Polo Beach is lush with underwater caverns and rock formations brimming with a diversity of marine life. Diving in this challenging site is limited to July through September, when the seas are calmer and the swell less agitated. Bordering the open sea, you can see large morays and all kinds of crustaceans in addition to all the fish swimming past the continental shelf. BDC’s Divemaster loves to explore the caverns of these secluded waters and enjoys navigating through currents and passageways lined with thriving sea life.
Zapatilla Cay is an hour boat ride through the Bastimentos National Marine Park. This is Panama’s first marine park, established in 1988 to conserve marine and coastal ecosystems, including wetlands, mangroves, coral reefs, white-sand beaches, and more than 200 species of tropical fish. The small reef is not highly visited by less practiced divers, so the conditions are pristine and there is less disturbance of the environment. Here you will see winding caverns, challenging currents, sharks, and barracudas.
Bird Island: At the other side of the island, about an hour away from Bocas town, this is a place to visit on the calmest days when the sea is completely flat. Bird Island hosts fascinating, intricate rock formations and walls from 12-22 meters. Morays, lobsters and other crustaceans roam the area . Variable currents here can push you through caves and challenge your senses, but this can be fun for a skilled diver.
This beautiful site is between the islands of Carenero and Bastimentos, and is swept by a strong, nutrient-rich oceanic current. The story on Bocas is that Shashe was a mispronunciation of the name of one of the ships in Columbus' 1502 fleet that sank in the reef here. There is a stunning diversity of marine life from lobsters, blennies and turtles on the ocean bottom to a wide variety of chub, jack, grouper, angel fish and occasional sharks that feed in this area. A shallower dive, the reef turns into flat sand at around 16 meters, and is most accessible when the sea is calm. Dolphins are often seen nearby, surfing the waves. This is an excellent site for night diving.
Dolphin Rock: is a few hundred meters off the northeast coast of Bastimentos. It takes about thirty minutes to swim all the way around the protruding rock, unless the water is surging. You probably won’t actually see dolphins here, but you can get a glimpse of big midnight blue parrot fish, nurse sharks, green moray eels, and schools of jack. There is a nice sandy bottom, perfect for training and fun dives, and there are also interesting swim-throughs and small caverns to explore.
Wash Rock is on the other end of the bay from Dolphin Rock, and has more intricate rock formations and coral but fewer large sea creatures passing through. Rock walls that descend to 22 meters are surrounded by grouper, eel, morays, lobsters, and an occasional invasive lionfish. Currents wash up against the rocky pinnacle that lies just below the surface.