38 tropical islands
The Coiba national park consists of isla Coiba and 37 islands around. Millions of years ago Coiba was created by a submarine lava out-port called the Galapagos hotspot. Situated close to where the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador are now, it moved away and stopped eventually on the South West coast of Panama, at the gulf of Chiriquí.
It was once a haunt for pirates and from 1919 to 2004 Coiba Island was a penal colony and quartered political prisoners and some of the most dangerous criminals in Panama. One of the reasons to build this prison here is that the waters around Isla Coiba have 33 species of sharks swimming around. In that time Isla Coiba was nicknamed Panama's Devil's Island!
After the prison was closed, Panama declared the islands as a national marine park, the largest of Central America. One year later in 2005 UNESCO declared Coiba national marine park a World Heritage Site.
Because of the penal colony access to the island was very restricted and therefore the islands natural resources have survived untouched.
Coiba national park is home to the second-largest coral reef in the eastern Pacific, at Bahía Damas, and its waters teem with huge schools of colorful fish, sharks, dolphins (23 different species!), manta rays, tuna, turtles, whales, and other gigantic marine species.
Onshore, there are 36 species of mammals, including the endemic Coiba howler monkey and 39 species of reptiles, including saltwater crocodiles. Hiking here through the mainly primary rainforest is a unique experience. 147 species of birds have been recorded to date, of which around 19 endemic sub species.
Scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have proclaimed Coiba an unparalleled destination for discovering new species. They even quoted “It's hard to imagine, while snorkeling around a tropical island that's so close to the United States, that half the animals you see are unknown to science.”
Very few places in the Americas are as wild, remote and full of life as Coiba national park.
If you would like to explore it, let us know.