Panama vs costa rica

Coiba National Park is one of Panama’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

One of Panama’s most pristine destinations is Coiba National Park. The remote island of Coiba is the biggest island in all of Central America, with 121,822 acres (49,300 hectares). It is located in Panama’s province of Veraguas, but you can easily access it from the Gulf of Chiriquí, where Selva Terra Island Resort is located. The resort offers tours to Coiba Island on its very fast yacht, which gets you there in two hours.

Coiba Island separated from the mainland during the last Ice Age, about 12,000 to 18,000 years ago. Sea levels rose, causing an evolutionary experiment. Animals in this zone had to adapt to living on an island. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute conducts extensive studies on the biodiversity of the area. They have done an inventory on the flora and fauna of the area as well as on the genetics and behavior of crocodiles. Several species, including the Coiba agouti, Coiba spinetail, and Coiba Island howler monkey, are endemic.

Coiba used to be a jail

Coiba’s first residents were an indigenous tribe called Coiba, giving the island its current name. When the Spaniards arrived in 1560, they conquered the tribe and forced them into slavery. In 1919, a penal colony was established in Coiba Island, which remained until 2004.

Panama’s most dangerous criminals were shipped off to this island with very little chance of escaping. During the dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Antonio Noriega, the prison also housed political prisoners. Those who disapproved of the regime were considered criminals. About 30 camps, each of which could hold up to 3,000 inmates, were set up. Many prisoners disappeared during this time; they could have ended in unmarked graves, or they could’ve been eaten by sharks as they tried  to escape.

Visitors can walk through the ruins of the old Coiba jail, which is being swallowed by the jungle. The only good thing about the prison was its role in preserving 80% of the original vegetation of the island. The vegetation that was disturbed was due to the farming and cattle ranching conducted by the prisoners.

National marine park

In 1991, the government of Panama made this area a national marine park, but it wasn’t until 2004 that it was given a fully protected status. The year after, UNESCO declared Coiba National Park as a World Heritage Site.

The park protects 667,493 acres (270,125 hectares) of marine, coastal, and insular ecosystems. Coiba Island has had little human impact throughout the years, so most of the island is densely forested.

Other islands, such as Brincancon, Uvas, Canal de Afuera, Rancheria, Contreras, and Jicaron, also are in the park. A small island called Granito de Oro is one of the favorites to visit. It has a small white sand beach and a coral reef ideal for snorkeling. You can always see harmless reef sharks sleeping. Coiba Island also has beautiful beaches such as Playa Damas and Playa Blanca.

Incredible diving in Coiba National Park

Coiba Island is a scuba diver’s paradise, with over 4,200 acres (1,700 hectares) of coral reefs within the park. It has the largest reef in the Eastern Pacific. Selva Terra Island Resort has a NAUI dive center on site. Most guests that visit the marine park want to dive.

Underwater diversity is due to the Cocos Ridge mountains, which unite Coiba National Park, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, and Isla Cocos in Costa Rica. Prosperous shark populations live in the area. During their dives, divers will likely encounter sharks, including whale sharks. You can also see migrating cetaceous and dolphins most of the year, as well as schools of large fishes such as tuna and dorado. Industrial fishing is prohibited in Coiba. If you wish to fish in the area, we can take you to Hannibal Bank, which is nearby. Four species of marine turtles visit the waters and nest in the islands.

If you are not a diver, some areas are perfect for snorkeling. Most dive sites are for experienced divers, so if you’re just starting to dive, please let us know so that we can pick a suitable dive site.

During your visit to Panama, make sure to discover one of the most untouched natural destinations on Earth, Coiba National Park.

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