Think of the number of fish you have seen elsewhere and double it. Think about the size of the fish you have seen and double that as well. That sums up the promise of diving… Coiba
(Diver Magazine, May 2005).
Panama is the indigenous name for “abundance of fish” and nowhere else in the country it is as true as in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama, where nutrient rich cool currents from South America mix with warm tropical Indo Pacific currents creating a fauna unique to the Eastern Pacific. Coiba National Park, one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries and a corner stone of the Eastern Pacific Marine Corridor – an area of protected zones for migrating fish and mammal from Ecuador to Costa Rica offers the best diving and big fish encounter in Panama. The Lonely Planet calls it “the best diving…between Mexico and Colombia”.
Highlights for divers are encounters with big animals like whale sharks (regular sightings end of December to early Februar), Manta and Mobula rays (February to May), Humpback Whales (July to November) and of course the always present reef sharks, eagle rays and schooling predators (jacks, tunas, barracudas and more).
Santa Catalina offers the easiest and fastest access to Coiba National Park, but volcanic outcroppings a short boat ride from Santa Catalina create underwater structures visited by enormous numbers of fish close by and also make excellent dive sites for divers, who do not like long boat rides.
Several dive operators offer scuba dive and snorkel trips to Coiba National Park, local dive sites and dive courses.