Panama’s Coiba National Park from the Sky

This post is the latest in the series Places, Experiences and Objects to Dream About, which profiles marvelous locations, unique life experiences and objects of interest to modern explorers that Kike discovers during my travels.
Infamous penal colony turned into a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Coiba National Park is a spectacular marine reserve off Panama´s Pacific coast. Coiba Island is the largest island in Central America and is home to many endemic subspecies that evolved in isolation from the mainland.  In addition to the magnificent marine life in the surrounding turquoise waters, Coiba has a very attractive ancient forest that covers about 75% of the island.
Two snorkelers explore the pristine waters of Granito de Oro in Coiba National Park (Panama). Using Small Aerial Vehicles Kike is able to capture unique aerial photographs. Interested in the use of drones? Learn more.  Photo © KIKE CALVO.



Coiba is well known for its 33 species of sharks, 20 species of whales, and abundant scarlet macaws as much as for its haunted, eerie prison compound where the last convict was released only ten years ago. But for sure, it is better to be captured by the inviting warm waters and pristine beaches than by the ghost stories and inclemency of the political history surrounding Coiba during its prison days.




Nestled within the national park, Granito de Oro is ranked as one of the most pristine beaches in the world and one of the top ten scuba diving destinations. The particular morphology of Granito de Oro holds the white sand in place creating a great reef structure that supports a tremendous variety of marine life. Snorkelers and divers are likely to come close to different creatures like turtles, eels and large schools of colorful fish. It’s hard to come out of the water in Granito de Oro. It is also hard to stop producing aerial shots of the spectacular scenes and textures as seen from above with my drone.
Kike shares his expertise and experiences as a National Geographic Expert on several Costa Rica/Panama Lindblad Expeditions.
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Learn more:

National Geographic Traveler: Panama, 3rd Edition

By National Geographic Maps – Adv Panama: National Geographic: Adventure Map (National Geographic: Adventure Map (3101)) (2013)

Building the Panama Canal (Cultural and Geographical Exploration: Chronicles from National Geographic)

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide (Zona Tropical Publications)

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: