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

February, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Arthur J. Lafave, DC, US
Reviewer   (4 reports)
Report Number 5932
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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

sunny, rainy  
calm, choppy, currents, no currents  
Water Temp
80   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
  to    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
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.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
2 stars   
5 stars    
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

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
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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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