Snorkeling Granito de Oro Island-Panama

“There’s a hawksbill turtle laying at the bottom,” says Liza. “Here, give me your camera and I’ll see if I can get a shot of it.”

I hand my gopro over to Liza. She dives to the bottom to get a shot of the turtle, but the turtle is not content with an imagine of him lazing on the sandy bottom. Oh no, he decides that he needs to put on a full show. Slowly, he rises up. Flippers moving as if performing an underwater ballet. Up, up, up he swims, until his little head pops up to the surface. Then he swims out of sight, leaving us humans in awe.

I couldn’t help but think of the film The Red Turtle .  In the film, the turtle is depicted as a wise, knowing, magical creature. Seeing the hawksbill turtle rise to surface, was a magical, travel experience, and one that will forever be seared into my memory.

Though we’ve traveled to places where snorkeling is a prime activity, our efforts have been thwarted by either time or weather.

I am determined to get some snorkeling in during our Uncruise. I’m a little nervous however. I’ve never been snorkeling, and I don’t want to be an awkward newbie among, as I found out while we were trying on our snorkel gear, some very seasoned snorkelers.

The beauty of Uncruise, is that they think of everything. On snorkel days, they offer an activity called, Snorkeling 101. It’s for people like me, who have never been snorkeling, and for those who want a little refresher.

We land on Granito de Oro, a small island that is part of Coiba National Park, in Panama. Uncruise staff and passengers are the only people on the island.

There are hundreds of hermit crabs crawling through the fallen palm fronds. It sounds like something out of a horror film. I plan on capturing it after our snorkel, but…well…more on that later.

Liza, our adventure guide for Snorkeling 101, gathers our group to the edge of the beach.

She walks us through the route we will swim, and has us don our snorkel gear. We practice putting our faces in the water and breathing through our tubes.

Once everyone is comfortable with that, we practice floating horizontally. Then we are off.

Liza takes things slow, giving our group the opportunity to really investigate the under the sea wonders.

I am astonished. Since this is my first time snorkeling, it truly feels like I’m discovering a new world. There are so many colors. Such lovely graceful movement. It is amazing!

The plan for the afternoon, is to have a beach party, complete with specially made sangria.

Liza says that after we’ve had a rest, she would take us out for another round of snorkeling if we wanted.

Then we spot the ominous looking clouds. They are making their way toward us.

The clouds grow darker.

They move closer, and grow more menacing.

The wind starts gusting. It looks as if a storm is imminent.

All of the Uncruise staff jump into action. Radio calls back to the ship are made. We are instructed, in a calm tone, to collect our things, and put on our life jackets. We are directed to a spot on the island, where we are placed on arriving skifts. It is a full on island evacuation.

picture courtesy of Uncruise – evacuating the island

Though it is disappointing that our beach party is cut short, it’s fascinating to watch how organized and professional Uncruise is in the face of an emergency.

To be honest, it was fun and exciting, especially since we were back on the ship, and on our way out of Panama, without encountering the full thrust of the storm.

Thanks to Liza, and Snorkeling 101, I now love snorkeling. I can’t wait to go again.

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  1. Grace

    August 4, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    Wow! Great photos and especially the turtle! Looks like you were super close to it.

  2. Natalia

    August 5, 2017 at 12:49 am

    Awesome video, beautiful pictures, and an exciting story. Glad you were safe when a storm arrived.

  3. Wendy

    August 5, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Great photos! We’re divers and can see this as a potential location on one of our extended trips. If you want to see out underwater photos – check them out at:
    Thanks – I may look into Panama for this years extended trip.


      August 6, 2017 at 12:02 am

      Panama is a fantastic country. So much beauty and nature. That’s funny, if I didn’t win this Panama/Costa Rica trip, we would have ended up going to Curacao. It’s definitely on our destination radar.

      1. Wendy

        August 6, 2017 at 1:53 pm

        If you are going to Curacao, I have at least 7 posts on it that can help plan your trip. Let me know if you need info on Curacao.

  4. Kim

    August 6, 2017 at 2:57 am

    Wow, just beautiful! So nice of Liza to get the shot of the turtle for you. Beautiful photos. I’ve only been snorkeling once (in the Bahamas) but certainly didn’t see as much!

  5. Nicole

    August 6, 2017 at 3:01 am

    The waters look crystal clear and beautiful. Looks like an untouched paradise.

  6. Ruth | Tanama Tales

    August 6, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    What a wonderful experience and what a gorgeous island! Panama is so full of wildlife. I saw so many different species when I visited several years ago. Would like to go back and explore the islands (didn’t do a lot of that when I was there). #WeekendWanderlust

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