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Dive Review of Sam's Tours/Airai, Palau Pacific Resort in
Micronesia/Palau

Sam's Tours/Airai, Palau Pacific Resort, Feb, 2011,

by Arthur J. Lafave, DC, US (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 5932.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Similans, Burma Banks, Sipadan, Koh Tao, Belize, Roatan, Utila, St. Croix, Grand Turk, Cozumel, Bonaire
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy Seas calm, choppy, currents, no currents
Water Temp 80 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility to Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Nitrox divers could adopt deeper profile. Generally 60 minutes of diving followed by 3 minute safety stop, unless 50 bar or 700 psi reached earlier.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales 1 or 2
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

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

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Palau has the best and most exciting dive sites I have seen anywhere. Sam's Tours is an excellent dive operation. We dove mainly with Costas who was fun to be with, extremely knowledgeable about the dive sites, and both environmentally and safety conscious at all times. We also dove with Dexter who is a local legend, a Palauan who has been guiding dives forever and who has a couple of dive sites named after him. One can request a particular divemaster at the front office and they will generally try to honor the request. We had both air and nitrox divers on board and nitrox divers were permitted to dive their own profile. There is no additional charge for nitrox. Dives generally lasted up to 63 minutes including safety stop, unless a diver reached 50 bar or 700 psi earlier (in which case they usually ascended separately with the assistant divemaster). If the dive was unusually deep or had high current, it might last a few minutes less.

Over the course of eight days diving, we saw lots and lots of sharks -- grey reef, white tips and black tips mostly, but also the occasional leopard shark, two immature spotted eagle rays, many sea turtles, including one Hawksbill, and at least five individual manta rays. Every day we saw sharks, and on two of four visits to German channel we spent at least 20 minutes watching the manta rays. At one site we saw a group of bumphead parrot fish, a school of chevron barracuda and a large school (about 25 individuals) of immature sharks. The coral is bountiful, beautiful and diverse. On some dives we saw giant clams. There are wall dives, dives over plateaus of coral with a drop off on one side, and at least two wreck dives (a Japanese spotter seaplane and the Teshio Maru, a large Japanese freighter in about 80 feet of water). While the place is full of big pelagics, I did not see many small critters there, other than the rare nudibranch. One of the best dive sites, Ulong Channel, had a "bait ball" school of small fish that were being pursued by jacks, groupers, tuna and a couple of white tip sharks. It was quite exciting to watch!

The boats do either two or three tank dives and provide a bento box lunch (often on a remote, otherwise uninhabited, beach) and free soft drinks/water. If it is a three-tank dive, the day will last from about 8:00 am to 4:00 - 5:00 pm. There is usually a place for keeping things dry, but otherwise the boats are open, generally with tanks lining each side of the boat. The trip to the dive site takes about 40-45 minutes. The boats have twin 200-250 hp engines. The trip out to the dive sites and back through the Rock Islands is worth more than half the price of admission. We learned that February is the driest month in Palau, but it still rained several times during our 9 days there. We also learned that some dive sites (possibly including the famous Blue Corner) are not accessible in the summer months, so they shift to others. For this reason, I would recommend going there in the (US) winter months. February was ideal.

One diver report on this site recommended a lined raincoat for the boat and I second that suggestion. When it is overcast and raining, it can get cold on the boat.

The Airai Water Resort was rather far from town and Sam's but provided a comfortable and clean room and bathroom and free breakfast for a net of $100 (booked on Expedia). That is all you need if you are diving all day with Sam's. Note that while the ocean can be seen from the Airai, it is quite far away. We rented a car at $45 per day (available through Sam's), but it is possible to take the hotel car into town where Sam's will pick you up ($5 per rider, roundtrip to the Airai). The Palau Pacific Resort (locally known as PPR) is much more pricey, but the rooms are more spacious, wireless internet is available in the rooms, and it is located right on the water. Sam's will make a pick-up there, either by car or boat from the hotel pier. There is also a very good restaurant, sandy beach, and snorkelling right in front of the resort. The staff is also very friendly and attentive.

I highly recommend the Elilai Restaurant at the Belvedere Apartments near PPR. (They will also provide pick-up.) The restaurant is open to the air on one side and the best seating is on the balcony overlooking the lagoon to Koror and the causeway out to where Sam's is located. The Asian inspired food is excellent and the service is attentive (dinner for two was between $90-135, depending on whether wine was purchased with dinner, but could be less with the right choices). The Drop Off restaurant roughly opposite Sam's also provides good seafood in a more informal setting at a more reasonable cost.

On my last day, I made a land tour of Peleliu, the southern most island in Palau and the site of a terrible battle during WWII in which the U.S. suffered more than 10,000 killed or wounded. The U.S. anticipated it would take three days to capture the island, but the fighting continued for about two months. The Japanese were ordered to fight to the last man, which they did. There are rusting hulks of tanks, personnel carriers, bulldozers, gun emplacements and a large cave complex where 1,000 Japanese soldiers lived and survived the initial bombardment. There are also several memorials to the U.S. and Japanese soldiers who lost their lives. It is well worth a visit.
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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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