TNS456 03/02/2016

After yesterday’s great sail, we steamed overnight in very light winds, and anchored this morning off Isla Coiba, an ecological gem located in the Gulf of Montijo in the Mesoamerican Pacific. The islands sit 20 kms off the mainland at Verugas and covers an area of 503 sq kms. Our Lonely Planet guide (travelling bible) warns us to keep in mind the open sea can get extremely rough, and many fishermen have been lost at sea over the years. Before making the journey you need to have absolute confidence in the seaworthiness of both your vessel and its Captain. Well, we certainly have that here by the bucket load.

Capt Barbara sent the Bosun and his mates ahead to survey the passage and bays and by 10am, we were anchoring off the northern side of the Isla Cocos, just around the headland of Cerro Gambit. Between 1912 and 2006, the main island was used as a Penal Colony for Panama, housing its worst gangstas, murderers, drug traffickers and other heavy criminals, some of whom regularly tried to escape on floating rafts or by just swimming through what the guide books describe as ‘notorious waters’. BIG sharks, reef sharks, hammerhead sharks all school in large numbers although the danger is overestimated (apparently!)

This unsavoury period in history was instrumental in preventing the destruction of the rainforest and virtually the entire island features primary rainforest, teeming with wildlife. Coiba’s underwater wildlife is equally spectacular, boasting one of the largest coral reefs on the Pacific coast of the Americas. In 1991, the Panamanian Government established the Parque National Coiba and in 2005, Enesco declared it a World Heritage Site to protect the ecosystems. All park fees are earmarked for the upkeep of the Islands, which are manned by rangers and one ex convict who conducts tours around the now defunct penal colony.

Nearly everybody took the opportunity to go ashore, some lazed on the pristine beach, some chose to walk the .64 km easy route to a height of 150 mts, affording a wonderful view of both the ship in one bay, and the beach on the other. Several opted for the 4.6 km Santa Cruz hike (moderately difficult) and were treated to sounds of the howler monkeys, had sticks thrown at them by the white-faced capuchins and saw many birds indigenous to the islands. The 4.6 km return walk back to base camp, meant they missed the lovely picnic brought ashore by Ali & Mona.

The wardens are undertaking surveys of the wildlife and those lucky enough to be on the last boat back to Tenacious, would  have seen the two turtles that had been fitted with tracking devices during the day, being carried out to a small boat, ready to be released back out at sea. Another lovely sunset dinner on deck rounded off another perfect day. With a few anchor watches to keep the voyage crew amused overnight, we look forward to snorkelling adventures off Isla Rancheria tomorrow. We have every confidence in Capt Barbara finding us a safe bay in which to continue our island odyssey.

PS It’s 33 degrees here, in case you were wondering Louise FWD Starboard