Coiba: Panama’s Underwater Paradise Now Protected by Expanded Marine Protected Area


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Recognized for being the most important island within the Central American Pacific, Coiba is a wild and hidden paradise situated subsequent to Santa Catalina, a city within the Veraguas province of Panama. With white sand seashores and heat turquoise waters, this island is teeming with marine life making it a perfect spot for diving lovers. Diving with sharks and manta rays, watching whales and dolphins from the boat, swimming with sea turtles and faculty of multicolored fish – these are just some of the unimaginable ocean adventures you'll be able to expertise right here.

We have been floating in the midst of Panama’s Pacific Ocean in a ‘panga‘, a small boat, when instantly one of many individuals on board pointed and shouted excitedly, “Whale!” The captain stopped the boat lifeless in its tracks. Slowly we superior in the direction of the large blue horizon in silence and considerably nervously, making an attempt to activate our cameras in time. We might see a big darkish form a couple of meters away nevertheless it shortly disappeared. Instantly we heard a loud noise within the water as a whale jumped up and to the aspect, touchdown proper in entrance of us. Our jaws dropped. We huddled on the top of the boat to get a better look. This pure spectacle was repeated about 3 times as we watched up shut, as if we have been a part of a nature documentary. However it wasn’t a film, it was actual life; we have been in Coiba and this dive journey had solely simply begun.  

Snorkeling and whale watching in Coiba Panama

Newly Expanded Cordillera de Coiba Marine Protected Space

Coiba is among the most essential protected areas in Panama. In 2005 it was named a World Heritage website by UNESCO (United Nations Instructional, Scientific and Cultural Group) because of its nice biodiversity, its different ecosystems and for having distinctive species on the planet. The marine magic of this place is because of the truth that it's a part of the Japanese Tropical Pacific Marine Hall (CMAR). Which means marine animals that come from dreamy locations just like the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and the Cocos Island in Costa Rica journey by way of the waters alongside the channel.

On June eighth, 2021 (World Oceans Day), the President and Minister of Surroundings of Panama signed a decree that protects the Coiba Ridge, a transfer that may triple the Cordillera de Coiba marine protected space – an space of almost 68,000 km2. With this act, Panama is about to be forward of the 30% by 2030 objectives (30×30) and turn out to be a real Blue Chief – a rustic that formally ‘extremely and absolutely’ protects 30% or extra of its oceans. Of the newly expanded MPA, 2/3rds are designated as no-take, whereas the remaining ⅓ is deliberate for sustainable use, with no industrial fishing allowed. Study extra by way of Mission Blue’s press release.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founding father of Mission Blue, says, “Congratulations to President Laurentino Cortizo and the nation of Panama for shielding this particular a part of the blue planet. I hope this inspiring dedication provides braveness to neighboring nations within the area together with Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador to take comparable actions to guard the unimaginable biodiversity of their waters, to hyperlink up protections and create a hall the place wildlife can thrive.”

Coiba Island Panama

Prime Dive Websites Round Coiba

The dives right here often have lively present and are fairly deep. We advocate incomes your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver, and probably your PADI Deep Diver certifications earlier than you go. There are greater than 32 spectacular dive websites surrounding Coiba, however listed here are eight of my favorites:


This dive website’s identify is derived from the ‘buffet’ of fish that you would be able to see right here. When there's a whole lot of present you may also see white tip sharks searching jacks and, should you’re fortunate, whale sharks too throughout the best season.

Wahoo Rock:

Right here you even have a very good probability of seeing whale sharks and manta rays in season since plankton are all the time nicely distributed at this dive website.

El Faro:

This can be a deep dive website and there's often various present. You possibly can benefit from the colourful corals and white tip sharks firstly after which at about 30 meters deep when the water is chilly you'll be able to see hammerhead sharks.


This can be a calm dive with much less present and plenty of colours. Right here yow will discover turtles, seahorses and frogfish.


A bit additional away from the primary island, this space consists of a gaggle of islands to the north. The dives on this space are deep, open ocean dives. The preferred dive websites inside Contreras are: 

  • Montaña Rusa: The Spanish identify for ‘curler coaster’, this website is understood for its robust present which, in accordance with the locals, turns the underwater expertise right into a curler coaster of feelings. Right here there are often eagle rays and southern stingrays and also you all the time have to concentrate on what's going on round you since you don’t know once you simply may see one thing superb. 
  • Sombrero de Pelo: Diving this website generates fairly a little bit of adrenaline as a result of it's a must to descend with damaging buoyancy. When you go in April, which is hammerhead shark migration season, you'll certainly see these fantastic giants. 
  • Punta Peligro: This website is fashionable as a result of many bull sharks have been seen right here.
Coiba - Martina Alvarez Blog

Discover Above and Under the Floor

With greater than 1000 species of crops, Coiba can also be an ideal place for these taken with botany. This tropical backyard can also be residence to a crocodile that the locals name ‘Tito’, who they shield and deal with with nice respect. Across the island of Coiba there are 38 small uninhabited islands that may be simply explored. One among them is ‘Granito de Oro’, named after the golden colour of the sand. There, we snorkeled amongst its colourful corals. Its waters are so clear that we didn't thoughts swimming till exhaustion as we swam round the entire island itself. Along with fish, we noticed white tip sharks and sea turtles. Rancheria, also called ‘Coibita’, was one other island the place we spent our daytime excursions amongst palm timber, monkeys and coconuts.  

Getting to watch and luxuriate in all these extraordinary marine animals and distinctive nature made me marvel why we don’t hear about Coiba extra typically. The rationale why this place has not been frequented a lot in recent times is as a result of it has a darkish previous. There was a penitentiary the place horrible crimes have been dedicated throughout Panama’s dictatorship. This somber previous made it troublesome for Coiba to be related to an uplifting vacationer vacation spot. At present you possibly can go to the ruins of the jail, study its historical past and turn out to be conscious of the previous. Sarcastically, this component of Coiba’s previous allows tourism for the island to develop, for individuals to journey to take pleasure in this true ecological journey in its completeness. 

To journey to Coiba is to discover the planet up shut. To reach at this bountiful vacation spot, it's a must to be ready to get moist and muddy, to study and to discover. Heels and good garments are left at house whereas bathing fits and dive gear ought to fill your suitcases. The shortage of wifi within the space invitations you to completely join with nature and overlook the quick tempo of the town. Throughout this journey I witnessed the immensity of the ocean and the depth of wildlife – amassing tales and moments that I had solely seen earlier than in films. Coiba is a perfect vacation spot to keep in mind that we don’t want know-how to outlive, nor do we'd like nice luxuries to have nice occasions! 

Coiba Panama
Photograph by: Alexis Chacon

Article written by Martina Alvarez @oceanomartina – Environmental Journalist & Scuba Diving Teacher.

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