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Dive Review of Zapatillas Dive Club/Al Natural in
Panama/Bocas Del Toro

Zapatillas Dive Club/Al Natural, Sep, 2013,

by Elise O Lovell, IL, US (Reviewer Reviewer 6 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 7179.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations N/A Food N/A
Service and Attitude N/A Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments The Bocas del Toro archipelago is still a (relatively) hidden gem. Described as "the Caribbean 30 years ago", it's a collection of islands, many uninhabited and covered in mangroves, that offers a laid back feel and beautiful pristine beaches, small eco-lodges, a welcoming vibe, and the opportunity to mix jungle (sloths! monkeys! tons of birds! poison dart frogs!) with stunning beaches. We stayed on Isla Bastimentos at Casa Cayuco on the east side of the island. We were very pleasantly surprised to learn there was a dive master at the next eco-lodge up the beach, and walked over to meet Abner, who runs the Zapatillas Dive Club and manages the Al Natural eco-lodge (no, not a nudist hangout!). Abner is wonderful-tons of energy and enthusiasm about diving (and life) with a hugely positive spirit - he really enjoyed the diving as much as we did. My fiance and I were the only ones on the boat the day we went out. Abner is all about fun, but also all about safety; we had dive and boat protocol briefings, and he carried redundant equipment. The Zapatillas are gorgeous small islets off Bastimentos. There is diving around them, as well as at multiple other sites, all within a few minutes from shore. Our first site had a lot of surge and poor visibility-Abner and his dive captain made sure to locate better conditions for the second dive. Expect much better than average reef health compared to other usual Caribbean destinations, with plentiful small fish and some reasonable size snappers and a few grouper. As with so much of the Caribbean, not many big fish. Abner is on a lionfish eradication mission, and really cares for these reefs. He speared 3 lionfish on one dive, and after the dive made an delicious lionfish ceviche for us topside-a real treat, and totally unexpected! We didn't stay at Al Natural, but it looks nice-simple but private open air bungalows on the beach with an attractive beach bar, abutting pristine jungle and miles of shoreline trails. A local village is about a 30 minute walk away. The lodges provide employment for villagers, and the village offers jungle hikes to learn about the local culture, flora, and fauna. It's quite a special place. If you stay on the west side of the island, it is more lively, but the reefs on the west by the main town have suffered significantly from human impact. My recommendation for peace, quiet, and much better than expected diving is to stay at Casa Cayuco or Al Natural on the east end of the island and seek out Abner at Al Natural for a totally relaxed, personal, and enjoyable diving experience. Beautiful spot for non divers too.
Websites Zapatillas Dive Club   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Caribbean, Belize, Mexico, Coral Sea, Red Sea, Tanzania, Galapagos...
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, surge
Water Temp 84-°F / 29-°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 30-60 Ft/ 9-18 M

Dive Policy

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

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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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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