AdventureCentral AmericaPanamaScuba

Thursday, February 19: Coiba Island

Dive 1: Hannibal Banks (the Jellyfish Dive)

Start: 9:44AM
Dive time: 48 mins
Max Depth: 109
This area off Coiba is known for its world-championship marlin fishing, apparently. So this meant a few things: big fish, but also diving The Blue to see what we could see. I do enjoy diving in the blue – I find the concept of floating mid-water with no reference point and surrounded by endless ocean so appealing. Infinite. You rarely see what you want to see, of course, but there’s an aspect of rolling the oceanic dice for perhaps dropping in on a school of hammers or something. We had great hopes for Hannibal Bank.

We dropped in where the depth got to 180 feet – though we only went down to about 100 feet – and we immediately found ourselves in the midst of a school of some sort of fish that quickly swam away. A fantastic start! We were ready for the next show, and kept drifting mid-water… always looking into the blue.


Nothing except jellyfish.

Still nothing but jellyfish.

Since there was nothing else to do, I switched to a macro setting and started to photo:

This guy was about an inch long

Another little guy (I’m loving the macro setting underwater!)

Bored at 100 feet

After the big-hope dive that didn’t pan out, the Yemaya traveled back to Isla Jicaron and most of us took this time to sun, nap, and read.

Dive 2: Hidden Rock
Start: 9:44AM
Dive time: 48 mins
Max Depth: 109
Luckily we had the coordinates for the next dive – or thereabouts. We still had a bit of roaming about on the fish finder and depth guage but eventually we went in around 45 feet or so. This was kind of a crap dive, in terms of fish – though we did see a turtle that the guys later teased me “you scared it away!” when I went after it with my camera.


Tufted Tube Blenny

Eric was in rare form during this dive – probably out of a bit of boredom. He’d taken down his wide-angle lens but there was nothing to shoot from the perspective of a wide angle so there was little else to do. He showed me a coral with a bunch of little blennies (tiny little fish that live in little holes and poke their heads out), and as I was taking a photo of it he pretended to play Whack-a-Mole on it.

Imagine little blennies poking their heads out of the holes
Later I was photoing a fan coral and he pretended to yank it out like a root.

Fan coral

And then he showed me a little octopus in a hole, and he put his finger near to mimic a fish and to coax the octopus out of its home.

Octopus and E’s finger

Better shot of the little octopus

And then he used his strobes to light this eel for me

At the end of the dive we (Eric, Jono, Ben, and me) surfaced far far FAR away from the pangas – which were busy picking up other divers. So we sat on the surface to wait. Ben inflated his safety sausage, which promptly deflated and started all sorts of not-suitable-for-a-family-show comments.

“That’s quite a sausage”

“Oh, Don’t worry Ben. It happens to everyone.”
“Though it shouldn’t happen to someone your age!”

After the dive we took a little panga tour around Hidden Rock:

Dive 3: Sunset Dive
Eric sat this out since he’s seen it all before, but I’m still under the impression that if I don’t go then I’ll miss something. So I went out with everyone and we all dove together, but somehow I ended up with only Kadu (whom I’d been calling “Baddo” until Eric corrected me yesterday. Kadu/Baddo and I had a good laugh about this). We were happy to dive around the fan coral but Kadu’s camera almost flooded so we ended the dive after twenty minutes.

Sunset dive


Fan coral

The panga was peaceful and lovely. Captain Bernardo had turned off the light so we could enjoy the stars, and we spent some time talking about the events of this week and what he might do next. We had about twenty minutes to sit under a sky full of stars, waves quietly lapping against the hull of the panga, enjoying the dark and the peace. Then two other divers surfaced – adorable, hilarious Italian Andrea and the quirky, odd, demanding 75-year-old Frenchman Louis Michel (whom we call Cousteau). I sat on the bow of the panga laughing as Andrea tried to appease the slighty-nutty Cousteau and his endless questions in French. Much like this:

Cousteau (who is laying on the floor of the panga, presumably because he is stretching): “ANDREA!”
Andrea: “Oui?”
Cousteau: “What did we see on this dive?” (I’m loosely translating)
Andrea: “Nudibranches”
Cousteau: “And? What else?”
Andrea: “Parrot fish.”
Cousteau: “What else?”
Andrea: “Crabs… and I forget the word in french… oh, lobster.”
Cousteau: “Ah, oui. Lobster. What else?”
Andrea: * to the heavens * “Ah ya ya.”
Cousteau: “Are you cold?”
Andrea: “Yes I’m very cold.”
Cousteau: “Come over here!”
Andrea: “No but I will stay here in the corner where it is not so cold.”

About this time I gazedat the stars, hugging my knees to my chest, entirely amused and thinking, “I have no idea how I got here, but I’m so happy that this is where I am.”

Eric, by the way, created a post dedicated solely to Cousteau (who was later re-nicknamed to “Abuelo”). You can read it here.

Mojito Mania
Marcelo made another round of mojitos before dinner – which was again served family-style at our big family table.

Marcelo Mojito

Family Dinner