Granito de Oro - Coiba

Top Things to do in Coiba

Top Thing to do in Coiba

This unique, virgin, and unpopulated paradise were recognized by UNESCO as World Patrimony Site, no other place on earth has the level of endemic creatures as those found in Coiba National Park, every scientific investigation reveals something new.

Just imagine what you could do in a place with more than 430 thousand hectares, 38 islands, more than one thousand kilometers of coast, 15 rivers, millenarian mangrove forest, a virgin tropical rainforest jungle, an ancient coral reef that existed long before the pharaohs built the pyramids of Egypt and many, many more.

Since the 1990s, the island of Coiba has become an important point of biodiversity and conservation studies, because it has a unique tropical marine environment and is one of the most isolated regions in the oceans.

Coiba Diving & Snorkeling

It is no coincidence that we put her at the top of our list. The Coiba’s ancient coral reefs are like a submerged wild marine city, with more than 5,600 years. With a vertical population of 10 to 12 meters, they are the largest in the eastern tropical Pacific, with 1,700 hectares at high endemic level, it possess the greatest biodiversity in the Central American Pacific.

Coiba National Park is considered one of the best diving sites in the Western Hemisphere, the “other Galapagos,” as it is increasingly termed, and an increasingly popular tourist destination. Coiba Island and its surrounding waters are also a UNESCO World Heritage site and National Park located on Veraguas Pacific Coast and have the richest marine biodiversity in Panama.

Coiba and its surrounding waters are thought to be an important site for both frequently sighted but little known whitetip sharks and highly migratory threatened shark species including endangered scalloped hammerheads and whale sharks

Serve as a maternity ward, a permanent source for coral repopulation, like a fountain of life, the coral larva production benefits the islands connected to each other by marine currents, like Galapagos.

Coral reefs and mangroves have an essential function in the coastal zone, it serve as a giant nursery, housing large quantities of fish and other marine species. “It’s here where the larvae abide, grow and transform into pelagic species that finally head out to open sea”.

The exceptional location of Coiba National Park in the northern column of the huge Eastern Pacific Marine Corridor, which is formed by Coiba, Galapagos, Cocos, Malpelo, and Gorgona, makes it an important protection zone for migrating megafauna and one of the world’s most productive marine areas.

Undoubtedly, Coiba is a destination for divers

Who like to meet the real BIG ocean animals: sharks, rays, whales, turtles, and dolphins, and PLENTY of hunters in schools of fish (tunas, jacks, snappers, barracudas, spadefish…..) plus COLORFUL reef life (morays, butterfly-, angel-, surgeon-, frogfish, pufferfish, blennies, lobsters, etc.). Some animals are resident, some are migrating with the currents, but there is always a lot going on underwater.

When you enter this parallel world you will feel part of it, most of the thousands of colorful fish will continue to swim unnoticed by your presence, they will even swim around you, the sea turtles will allow you a “selfie” and small species of sharks will appear from between the rocks to steal your breath, do not worry, we are not on their menu.

Coiba’s Diving Padi Centers

There are several certified diving centers around Coiba National Park

Sportfishing in Coiba

Strong oceanic currents converge in Panama and Coiba. Nutrient-rich cool currents, known as the Humboldt or Peru Current, move nutrient-rich water toward the surface that makes it possible to sustain the rich biodiversity. Plankton is abundant which feeds baitfish which are necessary to feed and catch bigger fish.

“Panama” means an abundance of fish in an indigenous language

Coiba National Park has an amazing blend of inshore and offshore fishing, countless fishing spot, no matter if you are a fishing expert or just a rookie. The range of species is truly remarkable, and you’d have to cast, jigging, and trolling all day.

With hundreds of world fishing records, Coiba National Park is an angler’s dream location, there are fishing spots everywhere, around the innumerable nearshore rocks, the deep-water structure a bit farther offshore provides incredible action at times. Coiba is linked to the Galápagos Islands by the underwater Coco Ridge mountain chain.

The “reef” of the neighboring Jicaron Island often produces an unforgettable sight: the water would literally turn red as dozens of mullet snapper, jacks, and trevally, along with one or two big cuberas, fought for a popper, sometimes batting the lure high in the air.

Like no other, Coiba serves as the home of more than 800 fish species, starting with cubera and mullet snapper, roosterfish, jack crevalle, bluefin and bigeye trevally, rainbow runner, houndfish, and more are often eager to hit cast and trolled lures, as well as live baits fished near island shorelines and underwater rocks. Sailfish, wahoo, mahi-mahi, and three types of Marlin even black marlin are often found very close to some of the nearby islands, although action with pelagic game fish is usually best at nearby Hannibal Bank or the offshore island of Montousa.

The Best Fishing Season in Coiba – Panama

Panama has good weather all year long, fishing is good throughout the year when the season of one fish species ends, the season of another species just begins. The waters around Coiba Island are plentiful of schools of some of the most exotic game fish in the world.

Blue marlin and dorado fill up our waters from December to February. Then from March to June, it is time for yellowfin tuna and black marlin. Fishermen can also find black marlin in Hannibal Bank in August and September. All year long you can find snapper, cuber, rooster, and wahoo.

Inshore fishing is very good off Coiba year-round, and the best action tends to be near the island during the fall rainy season. 

To top it off, during the prime winter months it’s almost always sunny, warm, and calm. If that doesn’t meet your criteria for a fishing dream spot, I don’t know what will!

Amazing Beach Days in Coiba National Park

For lovers of lonely islands, decorated with huge palm trees, white sand beaches with soft waves with unusual shades of green and blue. Coiba National Park has 38 islands, more than one tousand beach kilometers.

Coiba Bird Watching

Separated from the mainland thousands of years ago, Coiba’s avifauna is of exceptional interest both for conservation as well as for understanding evolutionary processes such as the early stages of speciation.

Scarlet Macaw Coiba

The island is a refuge for the last significant population in Panama of the Scarlet Macaw (Ara Macao), and a breeding site for the globally-threatened Three-wattled Bellbird Procnias tricarunculata. Like many other islands, Coiba’s avifauna is relatively low in diversity but highly distinctive. Coiba has 71 species of breeding land birds (excluding recent colonists), compared to a species pool of about 400 species known from the adjacent mainland. Coiba is missing 17 families of birds that occur on the mainland, including tinamous, quail, trogons, toucans, antthrushes, jays, and many others.

However, a number of distinctive forms have evolved on Coiba since its isolation due to postPleistocene sea-level rise. Coiba and its satellite islands have one endemic species, the Coiba Spinetail Cranioleuca dissita, and one near-endemic, the Brown-backed Dove Leptotila battyi, found only on Coiba, Cebaco, and the Azuero Peninsula. In addition, Coiba has 19 described endemic subspecies. In three additional species, the subspecies found Coiba differs from that on the adjacent mainland (these also be found in Costa Rica, eastern Panama, or the Pearl Islands).

Coiba's capuchin monkeys

The Magic of Coiba

The Magic of Coiba National Park

All over the planet, there are many magical places, for sure Coiba National Park is one of those, maybe it’s in the top ten. Is amongst the richest with the highest rate of endemism in the world. Its story, from its origins to the present, is simply fascinating.

Although there are many scientific theories and things that we still do not know about the origin of Panama, we are going to start our story about 89 million years ago.

The Galápagos Plume is a long-lived hot upwelling of material from the deep earth that melts near the surface and has formed strings of volcanoes, both underwater and as ocean islands. Similar to hotspots of magma that percolate under Hawaii and Yellowstone.

Today’s version of the isthmus was probably fashioned by volcanism and movements of tectonic plates somewhere between 15 million and 3 million years ago

The Southern part of Azuero, Coiba, and Sona were parts of accreted ocean islands pieces of the subducted Galápagos hotspot track, forming The Azuero Marginal Complex.

For millions of years, the tectonic plates’ movements slowly pushed these “islands” to the north, to where they are today, colliding with a Panama in formation as volcanic islands, maybe 15 million years ago. Little by little, over millions of years, the sediment deposits added to the islands until the gaps were completely filled. At some point, the combined processes turned the ocean into swamplands, then an archipelago–then, eventually, to dry land. North and South America were joined. 

For a long time, Coiba was part of the Isthmus’ mainland, allowing many animal species to move freely to inhabit it.

The Isthmus of Panama formation had an enormous impact on Earth’s climate and its environment

Scientists believe the formation of the Isthmus of Panama is one of the most important geologic events to happen on Earth in the last 60 million years.

North and South America were not connected and a huge ocean gap allowed tropical water to flow between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, until Panama formation.

The isthmus united continents, but it divided oceans

By shutting down the flow of water between the two oceans, the land bridge re-routed currents in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Atlantic, no longer mingling with the Pacific, also grew saltier. Each of these changes helped establish the global ocean circulation pattern we see today.

With warm Caribbean waters flowing toward the northeast Atlantic, the climate of northwestern Europe had a habitable warm climate.

On the Pacific side, weather patterns changed too, with deep waters along the western coasts of both continents continually welling up, and the domination of the cyclic El Niño pattern, in which the eastern ocean surface alternately warms and cools. El Niño now directly or indirectly drives rainfall, and thus agriculture, on scales of decades across much of Asia, and both Americas.

The formation of the Isthmus of Panama also played a major role in biodiversity changes

The new bridge made it easier for animals and plants to migrate between the continents and the course of biological evolution. Creatures once isolated on one continent or the other were able to migrate and mix back and forth as The Great American Biotic Interchange.

Some of the first were ones that could swim well or at least wade: southward-heading tapirs, peccaries, and elephant-like Gomphotheres, and northward-heading giant sloths, or Megatherium, some as tall as 9 meters.

For instance, in North America today, the opossum, armadillo, and porcupine all trace back to ancestors that came across the land bridge from South America. Likewise, the ancestors of bears, cats, dogs, horses, llamas, and raccoons all made the trek south across the isthmus.

The Panama Great Flood

These changes initially may have warmed Earth’s climate, but then set the stage for glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere at 3 million years ago. When ice ages locked much of earth’s water into ice, lowering sea levels about 100 meters lower.

The ice sheets began to melt around 16,000 years ago, causing sea levels to shoot up as fast, and sometimes faster than sea level rise humans are causing now by burning fossil fuels. Until the climate stabilized around 8,000 years ago.

Coiba was a big mountain on Panama mainland

At this time, Coiba was part of Panama’s mainland territory, when the ocean levels getting rising, Coiba became an island one more time.

Separated again, this time by only 22 kilometers, enough to permanently isolate their residents. In a process of thousands of years, they changed their behavior, their biological structure, to become unique species, and Coiba was transformed into a “Living Laboratory“.

Special Thanks to Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (STRI) for this excellent contribution: The Great Flood

Where is the Coiba National Park’s Magic?

Today it’s Panama’s biggest national park, a UNESCO world heritage site, and a tropical oasis for sunbathing, bird watching, snorkeling, diving, and fishing also should be at the top of your travel destination list before the secret gets out.

Coiba Island - Ranger Station
Coiba National Park with more than 430 thousand hectares which embraces three of the most productive ecosystems on the planet, ancient mangroves forest, extensive coral reefs, and primary tropical jungle. We can find magic everywhere, but let me tell you some tips about Coiba National Park
  • Is the biggest island in Central America and 80% of their territory remain untouched, is one of the last relics of tropical moist forest in Pacific Central America. Is one of the wildest and most spectacular landscapes in Central America, inhabited by charismatic wildlife, both terrestrial and marine, preserving endemic and endangered species.
  • The island is one of the last places to see wild scarlet macaws in Central America. Also, have more than 150 species of birds have been recorded, 96 resident on Coiba itself. These include the brown-backed dove Leptotila battyi (VU) and 20 endemic subspecies, one being the Coiba rusty-backed spinetail Cranioleuca vulpina dissita.
  • Coiba National Park is a 38 island archipelago and more than a thousand islets.
  • Mangrove forests surrounded by 240 km of coastline and irrigated by an extensive network of rivers, the largest of which is 23 km long. Its extensive old mangrove forests are a habitat for cayman and an abundance of large American crocodiles.
  • The region’s spectacular deserted beaches are some of the last remaining protected nesting habitats for marine turtles in Panama, including nesting sites for the giant and almost extinct Pacific leatherback.

The magic continues underwater

This rich underwater biodiversity exists around Coiba Island thanks to the Humboldt Current which delivers cold, nutrient-rich water toward the surface that makes it possible to sustain this unusual marine wildlife.

  • The underwater world is simply amazing scenarios and extraordinary megafauna, Is home to more than 800 species of fish. It’s not uncommon to spot whale sharks, 33 shark species, humpback whales, giant rays, and over 20 marine mammal species.
  • Coiba is not alone, the underwater topography of Coiba National Park is linked to Malpelo, the Cocos- and the Galapagos Islands by an underwater mountain chain, allowing divers to see many of the same species of animals at all locations of the Tropical Eastern Pacific Corridor.
  • There is about 1,700 ha of coral reef and coral communities in the National Park, which is the second-largest in the eastern Pacific. You can get to see marine life that you can’t see in any other place on Earth.
Coiba Reef - Seahorse

Amazing Photos From:

FSA Productions @fsaproduction
Eduardo Estrada @eestrada_wildlifephoto

Coiba Deadly Prison

Former Coiba Deadly Prison now is just a Paradise

Former Coiba Deadly Prison now is just a Paradise

Until just two decades ago, Coiba Island was one of the largest operating island prison systems in world history — next to only Australia.

Just a few persons want to talk about what they saw inside the island’s prison, the scene of unimaginable horrors. It really was the devil’s island.

Built-in 1919, Coiba Island Prison housed approximately 3,000 inmates at its peak, in about 30 camps. At first, only Panama’s worst dangerous criminals were sent them there. When the militaries controlled Panama, many opponents of the military regimes were sent as political prisoners to disappear there, to never be seen again.

The prisoners live in men made structures out of natural materials or in cells with no windows, furniture, or bathrooms.

The prison was self-sustaining, the prisoners should work the land, harvest, and raise animals such as chickens, ducks, pigs, cows, even buffaloes. The island provided all the food for the penal and public health system in Panama.

Coiba’s prisoners didn’t need bars to be imprisoned

Cocodrile Tito - Coiba National Park

With almost 80% of the island is made up of “virgin” rainforest, with poison snakes, gigantic crocodiles, and ferrous sharks swimming around the island, It was virtually inescapable.

Even if you managed to escape from the deadly animals, the strong ocean currents do not allow you to swim comfortably and fatigue led you to death.

In some cases, dying was the only way to escape from Coiba Island, inmates were severely tortured and systematically abused by their jailers. Some inmates just vanished when caused some troubles, now they are known as “Los Desaparecidos”, or “The Disappeared” — held in secret and never to return.

In the camps, the prisoners formed tribes and would engage in raging gang wars. There were also reports of cannibalism and massacres.

The Coiba’s guards were particularly brutal and used torture tactics

Those who tried to escape were shot in the jungle. When prisoners killed each other the prison guards looked on and did nothing.

During the dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega, prisoners sent to Coiba Island disappeared in masse.

Some government official reports talk about the guards had a ritual for new prisoners, the guards would take them into the jungle, blindfold them, line them up and have a mock execution. They would put guns to them, count down ‘three, two, one, fire’, intimidating them.

Legends talk about a few mass graves where it’s believed guards had been killing prisoners for sport and throwing them into a pit.

Time is burying out for the second time those who lie in these unmarked graves. Probably nobody will know their stories.

Crumbling structures work as the only memorial to Coiba’s dark history

Coiba History - Baico

Slowly the jungle is eating the remaining structures, but our history shouldn’t be forgotten.

A former island prisoner Narciso Bastidas know as “Mali Mali”, wrote two books about his Devil’s Island experiences, the first book called “Baico”, you can find it in local bookstores, like “El Hombre de la Mancha Bookstore“.

If you believe the stories, the ghosts of the people who died there, wait until the sun goes down to walks around the island, some of them looking for justice, others still trying to escape.

Coiba Island, From Hell to Paradise

The fear of the Coiba deadly prison kept away so many people and unintentionally resulted in the conservation of the largest untouched and undisturbed jungle in the Americas.

The island is also host to many endemic species, which means many of the species found on the island were unique to Coiba and not found anywhere else in the world.

Since 2003 the island is no longer a penal colony, two years after became UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most tourists who visit its beautiful pristine beaches don’t suspect the horrors where occurred a few meters from where they are.

Websites to get High Quality images for free

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