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Dive Review of Sam's Tours/West Plaza By the Sea in
Micronesia/Palau

Sam's Tours/West Plaza By the Sea, Nov, 2008,

by Sandy Falen, KS, USA (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 24 reports with 4 Helpful votes). Report 4624.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving All of the Caribbean; Costa Rica; Sea of Cortez; Fiji; Tonga
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 82 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 80 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Dives were generally no longer than one hour.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation N/A Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I took the "scenic route" to get to Koror, traveling American (and its partner Japan Air) from Dallas to Tokyo to Manila, where I stopped for a night before catching Continental Micronesia from Manila to Palau. At the end of my stay, I flew Continental to Guam, spent another day, and then it was back to Japan Air and American to Tokyo, Dallas, and home. It took longer, but I enjoyed the stopovers; and it saved a ton of money -- cutting my Continental fare by more than half, compared to the usual Continental routing from the U.S mainland. For an AA frequent flyer, this was a great alternative way to reach Palau.

I split my time between Koror and Peleliu (see separate review of Peleliu Divers and Dolphin Bay Resort).

Sam's Tours is a big operation, but for the most part, I was impressed by the level of service. There was a representative at the airport when I arrived at 3:00am, who provided my waiver forms for the first dive day, and also let me know when to expect my morning hotel pickup. The daily transportation to/from the dive shop is included in the dive package, and it was a great convenience.

Boats are roomy, and were never over-crowded; I think eight was the maximum number of divers I ever had on my boat during the six days. Sam's shop is impressive, with a full complement of dive gear and accessories, an on-site restaurant, large gear storage area, and a full-service digital photo shop, including brand-new Macs and internet service for a reasonable fee.

The boat crew and divemasters were friendly and fun, but the office staff could have been better about explaining the routine and scheduling. I wound up at Jellyfish Lake without warning, and as a result, didn't have appropriate footwear for the steep trail (although I slogged through the mire, anyway). They also switched me to another boat without notice one day, resulting in a second trip to Jellyfish Lake. Hey, it's interesting, but once in a week is enough; I chilled out on the boat while the others made the hike.

The lunches were excellent, and there were many options to choose from. On-board coolers were kept full of cold soft drinks, and there was always plenty of water -- and each diver was issued a squeeze bottle use for the week and take home.

As for the diving, it's hard to add much to all the glowing reviews that have preceded me, but I'll start by saying it was absolutely worth the effort required to get there. While most folks rave about the sharks and mantas, I was also overwhelmed by the spectacular corals -- the variety, the density, the colors -- it was simply stunning. The soft corals were the prettiest I've seen outside of Fiji, and there are spectacular formations of lettuce corals, forming beautiful and delicate "fish condominiums."

The Blue Corner can vary from day to day, but on my second dive there, it was off the charts with activity -- schooling baby sharks, giant schools of barracuda, cruising adult sharks, schools of napoleon wrasse and humphead parrotfish, multiple turtles -- it was the exactly kind of dive for which you travel halfway around the world.

As beautiful as Palau's diving is, you'll still see signs of coral damage in the shallower sites, and there were times I felt that the fish life wasn't as prolific as I'd expected.

West Plaza By the Sea, one of several West hotels in Koror, was simple, clean, and absolutely fine. The staff was wonderful, but be forewarned -- you're not supposed to drink the tap water. I was wishing I'd known that before my 4:00am arrival, as there was no bottled water in my room, and no place to get any, since the staff had left for the night. Breakfast at the Red Rooster cafe on site was included in my dive/hotel package. Not all of the hotels have a restaurant on premises, so keep that in mind when selecting a hotel. Downtown Koror was an easy walk away from the hotel, and there are enough restaurants to provide some variety. The best meal of my stay was at The Taj, where I indulged in the best Indian food I've ever eaten. It was so good that I returned for another visited on my last night in the islands.

Once you get past the cost of air transportation, Palau is actually pretty reasonably priced (if can do without the high-end resorts like PPR). I'd go again -- although I'd probably spent more days in Peleliu next time.



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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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