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Snorkeling sites

Environmental and safety rules when snorkeling

Being in the water carries risks, so we recommend taking the following measures while snorkeling.

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1. Use  life jacket or a float to hold on to. You can wear a life jacket inside out, fastening it at the back, this will allow you to float face down more comfortably.

2. Don't dive alone. Stay close to one or more partners.

3. Plan your dive and stick to the plan. Let your skipper and other people in your group know where you will be.

4. If you dive outside the lagoon, you must be accompanied by a boat and ask the boatman to be aware of you and the entire group at all times.

5. Move slowly. The slower you move, the more fish will come to you.

6 Carry a whistle with you as a necklace to let people know when you need help.

7: Wear a long-sleeved shirt or a lycra or neoprene suit. The sun is strong and sometimes there are jellyfish or other stinging organisms.

Snorkeling with children

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1. Any child 6 years old or who fits well with a mask can enjoy the reef.  

2. Children must be accompanied by an adult and wear life jackets at all times.

3. Pierce the end of a chorizo float with a stick you can pick up on the beach and tie a rope to it, preferably a float. Tie the other end of the rope to your body. Allow children to let go when they feel confident, staying close to the float to grab onto whenever they want. This will allow you  easily tow them.

Exploring the El Cirial Reef Lagoon

The best place to snorkel is the Laguna de El Cirial, in front of the beach of the same name, which can be explored by divers, amateurs and even children.

Before showing the sites we will explain important data on the oceanography of Laguna El Cirial.

In the Pacific of Panama, the tide drops up to 6 meters (20 feet). The El Cirial reef is a coral platform that has grown to the limit of low tide. Therefore, the entire platform is at the same depth up to about 300  meters  of the beach. The  depth  varies, in a period of 6 hours, between 1 meter and  5 meters (16 feet) deep, and you will be able to observe corals, multicolored fish and other attractions of the reef, as shown in the following image.

The reef is divided into Lagoon, Cresta (the highest point), Talud and Base (the deepest area facing the open sea).

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View of El Cirial beach and the coral platform at extreme low tide. Photo: M. Díaz (June 2004).

Aerial view of El Cirial beach and reef at normal low tide  and then from the Visitor Center at extreme low tide exposing the entire platform and ridge.

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Aerial view of El Cirial beach and reef at low tide  end that exposes the entire platform and crest.

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We highlight two Snorkel routes without the need for a boat. Both routes are in shallow waters, with weak currents and you will not find dangerous animals.

1. The crater of a World War II bomb that is located in front of the Bohío, about 25 m from where the coral begins (Route 1). All the boatmen can show you where you are and can  ask him to drop them off at the site and then anchor the boat on the beach.

2. Swim parallel to the beach, right where the coral meets the sand (Route 2), until you reach the southern end of the beach or vice versa. Take advantage of the current. If it moves in the opposite direction, walk to the end and  I am back  swimming with the current. They can  zigzag  as you see fish or other organisms that attract your attention, but stay close to the coast because  the current  it could drag them out into the open sea.

WARNING: Avoid the north end of the platform, just in front of the Casa del Guardaparque, at low tide as the current is very strong towards the open sea. If swept away, swim to the rocky shore, not the beach, and back along the rocks swimming as flat as the tide allows.

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The Bomba Crater is maintained as a tide pool during platform exposure, allowing corals to remain alive and fish to concentrate here. The rest of the platform does not show as much biodiversity. In the following link you can download an identification guide for corals, fish and other organisms that are most commonly seen in Laguna El Cirial.

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It is possible that you will meet Argelis, the Queen of Cirial, a Hawksbill turtle that permanently inhabits the El Cirial reef. The first time we saw it was in 1989. We have seen it grow and we can distinguish it by the scar from a bite of a  shark  in the part of  behind its shell, on the right side.

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Click on the photo or title to start the 3-minute video clip.  

Meet Argelis, La Carey who is the Queen of Laguna El Cirial, on Isla Iguana, Pedasí.

The scenes were filmed in September 2018 on Isla Iguana.

Posted on 25-July-2020

Slope and Base of El Cirial Reef

If you dare to a better adventure you can explore the slope and the base of the El Cirial reef. Don't let the distance from the beach scare you. At low tide it's only 5  meters. It is preferable to have a support boat while diving at this site to pick you up if you get tired with the current. Here, the number of fish is greater than the  reef lagoon and in the 20 minutes after low tide, the current calms down, the water becomes even more transparent and the fish from the open sea visit the reef. It is the best time to explore it. Remember to pay close attention to children who should always carry a life jacket and, if possible, an auxiliary float tied to a rope.

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Diaz Villani, Marco Lisandro. 2005. Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge: Field Guide. Illustrations by María Gabriella Díaz de Restrepo and Juan Sucre. 2a  Edison. Panama: Post Depot Press. 70 pages. 593.6 D542.​​

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