01.01.2014

Panama - Friendly crocodile and humongous sharks

Driving from north-west of Costa Rica to the middle of Panama is a long stretch, 19 hours in bus - and after the border we had to lay down in the bus with closed lights and curtains to hide form bus burglars smashing the windows with rocks. But, having booked 3 days of diving in the world famous national park Coiba, we were already visualizing our underwater expedition.




Arriving in the small fishing village, Santa Catalina south in Panama, we booked a small bungalow lodge to sleep and pack our bags for the diving trip starting the day after at 7am.


Coiba is a larger island outside Santa Catalina, but the national park covers a huge area outside the coast. This way we can dive in beautiful protected waters with a lot of pelagic fish. As it is christmas dives the temperature was around 26C, visibility around 25m. The hard corals and boulders are covered in colorful sea fans and sponges. At Coiba you always need to keep an eye out in the blue for bigger stuff.


A great diversity of box fishes and porcupine fishes around the dive sites.


Even though its a lot of colors and some reef fish, its not much macro life when you look for it. Of course you can find blennies in small holes in the hard corals, but you probably want to rig your camera with a wide angle at these sites.


Spiny lobsters, looks like a cyclops version. The spiny lobsters have no claws compared to the european lobster were used to back home.


Great safety stop (last 3 minutes at 5 metres) in the rocking waves, almost felt asleep.


Ending our Central-American trip by investing in some quality dives, we hope for some special moments to happen. Very important on trips, not at least diving trips, to treat yourself the last days to succeed with a good end so you feel good about the whole trip.


With lights underwater you can see the real colors of the reefs. Red color is blind for your eye after only 5 meters, the other colors disappears deeper. See the background which is totally blue, green and dark. The highlighted area to the left is lighted up by 2400 lumen LED lights and a correct white balance on our camera settings.


This sea star would be dark, blue and green if we didn't have lights or strobes as we used here.


What a difference lights makes. When you operate a camera, even though its over or underwater, TV or film - light is the most important factor to master!


In Coiba national park, sharks is guaranteed. If you don't see one you actually get the money back. Here I'm swimming with a laid-back and probably pregnant whitetip reef shark who is around 1,6m. They are easy to photograph since they are often laying still on sandy bottom, but they don't like it when you approach. So do it extremely slowly.


Frogfish is probably my favorite fish. In Norway the nearest species would be "rognkjeks". They are small, colorful, hangs on sponges with their "hands" and when they open their mouth its almost as big as their body.




In Coiba its very few nudibranchs (sea slugs / snails). You are very luck to spot one and I was very excited finding these two guys laying on a rock. My pinky finger illustrates how small they are.


Since we dived with a group of other divers we asked the dive guide if we could stay alone as a buddy pair, most because we use so much time at one place to photograph. Usually they say yes after they realize were professional divers and we follow their guidelines in terms of dive time and so on. At this dive we went the opposite direction of the group which was the best choice we made on this trip. We met a 6 meter whale shark feeding on krill in the surface. Luckily for the aesthetics of photography, we were alone with the shark for 25 minutes. This was worth all the hassle and the money and it was one of the best dives we've ever done. Our greatest wildlife moment, we felt blessed. The salt water in my mask was probably tears and my regulator was full of krill.


Coiba was identified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2005. Wildlife is flourishing on the island. Here a non-poisonous tree snake.


Good times on a tropical island in Christmas.


Still dreaming about adventures? STOP - THINK - ACT - What is actually stopping you?


A stranded skeleton of a humpback whale. Just a whale..


Tito, the infamous local and "tame" crocodile at Coiba. Situated 20 meters from the main swimming beach in the opposite direction. The rangers feed him every day making him fat and long, around 3,5 meters. When its not lunch time he goes to the estuary on the other island to feed or search for girlfriends. He never comes up on the grassy area, only stays at the beach. This was finally my Dundee moment, missed my hat from Australia though.


Tito, the ancient dinosaur lurking in the mangroves.


Beautiful sunset with crocodile.


The ranger station with sleeping shacks.


Me and our Dutch friend waking early up for sunrise.


Eagle rays floating in the surface of the sunrise.


Breakfast at 6 am


Local parrot who utters only "Hola" to guys. He is either gay or she is romantic?


After Coiba we went to Panama City where our flight to Geneva was departing in 3 days. We stayed in the old colonial district of Casco Viejo at the hostel Lunas Casa.


Arriving in the capitol we felt like stepping into Singapore. Skyscrapers neighboring the slum, Chinatown and shopping centers, fish market and Victoria Secret. Contrasts marks this town built by the billions of income the Panama Canal gives the southernmost country of Central-America.

Soon, off to Switzerland to surprise our family for Christmas!

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