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Dive Review of Coral Dreams in
Panama/Pearl Islands/Islas Perlas

Coral Dreams: "Pleasant diving among stunning islands", Dec, 2019,

by Keith Willmott, FL, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 8 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 11399 has 1 Helpful vote.

Photos Submitted with this Report

Click on an image to see an enlarged version and captions

Isla Pacheca diving Isla Pacheca diving Isla Pacheca diving Isla Pacheca diving Isla Pacheca diving
Isla Pacheca diving Isla Pacheca diving Isla Pacheca diving Isla Pacheca diving Saboga dock diving
Saboga dock, shore dive site, Isla Pacheca at right in far distance

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations N/A Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling 3 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments This was our second trip to the Pearl Islands/Islas Perlas diving with Guillermo of Coral Dreams, after which we again dived at Isla Coiba National Park. In our limited experience (7 dives at former and 6 at latter), the diving in Coiba is much 'better' - better visibility, more corals, more fish, more large fish, greater marine diversity. So why did we go back to the Pearl Islands? Firstly, for the wonderfully relaxed diving. Self-guided shore dives spending as much time in the water, as shallow as wanted to dive, whenever we wanted to dive (day or night). I don't know anywhere else in Pacific Panama where it is possible to do either shore dives or night dives. And easy boat dives, ten minutes by boat from our island, picked up at the dock at 10 am and back by 2 pm, with plenty of time to enjoy snorkelling or walking the deserted beaches, which, along with other activities, constitute the second major reason to visit the Pearl Islands. Plus, the great people. If you want a holiday as well as a dive trip, or want to dive at your own pace, try the Pearl Islands.

Access to the Pearl Islands is by ferry from Panama City - we went with Sea Las Perlas from Flamenco Marina on the Amador Causeway, a daily 7.30 am departure so we stayed overnight nearby at the comfortable, convenient and reasonably priced Radisson Amador. There is an alternative ferry service and possibly flights to Contadura Island, though the latter may not be ideal if you have dive gear. The crossing takes about two hours to Contadura, the base of Coral Dreams dive center. Despite much online publicity about diving in the Pearl Islands, Coral Dreams is apparently the only local dive center in the islands, and it is owned, managed and operated more or less single-handedly by the wonderfully generous, hard-working, nature-loving Guillermo. Guillermo also does island tours, snorkeling tours and whale-watching (in season), as well as diving.

All of our boat dives were off two small, uninhabited islands with sea bird colonies - Isla Pacheca and Isla Pachequilla - about 10 mins from Contadura. We didn't go much deeper than 15 m and the visibility was quite limited (5-10 m), surprisingly about the same in the wet season (June) as the supposedly dry season (December). The dives involved areas of flat rocky ledge with little obvious life, broken by low ledges sheltering urchins, morays, lobster, various gastropods and small fish. Periodic larger boulders, overhangs and small canyons had isolated soft corals, cup corals, small sponges, and larger shoals of fish - jacks, butterflyfish, angelfish, pufferfish, parrotfish. We didn't see sharks or many larger fish. The dive boat is a large 'panga' with sunshade, back-roll entry.

Contadura Island has a number of small hotels and a few small stores and restaurants, but we stayed on Saboga Island, about 10 mins by panga from Contadura, at El Remanso B&B ( Saboga lacks stores and has only 1-2 small restaurants, so bring your own food and drink. On the other hand, it has numerous fabulous, deserted beaches and trails through forest, and the wonderful El Remanso. It's about $40 round-trip by panga from Saboga to Contadura, but Guillermo collected us from the Saboga dock to dive, and also dropped off tanks at the dock for us to shore dive - we dived right off the dock, where there is an expanse of coral around 5 m deep, and rocky ledges and boulders with a good variety of fish. We also night-dived from the dock, with sleeping parrotfish and various invertebrates out on the prowl. Snorkeling out on the small island several hundred m offshore from El Remanso on the other side of Saboga was also good, with small soft corals, plenty of fish and a persistent school of rays.

The quiet, relaxed island life on Saboga is a world away from Panama City, and we greatly appreciated Guillermo and Coral Dreams providing the unique opportunity to dive the beautiful Pearl Islands.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Florida, Belize, Panama (Coiba, Pearl Is), UK, Red Sea (Sharm), Myanmar, Sulawesi (Wakatobi), Philippines (Mindoro, Palawan), Solomons (Guadalcanal), New Zealand (Poor Knights), Papua New Guinea
Closest Airport Tocumen Panama City Getting There Daily morning ferry to Pearl Islands from Panama City, or (possibly) flight to Contadura Island.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, cloudy, dry Seas calm, choppy
Water Temp 82-84°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 5-10 M / 16-33 Ft

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Keep with dive leader (on boat dives), otherwise self-guided shore dives.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available?

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 1 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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