We meet lots of people on the road, and everyone has an opinion. The question in Panama was which coastal town is better, Santa Catalina or Bocas. We consulted with locals and foreigners alike and decided we shall visit both. After a quick visit to Bocas, we hopped in Vida for an easy-breezy eight-hour coast-to-coast drive. If anybody is keeping track, this is +1 for two oceans one day.
The two-minute research we did for camping spots in town told us to drive to ‘the end of the road’ and look for Oasis Surf Camp. I vaguely remembered reading something about a water crossing but didn’t make much of it. Turned out to be a small river, which fortunately wasn’t much of a problem for Vida.
We set camp on the beach thanks to some help from our friendly Italian host David. Our initial plan was to spend only two days here, but we liked the place enough to stay 5 days/4 nights. We did some walks around town, found an awesome bakery and I did some surfing. It wasn’t Internet surfing for a change… The highlight of our Santa Catalina visit was a scuba/snorkeling trip to the largest and most remote marine reserve in Panama – Isla Coiba.
Coiba National Park is a World Heritage Site. The island used to be Panama’s Alcatraz until ten years ago. The prison was known for torture and murder of some of the inmates, so the locals avoided the place. This helped preserve the park’s amazing marine life and also the island itself. According to Wikipedia, over 75% of the island is forested where the majority of this is ancient forest. Let me just tell you, the island is huge and it is far off the coast … We explored only a tiny smidge of the marine park, and it was fantastic. We saw tons of really large fish including white tip and bull sharks, large rays, dolphins, turtles, stonefish and a massive schools of barracudas. The coral was in very good shape as well.
I did three dives and Teresa snorkeled. Can you believe Teresa saw three bull sharks while snorkeling and did not freak out?! Oh, and she successfully retrieved her snorkel after dropping it off the boat and diving right after to get it … The snorkel was well on his way down to the bottom, some thirty meters below. That was some impressive stuff T!