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Dive Review of Scuba Coiba/Sol Y Mar in
Panama/Coiba

Scuba Coiba/Sol Y Mar, Dec, 2006,

by David Shem-Tov, NA, United Kingdom (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 20 reports with 3 Helpful votes). Report 3130.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Maldives, Palau, French Polynesia, Carribbean, Truk, Gallapagos, Cocos, Malpelo.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 26 to 28 Celsius Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 12 to 50 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions Requested to dive our own profile and refer to buddy's computer if we didn't have one.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 2 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 2 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 1 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments Herbie agreed to set up a rinse tank on his boat if requested. However, given the limited possibilites for photography, this was never tested.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 2 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments
If you go to Coiba expecting Cocos and Galapagos on a budget, you are bound to be disappointed. Although the ocean topography is similar and for the most part shares the coral barrenness of these locations (aside from a few struggling fans), the fish life is less than I expected. But perhaps my expectations were raised by the Undercurrent and [UK] Diver magazine article [both of which are on Scuba Coiba's website]. Visibility was poor on most dives, but it did rain on preceding days. We did go on the three day Coiba trip, and indeed the two dives undertaken on the second day were better than the others.

Austrian expat Herbie is a relaxed and good-natured fellow running a very modest operation. According to Rachel, 50% of his business is walk-in - mainly backpackers and travellers looking to add a day's diving. He made a special effort to accommodate my temperamental and difficult companions. Scuba Coiba operates one boat and charters a fisherman's boat if the need arises. This fisherman's boat lacked a reliable engine, skilled operators, radio or oxygen. Both boats lacked a ladder, making re-entries challenging and inelegant. While Canadian guide Glen was friendly, he was outshined by his colleague, Rachel. This very enthusiastic and warm Englishwoman made a major effort to please guests and find critters (sea horse and frog fish.) If you do go, try to get her.

Luis at Sol y Mar did not want to bother with breakfast, which was a problem given that the local restaurant struggled to open before the dive boats left. If I had a car, I would stay at the very attractive Italian-run Oasis Surf Camp on the stunning El Estero beach, a few miles down the road. This is also a great place to dump non-diving partners and to spend time after the dives. If air conditioning and hot water are indispensable, I would consider the American-run Buena Vista lodge, located closer to Herbie's shop. It got good reports.

The local restaurant visited by Undercurrent's correspondent has been upgraded and refurbished, losing any charm it may have possessed to make up for the barely edible food and mind-numbingly slow service. Alaskan-run Vianka's is only good for beers, but the local bar next to Sol y Mar looks more fun. Dine at the superb and very reasonably priced Argentinian Parilla (grill), Pide. Or go to the Roman Pizzeria, close to Vianka's for some of the best pizzas in the country.
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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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