Isla Coiba, Panama.
Sailing into Coiba Island, Panama, guests on board Star Flyer will find themselves in a UNESCO World Heritage site. The largest of a group of 38 islands off Panama's southwestern coast, Coiba features an unusual marine environment in largely intact condition similar to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador or Costa Rica's Coco Islands.
The region's rich biodiversity was noted in 1991 when the Panamanian government granted the islands and their surrounding waters national park status. The park now covers more than 430,000 acres, making it one of the largest marine parks in the world.
A water temperature that varies little from 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round has allowed a great number of marine species, especially corals, to flourish. This is the perfect port of call to take advantage of Star Clippers' wide variety of water sports. Divers on board will be delighted to discover that the waters around Coiba Island harbor no fewer than 760 species of marine fish, 33 species of shark and 20 species of cetaceans.
Nature enthusiasts also will marvel at the variety of birds, animals and marine species found nowhere else in the world. Endemic species include the Coiba Island howler monkey, the Coiba agouti (a small rodent) and the Coiba spinetail bird. The island also is home to many plant and animal species that have largely vanished from the mainland, such as crested eagles, scarlet macaws, spider monkeys and the yellow-billed cotinga.
Through the years, Coiba has seen many changes, from its early rulers the Cacique Indians to Spanish rule, which arrived in the 1500s and included tales of Vasco de Nunez Balbao, the famed Spanish explorer. In the early 20th century the island also served as a penal colony to some of the country's hardest criminals.
Guests can explore what little remains of the former penal colony, but its existence proved to be beneficial to the island — its population's fearsome reputation helped to preserve the island's pristine condition, which remains almost completely undeveloped outside the bounds of the prison camp.Star Flyer will call at Isla Coiba on a seven-night Panama to Costa Rica cruise Nov. 14, 2010 and on seven-night Costa Rica and Panama sailings from Nov. 28, 2010 through March, 6, 2011.