley and I also visited the "Iguana Station", only minutes from our hotel at the Mango Inn, to tour the sanctuary and view the hatcheries where they breed the endangered spiny tailed "swamper" iguana. The project accepts volunteers from around the world and educates the public and tourists about reptiles and animals native to Utila and the Honduran mainland. I would definitely recommend visiting the "Iguana Station" to any tourist to the island as they rely solely on the $3 admission fee and donations to keep the station running!
*A Male "Swamper"*
*Sherry Removing Ticks From A Rescued Boa*
Another highlight for me while visiting Utila was being able to eat the invasive and reef damaging LIONFISH!!!! Every Thursday night, the Utila Dive Centre hosts a BBQ for its employee's and divers and features chicken and lionfish on its menu! The lionfish is caught and prepared by master tec-diver Mary who is an instructor at IDC. She is just as passionate as myself when it comes to reef conservation and hunting the invasive lionfish. Its not everyday you have the opportunity to try them so Shelley and I jumped at the chance and absolutely loved the dinner!! The lionfish was all white meat and tasted so fresh - wasn't overwhelming at all! I really hope more restaurants around the Caribbean will jump on the band wagon and start serving this as a main course or even over pizza!
*Lionfish Hunter Mary and I*
It's time for bed...........I have to get up early for the Green Living Show tomorrow!!!!