If any of your conversations with fellow divers begin with “I’ve always wanted to…,” then chances are you should visit Panama. With one of the most biodiverse ranges in the world, Panama may have every type of environment on offer to suit virtually every diver. You can dive in two different oceans in one day and see two completely different underwater marvels in the colder water of the Atlantic to the warm Caribbean tropical temperatures. Humpback whale, reef sharks and possibly orcas are frequently mentioned in the dive logs of the Coiba Marine Park and peak periods for these sightings are in the months of August and September.
In the gulf lie the Pearl Islands, in fact, there are more than 100 of them to explore. There are outcrops of coral littered around the site and the sheltered waters attract a rainbow of butterfly and angelfish and the reef sharks and rays that follow suit. Another popular archipelago is that of ‘Bocas del Toro’ or ‘Mouths of the Bull’ which are undulating reefs of coral and sponges that take island-hopping to mean something very different to the land based activity.
In the region of Portobelo National Park, you will need a few days to uncover what the pirates left behind in the sands under the surface. Relics and artifacts are scattered amongst gorgeous coral formations and damselfish. It is a common occurrence to stop and marvel at the schools of turtles that pass by in the protected reserve.
In a relatively untouched environment, the marine life of Panama exists happily without the fear of being hunted by humans. Those include on the one coast humpback whales, black and white tip reef sharks, dolphins and killer whales. In the warmer Caribbean ocean, the sea turtles flood the beaches in the nesting season and in September to October is the time that sightings are guaranteed.
Said to have some of the most varieties of coral in the world, the fish life in Panama are well-catered for on the warmer side of the isthmus. The micro life is strange and fascinating for those willing to get inches away from the reef but look out for lobster tentacles in amongst the shadows when you get that close. Parrot, angel and butterfly fish of every shape and color cloud the exceptionally preserved marine environments.
For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.
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As distinct as the white-brimmed hats and the engineering feat that is the Panama Canal, Panama itself is a country that encourages visitors to view the vast array of wildlife both above in the rainforests as well as below the surface. The country claims to be one of the most biodiverse on the planet and apart from the natural plethora of wildlife, there is an ethnic heritage that is well preserved.
The strategic economic value that the canal holds is the crucial link between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans and the backbone of the Panamanian economy. However, the coffee trade and tourism are complementary industries that support not only the capital city, Panama City but the jungle regions too.
Commonly referred to as an ‘isthmus’, which is a thin strip of land that connects two large areas, Panama was established as a Spanish colony in 1501 and has been a hotly contested country due to its strategic value and rich landscape. Colombia, Spain and the United States have all had a stake in the Central American hub.
The purpose of your visit to Panama might be diving but don't miss the opportunity to catch the birdlife of the Gamboa, La Amistad, and Soberania Reserves or gamble the night away at one of the many casinos in Panama City, Chiriqui and Chitre. Adventure lovers are catered for with rafting, rainforest tours or even waterfall hopping in the Colce region.
Panama features hot springs that are kept naturally at, warmer than ambient temperature, by the volcanic activity, still present on the thin strip of diverse landscape.
The majority of travel to Panama is by air using the international airlines that fly out of major airports in North and South America. The only direct flights out of Europe are from Amsterdam and Madrid. If you are traveling from South America, you are able to choose from Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina amongst others. Whether it is by cruise ship or if you can sail, the country will welcome you by water too.