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Dive Review of Scuba Coiba in
Panama/Isla Coiba

Scuba Coiba, Dec, 2008,

by David Richardson, Wa. , USA (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports). Report 4655.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Bonaire, Belize, Caymans, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Cozumel, La Paz, Nicaragua, California, Canada, Fiji, Hawai, Lembeh-Indonesia, etc.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather windy Seas choppy, surge
Water Temp 77 to 81 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 30 to 70 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions We all stayed with the group.
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 1 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 1 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 1 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments No accomodations for photographers.

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 2 stars
Service and Attitude 1 stars Environmental Sensitivity 2 stars
Dive Operation 1 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 1 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments I have traveled in Panama before, and have traveled around the world for almost 30 years, both for diving and adventure, so I have reasonable expectations. I wanted to dive Isla Coiba before the government puts in the inevitable eco-lodge or other tourist facility and ruins the pristine island.

If you like exciting, out-of-the-way experiences, this is one for you. If you like being in a panga with large waves in the wide-open ocean with no oxygen on board and long boat rides and doing surface intervals on uninhabited, tiny islands, then you will like this. There was an admitted excitement in diving a place that not everybody would venture to due to the tougher conditions (think prep for the Galapagos) and the difficulty getting to Santa Catalina, the location of Scuba Coiba and the departure point for Coiba island.

There are some people who go diving here who have good experiences and see great things underwater. Of the four days of diving, we found one site that was more than average for this type of rocky, Central American west coast diving. We did see a lot of white tips and some jacks and some frogfish, but not much to write home about other than that.

The owner of the shop, Herbie Sunk, only appeared at the dive shop to collect money from some walk-up, last-minute people who delayed the departure of the trip, and then again when it was time to receive his payment in hard cash. Beware that often the Internet does not work in this area, so credit cards cannot be used. The head divemaster who accompanied us to Coiba took all of five minutes after greeting us to tell us how cold she gets diving in these waters. Every dive was an apparent race to some unknown place, and every time I stopped to take a photo, I had to swim hard to catch up. Most of the decent macro subjects I had to give up on. Once, after swimming around at 90 feet for 15 minutes and seeing nothing, we came up with all of us close to deco and she led us into a blistering current such that I had difficulty keeping out of deco as we had to hold onto rocks to keep from being swept away. The other local DM grabbed hold of her and indicated that we had to find another way to finish the dive.

The accommodations on Coiba were as advertised and expected -- rustic cabins used by the park service -- but the food, although plenty, was mediocre for the price we had paid. The accommodations provided by and owned by the dive shop in Santa Catalina are about 1/2 mile away from the dive shop, and are a good value. The local divemaster who came with us and the crew were extremely nice and hard-working, and I had nothing but accolades for them.
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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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