Where and How We Work
Discover Hidden Panama is working in and around the Coiba National Park, part of the Pacific Biological Corridor which includes the islands of Malpelo, Gorgona, Galapagos and Cocos an area of transit for sea turtles, endangered whales, sharks and pelagic fish. Coiba National Park is a refuge for many rare and endangered species as well as home to thousands of endemic species. Our love for the park and our passion for protecting the many species found within it has been the foundation for our forming Discover Hidden Panama so our guests may come to love it and work side by side with us and the multiple non-profit conservation agencies we have partnered with in protecting and preserving it and the animals within this amazing biological treasure.
Our Work in and on the Sea
Discover Hidden Panama is working with two international non-profit organizations helping with the identification, cataloging and tracking of the 16 species of whales found in and around Coiba National Park. In addition, we are working with a separate NGO (non-profit organization) monitoring and tracking the endangered humpback whales. Because we are one of only two places in the world where humpbacks from both hemispheres migrate to and give birth to their calves our research is vitally important. These photos of the humpback calves are the first identifications and tracking of the individuals and become more important as the Southern hemisphere humpbacks return to Antarctica where they are illegally hunted. Monitoring them and their return season after season becomes more and more important. Photographing the whale flukes, along with the GPS coordinates and observations has been not only a very successful means of tracking these animals but is also the most humane way of tracking them. Our instructors have participated in other means of tracking marine life in the past and whole-heartedly support this cruelty free way of cataloging and tracking these endangered whales. Guests are invited to join us in this project and experience the thrill and adventure of helping to preserve these gentle giants.
Illegal fishing within Coiba Park is a threat to these creatures. Our dive instructors worked countess hours pulling up fishing net from the ocean floor left by commercial fishing operators working illegally in Coiba. They were saddened to find many fish and animals that had been killed in those nets as well as a baby humpback. Patrolling the park and working with proper authorities to stop the illegal commercial fishing is an integral part of our fight to preserve these beautiful animals.
Whale sharks are on the IUCN Red list as Vulnerable and are protected by CITES as well as the UN Environment Programme’s Convention on Migratory Species. Sadly, their population is decreasing as they are being hunted for their meat, liver oil, fins, skin and gills. Increasingly, even tourism has affected these animals in Coiba as 27 of them were hit with boats by just two of the Santa Catalina based tour operators. Now, new policies for the viewing of whale sharks have been enacted in Coiba and Discover Hidden Panama is eager to be a part of helping with monitoring the new regulations. More importantly, because of the decline in whale shark populations is our work with the two largest international data bases tracking and monitoring the whale sharks here. Excitingly, whale sharks from Coiba have been sighted and documented as far away as the Galapagos Islands.
We offer not only for our guest to participate with us in preserving and protecting these giant fish but offer an internationally recognized certification for diving with whale sharks. Guests can learn about these amazing creatures and how to dive with them. This experience coupled with our underwater photography program and knowledge of identifying and cataloging these species will help you to contribute to their preservation for many, many years as you travel to other places and continue the work within this amazing program tracking the global populations.
Discover Hidden Panama is working with WildAid and Shark Savers to save our thirty-three species of shark in the Coiba National Park.
Come and join us in our expeditions to search out the different species of shark and record their data into an international data base to help preserve and protect the sharks of Coiba. Learn about the variety of shark species and their habits.
Divers can receive Shark Awareness certification while learning more about the sharks of Coiba and experiencing the adventure of diving with them.
Divers can participate in an exciting night dive and experience the white tip reef sharks in their nocturnal feeding.
Join us in a campaign with Shark Savers to end shark finning here in Panama and around the world and take the pledge with Shark Savers to end shark finning. Study with us and learn more about the shark finning industry and what you can do to help in preventing this and preserving the shark species.
Manta Rays and Mobula Rays:
There are two species of manta rays and nine species of mobula rays. Both species of manta rays are listed as vulnerable to extinction while one species of mobula is endangered, one is vulnerable, four are threatened and the rest of the mobula species have been studied so little that the data determining their numbers are unknown. Mobula rays have been studied very little and much about these amazing animals remains unknown.
What is known is that the gill raking trade, the process of taking the mantas and the mobulas just for their gills to be sold in Asian markets as a ‘cure’ for health ailments, is taking a devastating toll on the populations of both mantas and mobulas. Both mantas and mobulas have very few babies and it takes many years before they are old enough to reproduce. It is believed that great whites have more offspring in one litter than a manta has in its lifetime.
Because there is so little data available for the mobula rays it has been impossible for international policies for their protection to be implemented. At Discover Hidden Panama we are diligently working with two global organizations to help learn more about these truly beautiful species, to identify and track individuals as well as to track the populations of each of the different species as well as the gender and other important data about these rays. By helping us to contribute to this important data base you are helping for future polices to be made to preserve and protect the rays. With the knowledge you will gain about the mantas and mobulas, your experience in observing and recording their data, as well as the underwater photography knowledge our guest gain, you can go on to contribute to these vital programs throughout your future travels.
Coiba National Park has five species of sea turtles all of which are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red list. At this time there are no turtle conservation agencies working in and around Coiba to help protect these turtles and as a result the poachers are taking the vast majority of the eggs. Sadly, in Panama the eggs are sold to restaurants and bars where they consumed because they are thought to be an aphrodisiac. However, there has never been any scientific evidence to support that belief. Also, in Panama the turtles themselves are hunted for their meat and their shell. Often their shells are being made into jewelry and other products to be sold to tourists. Though all of these practices are illegal there are just not enough persons to enforce the laws and protect the turtles.
Learn about the different species of sea turtles, how and where they nest, and so much more. Our work with the help of our guests will ensure that the sea turtles are able to return year after year to nest on safe beaches. Get involved and help us with campaigns to educate the community about the turtles and how poaching is illegal. Together we can make a difference in preserving these endangered animals. We offer internationally recognized certifications in turtle conservation for our guest so you can continue your work in helping to preserve sea turtles throughout the world.
Coral Reef Conservation:
At Discover Hidden Panama we have our Eco Diver certifications and are proud to be working with Reefcheck.org. Working with Reefcheck we have teamed up with teams of scientists to combat the crisis affecting our reefs today. We use globally standardized scientific protocol to collect valuable data to establish the status of the coral reefs found in Coiba National Park. The important data we collect is then analyzed and used by marine park managers, by fisheries, environmental mangers and by organizations including UN agencies to help better track and care for our reefs.
Coiba National Park has over 4200 acres of coral reef. Many of the species of hard and soft corals are rare and endemic with many listed as endangered. New species of corals have been discovered that were entirely new to the scientific community. Daily researchers are making new coral discoveries in Coiba and the research continues as it is believed by researchers that some of the new coral discoveries hold a cure for cancer.
Our corals and the health of the reefs are very important. Join us in receiving the proper training and certifications to help aid in monitoring and protecting these reefs here and journey on with your new knowledge to help in protecting the reefs around the world.
Community Outreach Programs:
A large part of our commitment to Coiba National Park and the preservation of the park is hosting community outreach programs. We work within the community educating the local people on important issues like: Fishery management, snake bite prevention and the preservation of snakes, shark awareness, recycling programs and the hazards of the plastic in the ocean, turtle conservation and more. We invite all of our guests to participate with us in creating these programs, posters and more to help our community to gain support for preserving Coiba National Park.
As a member of Ocean a non-profit organization working through a variety of campaigns to protect our ocean we are working to reduce our plastic usage. At Discover Hidden Panama and our eco-lodge we have committed our self by taking the pledge to reduce plastic. We have numerous up-cycling programs to reuse the plastic that we have but have found multiple ways to reduce our plastic usage. We believe in skipping the plastic bags, avoiding plastic bottles and searching out products that do not use plastic in their packaging.
On the Islands and the Mainland
Isla Coiba is the last refuge for many rare and endangered bird species such as the scarlet macaw and the crested eagle as well as being home to many endemic species. We are working with two large international non-profit groups as well as a national non-profit group contributing to their studies on the populations of these bird species. As our guests enjoy the incredible bird watching tours they work with us in helping to contribute data, observations and photo identifications of the many bird species of Coiba. The contributions our guests make to the data of these populations is vital as we must do everything we can to preserve this last refuge and these few remaining bird species in Panama.
Discover Hidden Panama is now working with five different non-profit conservation agencies providing data and research on the species of monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, and amphibians on Isla Coiba. As Coiba remains very much unexplored and very little research has been done on these animal populations are contributions are important to the conservation efforts of Panama. Multiple new species have been discovered on the island, many that are new to science. Endemic populations of howler monkeys, a newly discovered species is considered endangered as they exist nowhere else in the world. The frogs of Panama are critically endangered because of a fungus that has pushed some of the species of frogs, like the golden frog, to the point of near extinction. Preserving the poison dart frog has been of critical importance to scientists working throughout Panama. However, there have been no studies done yet on Coiba to determine how this is affecting the amphibian populations or if it is even affecting them at all. Even the species populations of Coiba Island have not been cataloged. Our contributions to the databases as you journey through the primary rain forest are so important as it is believed by researchers there are many species left to yet be discovered. In addition to the monkey and amphibian research we are also working with a herpetologist team to track the snakes on Coiba, and reptile conservation groups to monitor and contribute data for the endangered American Crocodile populations.
Our guests learn about the various species you will encounter and data to record as well as proper photography techniques for recording these many species. We take that knowledge into the jungle as we work on our research programs while continually discovering the unknown portions of the rain forest both by boat through the rivers and hikes through the rain forest.