Santa Catalina and Isla de Coiba, Panama 18 - 21 Dec 2005

World class scuba diving at an unspoilt tropical island


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  You might be wondering by now what the hell we were doing in a place like Santa Catalina. Well, according to the guide book, some of the Latin America's best diving spots were to be found at Isla de Coiba, a couple of hours by speed boat from the coast. The plan was for me to get a refresher course in diving from Santa Catalina and complete my open-water diving certificate before heading off on a 2-day dive trip to Isla de Coiba. (I'd got my basic PADI licence on St. Barth, Caribbean, the previous Christmas.) We'd booked the course and the diving trip with a local outfit, Scuba Coiba, run by an Austrian with the rather inauspicious name of Herbie Sunk!! My instructor was a friendly English girl called Rachel Fulton. She put me through exercises in shallow water from the beach while Flemming went diving with another couple and Karin Pointner, an Austrian girl who filmed the divers and the fish they saw. I did fine that morning and completed the exercises successfully, even swimming with my mask off and putting it back on again and clearing it while under water. But when I had to repeat the exercise that afternoon the sea was choppy with a strong current and I didn't feel at all comfortable. As a result, I panicked and breathed water through my nose 5 metres below the surface. Rachel didn't want me to come up too fast due to the pressure difference, so pulled at my legs while I struggled to reach the surface. I finally came up spluttering and considerably shaken.
The next day we set off on the dive trip to Isla de Coiba. There was to be a dive at a place called Faro on the way to the island, but I decided to just snorkel while the others dived. We then continued to the beautiful island where we were to stay that night. Unlike Santa Catalina, the 'research' station was very well managed, with well groomed lawns and beach. But, in spite of it being called a 'research' station, there is no evidence of any research being carried out there. After lunch, while the others went for their seconc dive at Frijoles (lots of current!), I decided to stay behind in the company of the numerous agoutis and iguanas that wandered about. I had a siesta on the beach and then went for a snorkel.

Karin Pointner's underwater digital video trade mark

Ready to go to Coiba Island for 2 days of snorkelling and diving. Photo: Karin Pointner

Leaving Santa Catalina for the 1 1/2 hour zodiac trip to Coiba island. Photo: Karin Pointner

Had to carry a lot of fuel to get to Isla Coiba and back. Photo: Karin Pointner

Smooth and calm water. Photo: Karin Pointner.

Getting ready for the first dive at Faro. Photo: Karin Pointner.

Faro: ready to dive in. Photo: Karin Pointner

Faro: Andrew (Kiwi) getting in. Photo: Karin Pointner

Faro: Flemming and Samantha. Photo: Karin Pointner

Faro: Large schools of Pampano fish. Photo: Karin Pointner

Faro: Nurse shark with pilot fish. Photo: Karin Pointner

Faro: Moray eel. Photo: Karin Pointner

Faro: Frog fish are easy to photograph as they don't swim around but stay at a fixed location and try to look like a coral. Photo: Karin Pointner

Faro: Rachel (our divemaster) and Flemming admiring a frog fish. Photo: Karin Pointner

Faro: Frog fish. Photo: Karin Pointner

Faro: In a split second from now, the frog fish will rapidly suck in the little fish in front of its mouth. Photo: Karin Pointner

JAlbum 6.2 Copyright: Angela & Flemming PEDERSEN