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Panama's Santa Catalina Indulges Scuba Divers at Isla Coiba in the Abundant Pacific Ocean Waters

Santa Catalina is unofficially Panamas Pacific Scuba Diving capital. Scuba divers, snorkeling, underwater photographers and underwater naturalists as well as a few deep sea divers, anxiously await their chartered boats leaving Santa Catalina for explorations in the coral-filled Pacific waters around the Isla Coiba and the Coiba National Park.

Panamas one million acre Coiba National Park which encompasses much of the Gulf of Chiriqui and some of the Gulf of Montijo, has the honor of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has achieved international acclaim testifying to the significant impact these Panama islands and abundant waters. This is the bridge between humanity and nature.

Santa Catalina and particularly Isla Coiba and the Coiba National Park can certainly boast about its treasury of acclaimed aquatic and island life. Coiba National Park contains the second largest reef in the Central-Eastern Pacific Ocean. This provides Coiba divers and underwater photographers with the possibility of seeing 760 species of fish, 23 different species of whales and dolphins as well as white tip reef sharks, Galapagos Sharks, tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, Sailfish, Leatherback Turtles, Giant Tuna Fish, Rays and puffer fish. Scuba Divers frequenting the area between June and October may even be given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a humpback whale giving birth.

The Reefs of Santa Catalina and its Pacific Islands will provide scuba divers and snorkels with magnificent views of massive schools of ornamental tropical fish, butterfly fish and angel fish, hard corals and soft corals in every imaginable color, octopuses, turtles, eels, crabs and lobsters, as well as schools of barracudas - all within their natural environment. Divers with all levels of experience will be able to see the natural wonders of the Pacific Ocean from waters at Santa Catalina.

Excursions to Santa Catalina and its islands can be made through various travel agencies. There are Panama agencies that specialize in scuba diving tours and can arrange for small groups to tour the reefs and waters of the Coiba National Park and even spend the night at the ranger station.

The rules and regulations for water exploration in protected waters are very strict and be advised beforehand that you will not be able to take any specimens of coral, aquatic life or fauna from the islands back with you. An underwater camera would provide far more memories of your diving or snorkeling expeditions than a single coral ever could.

Scenic explorations, water adventures and nature expeditions are not uncommon in Panama, or the province of Veraguas where Santa Catalina rests on its shore. With Coibas new World Heritage status, international attention is being brought to these otherwise quiet tropical islands.

As visitors discover the magnitude of the beauty and abundant sea life, the reputation of Santa Catalina and its nearby Islands grow in popularity. Tourism and real-estate development is rising as well as small businesses providing to the diving experience. Santa Catalina, the port for almost all diving expeditions has locals that provide scuba diving lessons from beginner to advanced, businesses that sell snorkeling and scuba diving equipment and of course generations of charting and boating services which take divers and surfers to their remote locations. The national tourism bureau has recently zoned Veraguas for tourism. This license together with the onset of new real-estate developments is sure to have investors swimming in droves to the Santa Catalina shores.

Fortunately, Panama is very conscious of the evils of over-exploitation and Panamanians take great care to balance the benefits of tourism with the conservancies of nature. The Island of Coiba is, however, well protected. Theres no doubt that Coibas status as both a National Park and a World Heritage site will protect it from over-development, but its strongest protectors will be the Santa Catalina villagers themselves. Santa Catalina, however, has a new airport on its way. Travel to this somewhat remote scuba diving haven and natural marine aquarium will no longer be as obscure as it has been over the years. Diving visitors are sure to multiply as rapidly as schools of tropical fish.

Santa Catalina shores and island reefs are no longer the best kept secret of sea-faring adventurers. The experienced scuba divers may be sharing the reefs with beginning divers and snorkels swimming along the rocky waters might be more able to see other snorkels before they see exotic marine life. Although this may be likely; the millions of acres of Pacific water for divers to explore around Santa Catalina and its Islands and Panamas natural ability to protect their tropical treasures, will keep Santa Catalina Panamas unofficial scuba diving capital of the Pacific waters for generations of divers to come.