The Imaginarium of the Jade Seahorse, Utila

Happy New Year!

I’ve just celebrated the arrival of 2011 with fellow Maya Pedalists Eric and Julian, on the Honduran island of Utila.

Most backpackers flock to this caribbean idyll to enroll with one of the plethora of dive shops, famed throughout the travelling community for their bargain basement dive courses. I’ve yet to take to the watery depths and for now, have been happy to stroll the streets barefoot (toughening soul skin softened by months of shoe wearing), munch on $2 dollar lobster baleadas (folded wheat flour tortillas, a Honduran delicacy), and lounge on one of the spindly wooden piers that jut out into the island’s oh-so-clear waters…

Utila is itself an unusual place with a convoluted past, home as it was to British buccaneers – pirates – who used it as a base to raid Spanish galleons laden with gold. In the 17th century, there were as many as five thousand living on the neighbouring island of Roatan, and one of their legacy’s is that Caribbean English is just as likely to be heard on the streets as Spanish. Stories still abound of lost treasures hidden in these waters…

The island is small, but there’s plenty of places to explore. On my second day here, I veered off one of the more hectic thoroughfares, noisily plied by four wheelers (and mined with heart-attack fire crackers, gleefully lobed by local kids at the slightest festive excuse), and stumbled into the calming, beguiling world of the Jade Seahorse


The bizarre, Gaudi-esque gardens of the Jade Seahorse, a fantasy world of coloured glass, bric-a-brac and imagination.


Over the years, it's been tirelessly decorated with findings from both Central America and the flea markets of LA.


To the point where every available surface is embedded with detail, like these globs of coloured glass that glint in the sun.


... and this Willy Wonka-like set of stairs. Each step leads you into a more surprising and enchanting world.


A series of pathways draw you onwards, under elaborate archways...


... across humpback bridges and through seashell studded tunnels. It's like wandering through Dr Parnassus' imaginarium.


Full of mysterious shapes and symbols.


Organic and tactile.


High above, a walkway leads to the Treetonic Bar, set amongst three mango trees.


Or you can endulge yourself with a night in one of these stunning rooms in Nightlands, its adjoining boutique hotel.


Each is individually named...


... and decorated.


Anyone is free to explore and be enchanted by the Jade Seahorse, though a bell gently reminds you to take care of some of the more delicate displays.

9 thoughts on “The Imaginarium of the Jade Seahorse, Utila

  1. richNYC

    Nice pictures Cass,

    This was the place I was considering to go for 2 months in 2010 to do my SCUBA diving certifications. The other was Koh Tao in Thailand. My love of ‘anything Asia’ prevailed;) But I’m sure, somehow I’ll find my way down here, too…

    BTW, isn’t it funny everyone keeps asking you what camera and lenses you used??? It’s like asking a writer what pen did he used to write his beautiful novel, or a painter what brush did he choose to paint his masterpiece or a runner what sneakers he wore to win a marathon, or a chef what set of knives his used to create his amazing entree, etc, etc, etc…

    Let’s give the props to Cass and his ability to create and visualize these stunning images from faraway places for us to enjoy;)

    Peace, Rich

  2. otbiking Post author

    It’s a little complicated, but in case anyone is interested… Friend and family have been visiting recently, which has given me the chance to interchange kit a little over the last couple of months.

    So, as much as I love the GF1, for now I’m actually back to the Nikon D300. Some work opportunities came up recently, so I wanted make use of the 50mm 1.8 and the wide 12-24mm I have; equivalents I don’t own with the GF1.

    Having gone back to the D300 for a bit, I’m really appreciating the improved low light performance, and the extra depth of field control. But the reality is, I find myself leaving the camera back in the guesthouse much of the time, as it’s so much bigger and heavier to lug around. And way less discreet, which can definitely be a worry in places like Honduras. As it is, I (think) I can tell which pics are which, but it’s not always easy…

    I’ll definitely be going back to the GF1, as this swap has reaffirmed what a good camera it is, and how well suited it is to travel. If I was starting afresh, I’d perhaps be looking at the GH2. It’s a bit bigger, but the low light performance seems better, as is the EVF. And the video capability sounds amazing too. But as Rich says, at the end of the day, it’s just a camera…

  3. Benjamin

    I remember when you spouted into my restaurant in eureka, montana, just south of the canadian border. You are an inspiration and I hope to one day, if not mirror your journey, have one a fraction as extraordinary.

  4. otbiking Post author

    Thanks Benjamin.
    And I remember Eureka, our chat and that meal very well! A delicious burger (the best in the US, so I read?!) and the tasty desert you kindly gave me. A great start the ride south of the border.

  5. magentaraven

    Fabulous!!! I visited for the first time last year. I grew up with Neil in Los Angeles… we didn’t even know that we were working on similar projects, so far away from each other… take a look is my home and also vacation rental in the Mojave desert… in gratitude, Perry

  6. Nicholas Gault

    Hi Cass,
    At a decision point, in Antigua – what do you reckon? North Honduras or El Salvador? Any thoughts appreciated (although don´t think you´ve been to ES?)
    Think you´ll be in Peru by now – hope you have an awesome awesome time! I´m looking forward to that country immensely! Guess I´ll be there in November if I don´t get to distracted on my way down.
    Cheers, Nick


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