Diving at Isla Coiba, Panama

One of the days at Santa Catalina we went for a diving trip at Isla Coiba.  The marine park is absolutely fantastic and I would highly recommend it if you are into diving.  Enjoy.


Santa Catalina: the end of another road…

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!




The Battens are coming, the Battens are coming

I had known for a long time that the parental unit wanted to visit us on our journey.  They knew when they could visit which helped us focus in on Belize & Guatemala.  I was a little over exuberant in suggesting that we drive through Guatemala together.  Soon after they purchased the plan tickets, I started experiencing waves of anxiety.  No turning back … – what the f%$k had I done.  I was thinking about the border crossing into Guatemala, the bad roads, the long distances, and the simple (I’m being very kind) accommodations.

I planned for 4 dramatically different stops.  The first of which was Ambergris Caye, Belize for a little fun in the sun before driving into Guatemala.


They flew into Belize City, and then hopped on the Tropic Air taxi to Ambergris Caye.  We picked them up at the San Pedro airport with cold beer and a golf cart (basically the only form of motorized transport on Ambergris Caye).  We were off to a good start.

The parents landed in Ambergris Caye in time for carnival.  The main attraction seemed to be painting each other with colorful water paint.  The local businesses had prepared for this by covering everything with garbage bags.  I absolutely had nightmares of mom getting tagged with colorful handprints.  The kids were respectful though and gave us a fairly wide birth.  Phew.

On the first evening, G and I introduced them to ceviche (I love, love, love ceviche).  The following morning, I took mom for a massage to loosen her up for what was to come.  We then took out a small hobie cat.  George was a champ with 3 deadweight passengers.  We walked the hobie cat out through the sea grass and muck to clear the peers.  After a few false starts we finally got on our way.  We lucked out with great wind, so we were flying along pretty well.

On a recommendation from Catherine and Dan after their wonderings in Ambergris Caye, we went to get lobster burritos.  Also delicious.  Some locals (some women, some men in drag), were making there way down the street performing for donations which was lively entertainment for dinner.

The next day we planned a snorkel trip to Ho Chan and Shark Ray Alley, but decided not to share where we would be snorkeling with mom and dad.  Ho Chan was unfortunately a little disappointing because of the strong current and hordes of tourists.  As we headed to Shark Ray, the parents didn’t realize there was still another stop.  Shark Ray did not disappoint.  There were tens of sharks and many more rays.  I have to admit, I didn’t man up and jump in until dad took the plunge.  George, being George, was the first one in.  We finished up the day with another great dinner.

The following day, we would be packing up, taking a water taxi to Belize City to grab the truck, and driving across the Guatemalan border to Tikal.  I could not relax…all that was on my mind was the truck being taken by armed banditos (…no matter how irrational the thought).