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|Malpelo & Coiba Island Dive Liveaboards|
Malpelo Island is simply one of the best dive sites on the planet, in the same class as Cocos and the Galapagos but dived by far far fewer people. This Colombian Island is one of the cornerstones of possibly the most pristine tropical pelagic regions as marked out by the islands of Galapagos, Cocos, Malpelo, Coiba and Gorgona.
It takes us about 28 hours to reach Malpelo Island – an eroding mid-ocean table mountain far out in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of Colombia. Beneath the water the reefs here are visited by schools of sharks - difficult to equal anywhere in the world. Enormous schools of silky sharks often share space with up to 300 hammerhead sharks. White tips, Galapagos sharks, whale sharks and a rare deep water ragged tooth shark are also found here, as well as giant schools of angel fish, Creole fish, tuna and jacks.
One of the most striking features of Malpelo is its shear sense of ocean wilderness. This far from a continental shelf the visibility can be superb, ranging from 20 to 40 metres. Ocean currents contribute enormously to the rich marine life here, but also make it a demanding dive site which is not suitable for beginner divers. Summer water temperatures are more comfortable than the Galapagos at between about 25o – 28o Centigrade, but in the Northern Hemisphere winter when marine life can be particularly prolific, water tepmeratures can drop below 20oC. Thermoclines can reduce temperatures further at any time of the year.
Coiba Island Marine Life
Whilst Coiba Island is news to many divers, sports fishermen around the world know that the waters off this part of Panama are home to some of the largest schools of the biggest specimens. This includes some huge black and blue marlin, Pacific sail fish, dorado, groupers, wahoo and yellow-fin tuna.
Of even greater interest to the scuba diver, these waters are excellent for finding sharks including bull sharks, white-tip reef, black-tip reef, tiger sharks, Galapagos sharks, scalloped and great hammerheads and whale sharks. The coral reefs here include the second largest coral reef in the Eastern Pacific.
Whales, dolphins and four types of marine turtle are also found in the waters around Coiba, with some of the best opportunities coming in the form of humpback whales – in particular between May and October. Other marine mammals include fin & pilot whales, large pods of bottle nose, pan-tropical spotted dolphins, common and spinner dolphins, and seasonal visits from orcas, sperm whale and toothed whales.
The Rainforests of Coiba
Whilst the focus of these trips is the diving, but you will have the chance on some of these trips to see something of the primary rainforest which covers 85% of the island of Coiba (to step onshore you will need to consider a more dedicated Coiba experience - click HERE for details). Once the site of a lone prison, Coiba is now fully protected and a refuge for large flocks of scarlet macaws, the elusive crested eagle and endemic mammals which include the Coiba Agouti (Dasyprocta coibae), a subspecies of the howler monkey (Alouatta palliata coibensis), the opossum subspecies Didelphis marsupials battyi, and a subspecies of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus rothchildi).
There are large populations of bat here and some 147 species of bird of which one is endemic and 20 have sub-species here found nowhere else. The plant life is equally exuberant with mangroves enjoying a 5 metre tidal range and an interior rainforest which remains largely unexplored.
Extending your stay in Latin America
Aqua-Firma is a specialist at above and below water travel. There are some excellent wildlife opportunities in Panama and nearby Costa Rica, as well as active volcanoes, cloud forests and beaches. For further information about these and other countries in Latin America, please contact us.
Photographs kindly provided by Kadu Pinheiro, Alexander Balaguer & Cristiano Paoli
Panama - Colombia - Costa Rica - Latin America - Venezuela - Malpelo - Galapagos - Coiba - Gorgona - Eastern Pacific - Belize