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Isla Grande and diving

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Portland, Oregon
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Isla Grande and diving

Has anyone stayed on Isla Grande? At what hotel? Any reviews? And we are divers looking for a place that has a dive shop near by. Has anyone been diving from Isla Grande and do you have a dive operator you could recommend?

Panama City, Panama
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1. Re: Isla Grande and diving

There are two options on Isla Grande - rustic cabins in the village area or Bananas Resort on the other side... Neither has a dive shop but you could arrange diving with either Panama Divers or Scuba Panama who both have operations nearby...

Panama Divers have their own little bungalow set up (haven't been over to see it) and so does Scuba Panama - theirs is rustic but pretty comfortable.

The diving around Portobelo/Isla Grande can be great or really bad - there are a couple of rivers that drive a lot of sediment and with big rains in the hills behind the coast you can get really crappy viz.

If you are keen divers and want some of the best diving along the Caribbean coast - have a look at Coral Lodge - certainly not the cheapest place but super comfortable for a place in the middle of nowhere - they have their own dive shop and dive the Escribanos Banks - some of the least dived reef in the area... Right next to San Blas where diving is prohibited but giving you similar underwater terrain etc - usually superb vis - check with them the best time to come.

Hope this helps,

Andrew

(ps I'm a PADI instructor)

Portland, Oregon
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2. Re: Isla Grande and diving

Thank you so much for your reply. I loked at Coral Lodge, but is it adults only? Our 15 year old newly certified diving son will be with us too.

Anywhere else you would recommend in Cenral America for hotel and great diving. We just came back from Roatan, but were very disappointed with coral/sponges. Had some great dives, but many just OK.Just expected a lot more color.

CDY
Medellin, Colombia
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3. Re: Isla Grande and diving

Although I am a great fan of Panama if I were to make diving the #1 priority in choosing a location in C America I would go to Belize, you could combine diving with a trip inland to see Mayan ruins, maybe an overnight trip to Tikal in Guatamala.

Florence, Oregon
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4. Re: Isla Grande and diving

I'm not a diver -- I think Andrew is -- but if diving is your *only* goal/purpose/desire, it would be hard to beat Isla Coiba -- everything I've read and heard paints it as spectacular.

However, it's kind of difficult (read: expensive) to get there, and there are no accommodations on the island itself; you have to stay in the Chiriquí Gulf and boat over.

There are lots of reports and videos online; e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOO5RQcDMtY and www.youtube.com/watch…

And if you google "dive coiba" you'll find lots of operators and options.

Panama City, Panama
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5. Re: Isla Grande and diving

Hi,

Coral Lodge will be great for your 15-year old - they usually don't take kids under 10 for safety reasons - the open decks between the cabins etc. but 15 is fine...

I didn't mention Coiba as you were interested in the Caribbean side and Coiba is a whole different ball game - there are a couple of options for Coiba.

a) Stay in Santa Catalina and do day trips (2 dive operators both about the same from what I can see)

b) Do a live-a-board - Lost Coast Excursions is one option - obviously these are a lot more expensive but allow a lot more diving. You can also do other stuff like fishing, surfing or lazing about on isolated beaches.

As for what you will see:

Escribanos is a large reef area so you will find different corals in different areas, expect a lot of small reef fish with the occasional reef shark, turtles etc.

Coiba has fringing reef around the islands - some of the largest reef complexes in the Eastern Pacific. Here you tend to find a lot more big fish - you may see whalesharks, mantas, larger sharks, tuna etc. It's colder water but vis can be incredible.

As for the rest of Central America for diving - after Belize's barrier reef and cayes, Honduras' Bay Islands there's not a whole heck of a lot left - Cocos Island off Costa Rica - again another live-a-board trip, there are some areas for "decent" diving off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica - Can't personally say how decent as I've never dove there.

The diving off Coiba and surrounding islands was described by Sylvia Earle (National Geographic's Explorer in Residence and diving guru) as some of the best she has ever done - not a bad recommendation...

Escribanos is an area that is begging to be discovered with all the earmarks as becoming a major destination in its own right.

Anyway - I can say after diving some of the best places in the world over the past 20 years as an instructor - you will get some very good diving in Panama - although Portobelo/Isla Grande would probably be a bit disappointing.

Hope this helps,

Andrew

Portland, Oregon
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6. Re: Isla Grande and diving

We have been to Belize and Roatan (Roatan diving this March).

I didn't ask about Coiba, I heard some unpleasant things about the quality of dive professionals and equipment there. And yes, we were only interested in the Caribbean side.

Florence, Oregon
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7. Re: Isla Grande and diving

OK, understood. I mentioned Coiba only because I thought it an option; I didn't realize you are only interested in the Caribbean side.

Btw, I think you will find shoddy operators everywhere in the third world; Panama had a scuba death last year:

www.panama-guide.com/article.php…

www.panama-guide.com/article.php…

But, I defer to Andrew on this -- he knows the sport and the operators here far, far better than I.

8. Re: Isla Grande and diving

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