Islas Secas, a string of small islands about 45 minutes from Isla Palenque, houses a number of scuba diving and snorkeling spots. We went with Aris, Ben Loomis, and a to-be Peace Corps member named Maddie. We got our equipment in Boca Chica from a shop called Busca Bravo, one of the main places in town for boating and diving gear. Into the boat from there and we were off.
The Secas appear over the horizon just as you leave the main coastal islands. The current was on the stronger side today, creating large waves that sent the boat on a topsy-turvy adventure (those who get seasick should take a few precautions before embarking). In calmer seas Islas Secas are about 45 minutes from Isla Palenque, but our trip ended up lasting more than an hour each way. Once we got there, it was time to put on the scuba gear. I had the privilege of wearing the ever-so-flattering purple wetsuit, but the water is warm enough should others want to go without it. Ben and Aris were the other divers while Luke and Maddie snorkeled from the surface.
I would never have guessed our first dive spot. Just before you hit the islands, look for whitewash splashing over a small rock surface. Named La Bruja, or “The Witch,” this is a haven for big fish — bull sharks, manta rays, and octopi among others. The current and visibility today made it difficult to even approach the area, much less see anything, but the spot holds great potential under better conditions. We moved on to the islands; there seems to be at least a dozen of them, all within a few hundred meters of each other. Many have small beaches and bays in their inlets, allowing calm shallow waters that are great for snorkeling. Highlights include starfish sprawled over coral with a variety of marine life swimming along the sand. We moved from island to island, diving off the boat and checking out new scenes each time.
Our last stop was another scuba point. A line of sharp ridges with a small opening between them creates noticeably choppy water, but not enough to stop us from diving in. This time we got what we were looking for: schools of small, colorful fish swim in unison, moving with the current like they’re blowing away in a strong wind. Bigger, exotic fish stopped to look at us every once in a while as if to say “s’up?” An eel poked its shiny blue head out for a nice surprise, and a clownfish made a rare appearance out of its anemone home. Ladies and gentlemen, we found Nemo.
As rough as the ride can be, there is a lot of life to see in the waters of the Gulf of Chiriqui. Islas Secas is just one of many points for scuba and snorkel enthusiasts to check out.
Images by Luke Hansen.