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Dive Review of Scuba Coiba/Sol y Mar in
Panama/Santa Catalina/Coiba

November, 2007, an Instant Reader Report by Steve Pittman, OK, USA (2 reports)
Report Number 3868
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
South Pacific, Red Sea, Caribbean, Atlantic, lakes, rivers and quarries
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

rainy, cloudy  
choppy, currents  
Water Temp
76   to 80    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
15   to 50    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  1 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  2 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  2 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
2 stars  
Boat Facilities
1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
1 stars  
Shore Facilities  
1 stars  
Virtually nothing for U/W photographers.  Staff seemed put out at having to
deal with my 2 dive buddies photo gear and needs.  No rinse tank of any
kind for photo gear on boat or on shore.  You are on your own here - and
wait until you get to Coiba.  Panamanian law, so we were told, would
require a $3000 cash payment per dive for my friends to utilize their gear.
 My dive buddies have invested a great deal of money in their gear, and it
is "professional" looking.  However, they are amateurs and video
for pleasure only.  Yet, because they have wonderful equipment, the
Panamanians would not permit them to shoot and ran us off the island.  Our
tour operator, Scuba Coiba, did absolutely nothing on our behalf.  We were
not told of this extortion until we were getting on the boat to go over to
the island, and even then in an almost backhanded way.  My dive buddy told
Herbie Sunk, Scuba Coiba owner, it would be a "deal breaker" if
he were not allowed to video, and Herbie shrugged it off.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
2 stars
1 stars
Service and Attitude
1 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
1 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
1 stars   
1 stars    
Very little good to say on this trip.  I have travelled all over the world
and have been to many third world countries to dive.  That was my
expectation for this trip.  However, in addition to so many things being
difficult due to the lack of infrastructure, the dive operator made it
intolerable.  The claims on the website of such great things as orcas is
absolutely false.  We were told orcas were seen once, several years ago,
far north of the island.  The boats we used were substandard, with no
facilities, no ladder, no radio, no oxygen, and no body that cared, except
for one divemaster Luis.  Boat rides to dive sites are long and can be
rough.  That would be OK, if we would have seen anything close to what
others claim to have seen, or been treated with respect and as good
customers.  We paid for our dives and lodging in advance and in cash.  When
our trip ended abruptly due to the most bizarre set of circumstances I have
ever encountered, no refund whatsoever was offered or been received,
despite repeated requests by all 3 of us.

Herbie Sunk, the owner of Scuba Coiba, was only present twice during our
trip, and one of those was to collect our cash up front.  His lead
divemaster, Jeremy, was surly and expected us to do work for which he would
have received a significant tip, had he earned it.  I always tip more than
expected, when it is earned.  We made 2 dives with Luis, a hardworking and
pleasant divemaster.  While Jeremy expected us to carry all of our own
gear, and did not go out of his way before, during, or after any dive, Luis
was just the opposite.  He had my gear carried back to the dive shop before
I had time to give it a second thought.  I appreciated his attitude and
hard work, especially in light of how bad everything else was with this
operation.  There was very little to enjoy with this dive operation.

As for the fish life, we did see some interesting schooling behavior and on
several occasions enjoyed a great deal of sea life.  But, for the most
part, this was sub-par diving on the world-wide scale.  The absolute
highlight for me was hearing the humpback whale songs underwater during our
final dive, then observing a couple of full breeches in the far distance. 
Other than this wonderful whale experience, the diving was just not worth
dealing with an unprofessional dive operator, on top of all the
difficulties of getting to Coiba and the third world environment.  The
attempted extortion by the gun-toting rangers on Coiba made the entire
experience surreal.

My honest recommendation:  Your money will be much better spent going to
Costa Rica, the Galapagos or the Pacific.  Even most Caribbean diving is,
overall, much better.
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All Panama Dive Reviews and Reports
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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