With the reinstated flight between Grand Cayman and Panama reopening this summer I had to take the opportunity to go and dive the pacific! Panama offers great diving in both the Caribbean and Pacific ocean but I choose the Pacific to try something completely different and I wasn't disappointed! We stayed at the Oasis Surf Hotel in Santa Catalina and dove with the Panama Dive Centre. Santa Catalina is a 5 hour drive from Panama City, you can get a bus, a transfer service or a taxi. As there were a few of us and we didn't want to spend more time travelling than we had to we choose a taxi at a cost of 300 us dollars. Once you are in Santa Catalina you can join a dive trip to the islands of Coiba and Contraeu. These islands are part of the Eastern Tropical Marine Pacific corridor which is a protected area joining the Cocos islands in Costa Rica to the Galapagos islands in Ecuador.
On our first day diving we were lucky enough to join a trip the the Contraeu islands (see photo above) and on day 2 we dove the islands of Coiba. Visiting during July the water temperature was fine, we did wear thin wet suits but I didn't feel cold during any of the dives. During the winter months it is likely to be more chilly. The conditions were not quite as pleasant as those we find in Grand Cayman which lets face it are pretty much perfect, the visibility was reduced but not bad and we did have to deal with some reasonably strong swells and current but this did not detract from the enjoyment of the dives for me! Each day we did 3 dives stopping in between at uninhabited islands for a snack or lunch. Our top spots underwater were a couple of bull sharks, an abundance of white tip reef sharks (we must have seen at least 10 maybe more like 20 at Buffet), an octopus, moray eels (they seemed to be under every rock at Faro), green and hawksbill turtles. Some members of my group saw black tip reef sharks but I missed these! The highlight of the trip for me was listening to the whales which we could hear underwater at Sombrero de Pelo. To top it all off we were greeted with a show from a school of dolphins on the boat back to Santa Catalina, what a lovely trip!
Photos taken on dives at Contraeu
Photos taken on dives at Coiba