In August, while I was in Chamonix, some friends and I came up with the idea for an online women’s adventure magazine. We launched The Activity Report in January. To kick off our Travel & Action section, I wrote something about that one time I swam with sharks. 

For a couple weeks, my friend Ahlem would say the same thing every night before we went out: “I’m leaving tomorrow,” she’d insist, in a voice that was perpetually hoarse from shouting the night before. But morning after morning, she’d still show up at the dive shop well after noon, usually hung over, her wavy, honey-brown locks draped over her cut-off t-shirt.

“I swear to God, babe,” she said to me once (Ahlem was Australian, and called everyone “babe”). “This is one of the shittest places I’ve ever traveled to. But I can’t leave.”

The Bay Island of Utila lies just an hour’s ferry ride off the coast of Honduras, but really, it is its own three-by-seven-mile Caribbean planet. It’s not the biggest island, or the most beautiful. Its waters are not a brilliant turquoise blue. Its beaches are, relative to the most island destinations, pretty charmless. There are too many sandflies for sunbathing, and the waves are too violent on the windward shore for surfing. Really, there is little to do besides scuba dive and drink—but for these activities, Utila is both world-class and cheap. And that’s what brings the boatloads of backpackers.

Read the full essay on The Activity Report.

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