Diving in the beautiful pacific
Santa Catalina, Panama
We were going to leave at 8am today. But had a slight delay with no bus arriving, so it was 8.40am when we headed off.
We drove back down through the town of David and then joined the pan-American highway heading south. This road runs 48,000km all the way from southern Argentina up to go the US. So I’ve definitely travelled on parts of it before!
There were lots of road works taking place – widening the road to what seemed to be a dual carriageway (lovely scenery being ruined by a large road!). We soon turned off the main highway and turned onto a smaller road which took us through rice fields and cow grazing fields.
We stopped off at the small town of Sona to get some lunch. It’s surprising that in a place that grows so much, supermarkets just do not sell fruits! And there were no little fruit stalls elsewhere either. So I made do with some plantain chips!
We finally arrived into the small village of Santa Catalina at 2pm.
Only 300 people live here, the main ‘town’ area is comprised one of shop, a handful of guesthouses and dive shops. We’re actually staying 2km away from the town at another beach – Playa Estero at Oasis surf camp.
The road ended at a river. We are staying on the other side of the river! So to get to the other side, we needed to cross the river. Luckily it was low tide and only ankle deep so wasn’t too difficult!
Our cabins were right on the beach. It was pretty – lines of palms and the 2km long black sand beach.
This beach is famous for surfing – it was wavy! For the afternoon, it was time to do nothing. Enjoying the view of the beach and the surrounding jungle.
We had dinner at the restaurant in the hotel – sitting in the jungle under the palm hut. I had a salad and it was great – so many vegetables! Perfect after a day of just eating plantain crisps. I spent the evening sat on the beach, in the dark, drinking, listening to the sounds of the jungle behind and the rolling waves in front.
Thursday 13 November 2014
I am really excited about today – going diving! This is the best diving that I will do this trip – it’s been compared to diving in the Galapagos as it is on the same migration route as the animals which migrate there. I was up early and luckily given a lift into town at 7.30am. I bought some cinnamon rolls from the small store for lunch (!) and found the dive centre.
I booked a couple of weeks ago – lucky I did because they were full! Diving here is relatively expensive – $140 for 3 dives, plus a $20 park fee (£100) for entrance to the Parque Nacional Coiba – 20km offshore in the Golfo de Chiriqui, in the Pacific.
Around 8.15pm we headed off. The boat left from the small beach at Santa Catalina. This beach was a lot more dirty, but still beautiful views. The journey out to Coiba took 1 hour 20 minutes.
There were just 7 of us on the small boat. The boat was not designed for diving at all! We rode along the Panama coastline, past small islands and lots of bird life flying overhead. We saw Dolphins jumping enroute – cute!
Our first dive was at Wahu Rock – next to an island, some rocky pinnacles poking out from the water. Just as we pulled up, a devil Ray jumped out of the water! That is quite typical behaviour, but I’ve never seen them do that before! Awesome!
The water was nice and warm – 28 degrees, so exactly what I am used to! And was lovely and blue.
Pacific diving is not about corals. Instead, it is volcanic rock and so much life! Wow! Fish just everywhere. White tip sharks lazing on the ground. And frog fish! I love frog fish!
For the first surface interval we headed to a nearby jungle beach. It was just so beautiful. Clear water, jungle, completely untouched. Just offshore we spotted Dolphins! Spinner Dolphins, jumping out of the water and alongside our boat, so cute. But too fast to take a photo of!
Next dive was similar – loads of schools of fish, seahorses, school of jacks, green turtles, hawksbill turtles. Just so much to look at. It was so good.
We then headed to the main island – Isla de Coiba. There is a park ranger station here and a couple of cabins, it is possible to spend the night here. This was a nice beach too – blue water, yellow sand and green jungle. Just across a small lawn is another beach – with a sign up saying to beware of the crocodile called Tito. The tide was out and I wandered around the beach a little bit, but didn’t manage to spot the crocodile. Just a small agouti running around.
Just around this small area there was so much wildlife – White faced monkeys, herons, huge Eagles, a lizard and some bright red birds. On the way to the final dive we stopped off at another beach – palms lining the White sand. A perfect island!
The last dive was also amazing. Today we saw 3 painted frog fish, 3 common seahorse, 1 Pacific seahorse, a large school of jack fish, green and hawksbill turtles, blue fin trevalley, octopus, scorpionfish, giant moray, yellowfin moray and white spot moray, schools of everything – banner fish, angel fish, soldier fish, fusiliers, blue striped snapper, surgeonfish. I could go on and on.
The best diving I have done in quite a while! We got back to town about 4.30pm. And I was really lucky to run into the owner of the hotel – so got a lift back to the beach! There was a lovely sunset and my evening was repeated – a delicious salad and lentils, and drinks on the beach. I love this life! Until it began to pour with rain.
Friday 14 November 2014
It had stopped raining and i am off diving again! Picked up at 7.15am today and dropped in town. I had a wander around and bought some fruit from a bakery – rather expensive! And then went to hang out in the dive centre. Then it started to rain. Not much. Just a little.
Off in the boat. And it began to pour. Rain so heavy that I could barely open my eyes. So i sat huddled up under my raincoat, with rain pelting at me so hard that it hurt. For 90 minutes.
When we arrived I was freezing. Quickly got ready and jumped in the water – much warmer! And Dolphins swimming right past me!
This dive was amazing. The best one yet. 30 ish white tips, I found a frog fish and the number of fish just unbelievable. Wow!!
Out of the water and still raining. Still cold. We stopped off at Coiba and I tried my luck with the crocodile again – this time he was there!! All 3m of crocodile. Sitting in the shallow water. Bit scary!
A couple of people had stayed on the island overnight, they said that there were several other smaller crocodiles hanging around on both beaches last night! Next dive was a sandy bottom – stingrays hiding in the sand, not seen that type before. But now very cold. And still raining.
We had another stop off at Coiba for lunch. I had brought more cinnamon rolls…very healthy..or not!! But the sun finally came out!!! I was finally a bit dry! The last dive was at a site near Wahu Rock and a bull shark has been spotted here for the last few days. Sadly I didn’t get to see it!
But I saw an eagle Ray – love them, so cute. And the long journey back. At 5pm we were back in town and the rain was starting again. I walked the 2km back to the hotel – a pretty walk. But not fun when you are cold and wet, carrying dive stuff and being rained on a bit more. I was so cold. Wrapped myself in a hoodie, leggings and socks and fell asleep! I was kindly brought a salad dinner, which made me feel a bit better (after my cinnamon roll diet!). And went back to sleep.