About one third of Isla Bastimentos and the Cayos Zapatillas, to the southeast, lie within Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos. The park's 32,000 acres comprise an array of ecosystems ranging from sea-grass beds to rain forest and include some spectacular and ecologically important areas. Much of the park is virtually inaccessible, especially the island's forested interior, but you can see most of its flora and fauna in the private reserves of adjacent jungle lodges.
That wildlife includes tiny, bright-red poison dart frogs, green iguanas, two-toed sloths, ospreys, parrots, toucans, and collared manakins. The park's coral reefs protect even greater biological diversity, including spiny lobsters, sea stars, barracuda, various snapper species, and countless colorful reef fish.
Most people experience the park's reefs at the postcard-perfect, coconut-palmed Cayos Zapatillas, two cays southeast of Bastimentos that are the park's crown jewels. The Cayos' most impressive scenery is actually in the surrounding ocean, which holds 1,200 acres of protected coral reef ranging from a shallow platform around the islands to steep walls pocked with caves. Scuba divers explore the reef's outer expanses, while snorkelers enjoy views of the shallow platform adorned with some impressive coral formations. The park tends to have more fish than Crawl Cay and other unprotected dive spots, and divers can expect to see tiny angelfish, parrot fish, squirrelfish, octopi, eels, stingrays, and countless other marine creatures. When seas are rough (as they often are between December and March), scuba diving is limited to the leeward side of the island, making Crawl Cay a more attractive dive spot at that time. The island has a ranger station and a small nature trail through the forest. Bring sunblock, insect repellent, a hat, a towel, water, and snorkeling gear.
Isla Bastimentos, Panama