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Coiba National Park

Last update: December, 2009

A lot of interest is being shown in Coiba, Panama's largest island, which lies at the heart of the Coiba National Park, an especially rich marine habitat, which has now been declared a World Heritage Site.

In the early days of the 20th century before "ecology" and "conservation" became household words, the Panamanian Government established a penal colony on the island since its surrounding waters teemed with saw-tooth deterrants to would-be escapees. The Colony recently moved to another location so that advantage may be taken of the islands rich eco-tourist potential and so that neither tourists nor wildlife be frightened by the inmates.

Divers say the waters around Coiba and the Gulf of Chiriqui make this one of the world's top locations for adventure diving for big fish and mammals. A diving company, Scuba Coiba, specializes in the area.

The island can be reached from the port of Mutis, several miles out of Santiago or from Santa Catalina in Veraguas. ANAM ( the Panamanian environmental authority) maintains several two room cabins on the island which can be used by visitors. Permission to visit can be obtained by calling (507) 998 0615. The cabins are clean, with bunk beds and bathroom. Visitors must bring all their own bedding, food and equipment.

UNESCO comments "Coiba National Park", off the southwest coast of Panama, protects Coiba Island, 38 smaller islands and the surrounding marine areas within the Gulf of Chiriqui. Protected from the cold winds and effects of El Niño, Coiba's tropical, moist forest maintains exceptionally high levels of endemism of mammals, birds and plants due to the ongoing evolution of new species. It is also the last refuge for a number of threatened animals such as the Crested Eagle. The property is an outstanding natural laboratory for scientific research and provides a key ecological link to the Tropical Eastern Pacific for the transit and survival of pelagic fish and marine mammals.

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