April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Coiba Visit

Sunrise in the bay just behind the cabins at Coiba

We made it to Parque Nacional Coiba. If you don't know what Coiba is, check out any tourism guide book for Panamá, because it is one of the main natural resources, but here is a quick explanation.

Kevin on the way to Coiba...island (and neighboring smaller islands) visible in the distance.

Coiba is an island located south of the isthmus and was formed with the Galapagus Islands and then drifted on the edge of a tectonic plate. The island is not considered volcanically active today, but hotsprings in the park testify to it´s past. Coiba was (well, still is for about four of them) a penal colony for about 85 years (1919-2004). During it´s years as a penal colony there were 16 separate camps spread over the central and east side of the island. Only the main camp is still in existance today and serves as the Police headquarters now. The other camp sites are being reclaimed by the plants and wildlife.

What a contrast of use and beautiful setting - the building says Penetenciaria.

Our group in Coiba´s old jail hospital. Note the official attire of our policeman (hey, a machine gun makes any attire official enough).

Because it was a penal colony for so long, it was not cut or farmed and is large enough to have sustained populations of monkeys (white faced and howlers, who are amazing to hear howl), scarlet macaus (Coiba is one of the only places in the world to still have wild populations, and we got to see about 10 pairs - they mate for life - fly overhead while we were at the prison), lots of other birds that a birder would love to see, nueque, rays, dolphins, corals, lots of pretty fish that we have only seen in an aquarium. We also saw a whale, swordfish fin, crocodile, and tons of hermit crabs.

This is how most visitors arrive to Coiba, although our two our ride did not have a canopy. Some visitors arrive in their own yatchs though (complete with basketball court).

A shell from a Coiba beach, which we replaced on the beach after the picture, since you can "take only pictures, leave only footprints" in this paradise island

The sites on Coiba are beautiful- whether small or large. As a very new National Park, Coiba still has much growing to do. There is not a lot yet in terms of interpretive signs, trails, and tours. The land, plants, and animals of this park will really make for an incredible visit when this park is fully developed. For the moment, the visitor to Coiba must be prepared to come looking for the uniqueness of the park.

April's toes in the main cove; other coves were even clearer

My favorite part was the crystal clear water. I mean....I can see my toes and they are more than 2 feet deep. Snorkeling was very cool...even though we were sharing equipment. We will just have to go back for a longer visit in the future.
(This trip to Coiba was with eight other volunteers from our region; we went out after our quarterly regional meeting in order to teach the park rangers English, since they have many tourists who come visit from non-Spanish speaking countries. Maybe we can arrange to do it again. :)

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