Santa Catalina –
I wake up just before the alarm goes off. The beach is only about 5 minutes away, so I want to take some sunrise-photos. I get to shoot some pictures of some boats lying on land thanks to low tide. Verena is already having breakfast when I arrive at the hotel. I get my stuff in the room, pack everything I need for the dive and also grab a bite. Arriving at the dive center we get to know Nick, our guide (Austrian), and Manuela and Adrian (both Swiss) who will all dive with us. This is the first time that I hear this much German on a vacation. Manuela is about to make some AOWD courses with that scuba dive. We do our equipcheck, have a short briefing and get our stuff on the boat. A very long ride later (about 1 hour) we arrive at the first dive site “Iglesias”. Nick reappears from the rear of the boat where he was lying during the whole ride. The water seems pretty murky here. Thanks very a lot of plankton there are certainly a lot of fish here, but due to low visibility we don’t get so see anything “big”. Some whitetip-sharks, some mackerel, boxfish … Somehow I also seem to consume more air than usual.
With just about 700psi we finish the dive and take a break on La Rancheria. The typical paradise island beach pictures in brochures? This is one of them. Not a single person to be seen and really beautiful fine white sand. We rest, have a snack and discuss the next dive (Divespot “Frijoles”) – we have to swim for a bit against the current during the descend here. But as we dive in, we have already trouble on the way down as we are pulling ourselves on the rope against the current. And that alone is certainly stressful. The flow is stronger than expected. Once at the bottom, we struggle to get to the drift region. After a while, Adrian and Manuela abort the scuba dive. A few minutes later we arrive at least at the drift region, but when I have a look on my finimeter I’m already well into reserve, so we drift in safety stop depth for a bit more than 3min and abort as well. Manuelas regulator seems to have a leak. She barely was able to breathe and had to use the alternate 2nd stage of Adrian. Verena also had some water her regulator mouthpiece. For an AOWD training dive that sure was not funny for Manuela. Air sharing against the flow? I’m not really excited about this scuba dive. Haven’t actually seen anything down there and having to abort just after 25min. While Nick is still joking about Manuela though some “special training” this doesn’t lighten my mood.
We have a break on Isla Coiba at that one place, you could stay overnight. All in all I rather imagined Coiba as a mangrove island. Rather, this could be the location of a typical Bacardi or Batida commercial. The last dive (Divespot “Mali Mali”) is more relaxed and kinda makes up for the earlier ones. For the first time I see boxfish swim in swarms, pretty unusual. Afterwards we return to Santa Catalina. Ena and I look at each other thinking the same: We won’t stay another night but leave tomorrow. Somehow… maybe it is the wrong time of year… just bad luck, or the combination of equipment failure and the selection of diving spots… It doesn’t feel right. Also 180 PAB (180.00 USD) per person for 3 scuba dives and a long ride is indeed “kinda ooookay”… but we do not want to necessarily spend this again, if the experience is not that great.
At Iguanita, we reserve the shuttle to Boquete. Since Christine only buys supplies for guests of Iguanita, we unfortunately cannot have dinner there. As we go along the road to “la Punta” we see at the end of “divers village” a restaurant which still is open. Chicken & Patacones it is, and a Balboa (Some quite tasty, kinda malty beer, even a little sweet. Comparable to the Cuban Buccanero or Czech Kozel. ). Then we head back to Santa Catalina Inn.