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

Scuba Coiba/Sol y Mar, Nov, 2007,

by Steve Pittman, OK, USA ( 2 reports). Report 3868.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 2 stars Food 1 stars
Service and Attitude 1 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 1 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 1 stars
Comments 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.

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

Weather rainy, cloudy Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 76-80°F / 24-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 15-50 Ft/ 5-15 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 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
UW Photo Comments 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.
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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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