The Coiba National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the neighboring islands and archipelagos of the Gulf of Chiriquí, Secas, Montuosa and Isla Ladrones, offer some of the best adventure and exploratory diving in the world.
In this region of the Panamanian pacific coast, the continental shelf is narrow and closely bounded by the Middle American Trench. Water depths plunge abruptly to abysmal depths, bringing deep Open Ocean, “pelagic” conditions very close to shore. The nearest substantial land mass, lies 10,000km to the west.
The Tropical Eastern Pacific Marine Corridor includes the islands of the Coiba National Park, Panama, Isla Coco, Costa Rica, Isla Malpelo, Colombia and the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. These islands are the summits of an extensive submerged mountain chain, which links the island groups and provides a marine highway between the islands of the Eastern Tropical Pacific.
The volcanic islands of the Coiba National Park and the Gulf of Chiriquí region are the keystone of reproduction for many marine species and boast a greater diversity of marine life and habitat than other more renowned afore mentioned island groups that form the Tropical Eastern Pacific Corridor.
The nutrient rich waters are highly seasonable, with extensive changes in visibility, salinity, nutrient levels and sea surface temperatures, making this one of the most hostile environments to sustain coral growth.
“Coiba National Park possesses the second largest coral reef in the Tropical Eastern Pacific.”
Tide ranges of up to 5 mts / 16 ft every six hours, currents in exposed areas are common. Lateral visibility on average 22 mts / 70 ft depending on location. Sea water surface temperatures hover around 78 F year round. Thermocline depth varies throughout the year and can reduce water temperature several degrees. This cooler water brings the larger pelagic life closer to the surface.
The marine environment is extremely dynamic and boasts over 760 species of fish, 33 species of shark including the Reef White Tip, Scalloped and Great Hammerhead, Galapagos, Bull, Tiger, and the bizarre Guitar Shark. Add to this, a variety of Rays, Giant Manta, Modula Rays, Thurston’s Devil Rays and Stingrays. Schooling species include the Spotted Eagle; Cow Nosed and Golden Rays. The areas protected beaches are the nesting grounds for four species of marine turtle, including the giant pacific Leatherback.
A Mecca and complexity of migratory routes for marine animals, and other marine species.
A great variety of marine mammals, including several species of Dolphin, Pilot Whales, Orcas, Fin, Brydes and Sperm Whales. Recent scientific studies have indicated that the migration route taken by the Antarctic Humpbacks Whales to this region is the longest marine mammal migration, some 8,000 km. Humpback Whales can be seen in the area all year round. Key months are August to October. Their haunting songs can be heard whilst diving around the park.
A complete, living marine laboratory.
Large schools of predators, Barracuda, Jacks and Snapper can be observed, along with a great variety of schooling reef fish. The irregular volcanic underwater landscapes are adorned with an abundance of hard and soft corals, marine sponges and sea fans which provide habitat to an amazing array benthic life, (bottom dwellers), including, Lobsters, Crab, Octopus, several types of Eels, Sea Stars, Blennies, Stargazers, Seahorse, Nudibranchs, Pipefish, Sea pens and exotic creatures such as the Harlequin Shrimp and Frog Fish.
Dive sites range from calm, shallow, protected inshore reefs, islands and break rocks, to the high voltage diving on deep pinnacles and sea mounts. The sites offer encounters with a great variety of marine life, and also to observe behavioral habits and witness the symbiosis between many species. Most dive sites are littered with cleaning stations which attract many pelagic visitors, giant fish, turtles, mantas and shark. Spawning/aggregation sites attract huge quantities of reef and giant pelagic fish at certain times throughout the year. Bait ball activity attracts the attention of thousands of resident marine birds and great variety big marine predators.
As part of ongoing local and international conservation efforts and initiatives, DIVE BASE COIBA plays an active part in the protection and conservation of the region and participates in a broad spectrum of key Scientific Investigations / Conservation Biology initiatives. We encourage our visitors and guests to assist with the conservation of this unique marine eco-system.
Coiba National Park Management Plan. 2007.