Free shore access
This spot have a free shore access: you can go snorkeling there freely and without having to book a tour or pay an entrance fee.
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Last updated on November 15, 2023
Not visited by the boat tours offered in Bocas del Toro, Old Bank is an off-the-beaten-track snorkeling spot in the archipelago. This shallow reef surrounded by seagrass allows snorkelers to observe reef fish, several species of starfish and lobsters in an atypical and colorful environment. If you stay near Old Bank, you can consider snorkeling at this pleasant and almost deserted location.
This snorkeling spot is located at the southern tip of Old Bank Bay, on the island of Bastimentos.
Typically, Bocas del Toro snorkeling tours do not include a stop at Old Bank, but you may consider getting there by the following means:
If you reach the spot by boat or kayak, you will enter the water from your boat.
If you snorkel to the spot from the shore, you will need to find a snorkel entry in the mangrove. In the mangrove the seabed is mostly sandy, sometimes a little muddy. Watch out for roots sticking out of the sand.
By snorkeling towards the reef (if you entered the water from the shore), you will cross seagrass beds with a few rare fish and cushion starfish.
You will then reach the reef (the central part of the spot, where you will be dropped off if you visit the spot by boat), where the bottoms become sandy with scattered corals and sponges. The water height, less than 6 feet/2 meters, makes snorkeling from the surface very pleasant.
The reef supports few corals, but they are healthy and colorful. Sponges, sea fans, sea plumes and algae also dot the seabed, creating a nice decor where starfish and sabella are easy to spot.
Snorkeling at Old Bank allows snorkelers to encounter sea life typical of the reefs of Bocas del Toro, influenced by the proximity of mangroves. Butterflyfish and parrotfish are easy to see everywhere, as are grunts, which shelter in small groups near the outcrops.
Less common species, such as the reticulated pufferfish or the cowfish, also visit the area. Lobsters sometimes hide in the shade of rocky overhangs.
Old Bank is not a busy spot and boats are not used to seeing people snorkeling there. Even if the water level is low, take a diving flag with you.
You will find many food and accommodation options in the small village of Old Bank.
These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Seagrass and small corals with reef fish and critters
Mangrove and seagrass flats with sea stars and fish
Shallow seagrass flats with sea stars and juvenile fish
Coral and sponges reef with lots of fish
Sandy beach and mangrove with fish and sea stars
Free shore access
Sponges, corals and seagrass with fish and critters