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The Underwater World of Panama

Aug 4, 2008
Have you ever wanted to scuba dive amongst large groups of pelagic fish and see beautiful coral reefs teeming with colorful fish? Santa Catalina in Panama has opened up a lot of doors for scuba divers and is attracting visitors from all over the world.

If you want to do some diving from Santa Catalina, you have two main options. You can choose to dive along the Caribbean coastline, or you can venture further a field and visit the Coiba National Park. Both offer spectacular dive sites, amidst a relaxed surrounding and a friendly atmosphere. Many trips to the national park start from the Santa Catalina town, so it would be worth trying both places out.

The dive sites on offer around Santa Catalina do not disappoint. Water temperatures are typically warm throughout the year, with a nice 28 C in January. Divers will be wearing a 3 mm wetsuit which is generally adequate all through the year. Just off the coastline are several small islands that jut out from the sea. Many of the local sites are based around this area, as well as several other sites located about an hour away. Lanchas or small skiffs ferry the divers out to the fantastic dive sites, where they can enjoy the beautiful marine life that is available in abundance. The sites feature large schools of fish and colorful coral reefs. White tip reef sharks are a common occurrence in the area, and if you are lucky you may see a hammerhead, bull shark, nurse shark or a tiger shark as well.

Punta Pargo or Snapper Point is a very popular and aptly named dive in the area, and boasts large schools of snappers and other large pelagic. After doing an hours dive, you will typically go to a nearby beach to enjoy your surface interval in the sun before going out to dive again. Another beautiful site in the area is El Palo Grande, or the Big Tree. This site is also notable for its large schools of colorful fish, including barracuda, surgeon fish, groupers and puffers. Free swimming morays are often seen in the area; in various colors and lengths.

Coiba Island is another definite must if visiting Santa Catalina. Located about an hour and a half by boat, the scuba diving is definitely worth the trip! Divers are offered an abundance of reefs and beautiful fishes, as well as large schools of fish. Scuba divers are given the chance to see rays, sharks, dolphins, marlin, sailfish and tuna on the various dive sites around the island. During surface intervals, you can explore the national park and see the great range of wildlife in the vicinity.

The nearby islands of Boca Chica and Boca Brava also offer great diving, as well as live-aboard trips around the islands. Boca Chica has its own dive centre, and the owner offers four or five day trips on his custom made dive boat. Between the island and the Coiba National Park are a further range of dive sites to be enjoyed. Panama is host to some world-premiere dive sites that have been compared to Palau and the Galapagos. It is a country worth visiting for its beauty or for its diving alone.
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