A group of spotted eagle rays glides by in perfect formation, dolphins play in the wake of the boat and the great barracuda remains motionless in the water, awaiting his prey. Marine life in Bocas del Toro is spectacular from above the water and under the water it is like swimming through an aquarium- only a lot more interesting, with the rock structures and the established corals and sponges to admire, as well as an old boot- a reminder that not only fish use these waters!
There is such a variety of diving experiences to be had in Bocas del Toro, although the visibility can be changeable, the rewards are definitely there, such as the dramatic pinnacles and drop offs on the Ocean side, where large pelagic species can be seen. Compared with the more protected back reefs where beautiful juvenile corals abound, giving shelter and homes to many fish and other bright and colourful creatures. It is surprising how many different species you can see including rays, flying gurnard (chicharra), baby cuttlefish (sepia juvenile) the striking spotted drum fish (pez obispo), beautiful fairy bassets (Loreto Coliamarillo) and colourful Christmas tree worms (Gusano de Arbol de Navidad). Lobsters can be found paired up beneath rocks and dozens of brittle stars cling to the soft corals and sponges or any other surface they can find, giving a fantastic contrast in colours of purple, orange, red, blue, green and yellow.
You can easily get hooked by the undiscovered diving potential of the region and its welcoming town, set in an archipelago of beautiful islands with dense mangrove and tropical growth. Much of the diving surrounding Bocas del Toro has been around the back reefs where the waters are ideal for training and year round diving. However there is a lot to be discovered and dived outside of the islands, new dive sites are being found every week where nurse sharks, southern stingrays and seahorses have been spotted. Drop off’s, pinnacles, caves and sea mounts create a diverse underwater world in which to explore.
Bocas Del Toro makes an ideal location for studies into marine ecosystems with its diversity of habitats not limited to coral atolls and reefs, but mangroves, sea grass beds, estuaries, islands and beaches wait to be discovered and cherished. All these habitats interact in one way or another and harbour an abundance of tropical marine species.
There are many people dedicated to conservation of the natural world in Bocas del Toro. Locally based, national and international conservation programs are all working to protect and enhance this beautiful area for this and future generations to enjoy. Volunteers are always wanted to help in a variety of projects and support the essential work being carried out. There are opportunities to help patrol the beaches in the Leatherback turtle nesting season (March-July), collecting the eggs laid and moving them to safe areas to be hatched and released or get involved in diving-based conservation projects, learning about the environment you are exploring through scuba whilst contributing to scientific research.
The presently untouched nature of Bocas’ marine habitats presents a rare opportunity for students and nature lovers to get involved in an area that is not plagued with large-scale fisheries or aquaculture, has limited large scale boat activity and no major port. For the most part, the increase in tourism would appear to be the only major threat to the local environment, and this is still on a comparatively small scale.
The area is one of the jewels of the Caribbean, where many hidden treasures lie in wait beneath the sparkling seas to be discovered … so what are you waiting for? DIVE BOCAS!!!
- Volunteer opportunities with Leatherback turtles: Contact ANAM +507 65842451
- To get involved in diving-related conservation programs and exploring new dive sites: Contact Ocean Pulse (507) 6482-1231 www.oceanpulse.co.uk