The national park is located on the Pacific coast and comprises the island of Coiba with a further 38 smaller islands and the adjoining marine areas on around 2,700 km². A unique flora and fauna has developed on the islands, which have been separated from the mainland for around 15,000 years, many of which are endemic, such as the Coiba howler monkey and the Coiba agouti. Visit ask4beauty for Panama travel package.
Coiba National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Coiba National Park and its marine reserves|
|Natural monument:||National Park on the island of Coiba and on 38 smaller islands; valuable stands of humid tropical forest; Habitat of rare birds and plants; surrounding protected areas to preserve marine biodiversity; rare corals and sponges, 760 species of fish, 33 species of sharks and 20 species of whales|
|Location:||Gulf of Chiriquí, in the southwest of the Panamanian Pacific coast|
|Meaning:||Outstanding natural area with a unique population of endemic birds, mammals and plants; exceptional opportunities for scientific research into natural development processes|
Coiba National Park: Island paradise in the Pacific
The Coiba National Park in the Gulf of Chiriquí on the Pacific coast of Panama is a great natural paradise. It consists of the main island of Coiba, 38 smaller islands and the surrounding marine areas and covers an area of around 2,700 square kilometers, of which around 80 percent is water. Due to the isolated location, numerous animal and plant species could develop there that cannot be found anywhere else on earth. This particular importance of the islands was also recognized by UNESCO, which declared the national park a World Heritage Site in 2005.
The history of today’s Coiba National Park begins about 16,000 years ago. At that time the sea level rose and separated the archipelago from the mainland. Originally, members of the Coiba Cacique people lived there. But when the islands were conquered by the Spanish in 1560, the islanders were enslaved or driven out. In 1918 the islands came to Panama, the new state in Central America that had separated from Colombia only 15 years earlierhad solved. Since Coiba Island was used as a penal colony between 1919 and 2004, few people got there. It is an irony of fate that precisely this dark chapter in the island’s history contributed to the fact that an extraordinarily rich flora and fauna could be preserved there. Species that are almost extinct on the mainland are also found in large numbers in the area that is protected today.
The island of Coiba is about 45 kilometers west of the coast of Panama and three quarters of it is covered by untouched tropical rainforest. Many small rivers, including the Río Negro, make their way from the hills in the interior of the island to the coast, where they finally flow into the sea. Rare animal species such as howler monkeys or scarlet macaws (Ara macao) live in the dense jungle , an endangered species of parrot. Easiest to reach from the mainland is the northern tip of the island, which is lined with white sandy beaches. With its crystal clear water, it attracts many snorkelers and divers. The relatively untouched southern tip with its high waves, on the other hand, is more popular with surfers. Jicaron, the second largest island in the national park, and Jicanita, the »little Jicaron«, are also popular with divers. There, large schools of fish can be observed up close in the coral reefs.
Due to the isolated location of the islands – similar to the Galapagos Islands – numerous animal and plant species could develop here that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. These include, for example, the Coiba howler monkey, a small rodent and a subspecies of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus rothschildi). Of the total of 147 bird species that make their home in the national park, 20 occur only on this group of islands. In addition, around 760 species of fish and 1,450 plant species live in Coiba National Park.
The Bahia Damas Reef in a bay on the east coast of Isla Coiba also belongs to the Coiba National Park. With a size of 135 hectares, it is the second largest coral reef in the eastern Pacific and impresses not only with its colorful corals, but also with gigantic schools of fish. Divers from all over the world take the long journey to take a look at this fascinating underwater world. The special highlights include sea turtles, manta rays, tuna and sharks, but also dolphins, humpback whales and orcas like to romp in the waters around the reef off the islands.
The Coiba National Park is known today as a unique natural paradise, but the archipelago also arouses gloomy thoughts among the people of Panama. From 1919 to 2004 Isla Coiba was a notorious penal colony and prison island. At times over 3,000 prisoners were housed here in more than 30 camps. Especially under the dictators Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega , many political prisoners were deported to the island between 1968 and 1989, tortured and often executed. Los Desaparecidos (The Disappeared) are the people whose further fate is still unclear – they have disappeared without a trace. Today the jungle reclaimed the prison buildings, but the Panamanian people have not forgotten this dark chapter in their recent history.