Five species of sea turtles can be found in Panama’s waters, and four of them lay their eggs on its islands and coasts. They are the hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead, olive ridley, and green.
Sea turtles are easiest to find in mating season on the islands and coasts of Bocas del Toro in the Caribbean (roughly March–October, with most activity in the later months) and on Isla Cañas in the Pacific (most numerous September–November). Nesting season varies by species, location, and the mood of the turtles, but dry season is generally the worst time to see them.
The hawksbill and leatherback are the most abundant in Bocas. All five species make their way to Isla Cañas, but by far the most numerous are the olive ridley. Many thousands make their way to the long island every year, making for a dramatic spectacle at night. The loggerhead rarely, if ever, lays eggs in Panama. (It’s a subject of some debate.)
The seas are filled with brilliant tropical fish as well as impressive large specimens, including orcas, several species of dolphins, humpback whales, marlins, manta rays, jewfish, moray eels, barracudas, big snappers, and white-tip, hammerhead, tiger, and whale sharks.
The biggest creatures are found in the Pacific, especially around the Islas Perlas, the Golfo de Chiriquí, and the Bahía de Piñas, where dozens of deep-sea fishing records have been set. Small, radiant tropical fish are easiest to find among the coral gardens in the clear waters off the Caribbean islands.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition