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Dive Review of Octopus Diving/La Samanna in
St. Maarten/marine park off French St. Mar

Octopus Diving/La Samanna, Apr, 2012,

by Dorothy McDonald , OH, US (Contributor Contributor 18 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 6507.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Various Caribbean islands, Philippines, French Polynesia and other areas of the South Pacific
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 76 to 78 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 50 to 75 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Stay within sight of dive guide.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals N/A Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters N/A Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 1 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 5 stars
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 5 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments In advance of this trip we did not have high expectations as far as diving went - diving on St. Martin seems to be regarded as "mediocre at best" from all the reserch we did. Perhaps because of our low expectations we were pleasantly surprised with our two days of diving and would certainly go again. We made reservations with Octopus Diving over the internet in advance of the trip and found co-owner Sally to be friendly and responsive to our inquiries. We needed a rental car to get from the resort to the dive operation. Directions were provided on the web site. We did allow extra drive time which was fortunate since there are few road signs and we did make a couple of wrong turns.

Sally and her husband Chris are owners of the dive operation. Sally and dive guide Stuart loaded our gear onto the boat; then we waded thru the water and climbed aboard. They also set up the tanks, provided defog (with a bucket of fresh water for rinsing masks) and unloaded and rinsed dive gear. We were able to store our gear at the shop overnight. We did not take any camera gear, but I imagine if we had and asked for a bucket of fresh water to rinse it in after the dives that they would have provided it.

Both days we had a 5 minute boat ride to sights within the marine park. The first day our group of 3 were the only divers on board. Octopus Diving advertises a maximum of 6 divers - part of the reason we chose them. Stuart gave a dive briefing and we did backward rolls into the water. Stuart allowed us to set a leisurely pace, with plenty of time to look under ledges and crevices and he did not get worked up when any of us lagged behind. Besides the usual fish (angels, parrots, creole wrasse, trumpets, etc) we saw a few barracuda, a sting ray and a black tip shark. During the surface interval the boat was moved a short distance away for our second dive and fresh orange slices and water were provided. During the second dive small schools of chub swarmed around us, there were several lobsters, a large green moray (which Stuart said was unusual), barracuda and a small nurse shark resting under a ledge - as well as other typically seen tropical fish. The maximum depth was 62' - both easy, pleasant dives with more sea life than we had expected - in fact we were surprised that we did not see any lion fish - although Stuart said they are in the area.

The next day besides the 3 divers in our group there were a family of four snorklers and a mother and teenage son. Although it did not create a problem, we were surprised that we were all going out together since this was 9 people (plus Chris and Stuart) on the boat. Officialy it was still less than the advertised max of 6 divers since most were snorklers. We figured that we'd have two miserable dives but that did not turn out to be the case - in fact the first dive was our favorite dive of the trip. It was another very short boat ride to Creole Rock. The snorklers were put in the water first and told to stay on the shore side of Creole Rock. Chris and the teenager did a Discover Scuba dive while Stuart and the 3 of us did our dive, circumnavigating Creole Rock. As we worked our way along the shore side of the rock we spotted anemones with popcorn shrimp but it was the ocean side of the rock that was most fun. Besides a variety of tropical fish, spotted eagle rays (first a singleton and a little later a threesome) slowly winged their way towards us, passing within a few yards of us. The singleton even paused in its flight to watch us before continuing on its way. Our max depth was 34' and the dive lasted about an hour and ten minutes. We had no current to speak of, although Stuart told us that sometimes the current is too strong to make it around the rock. The snorklers also had a good time and told us about the pod of dolphin that went by while we were underwater and they were relaxing in the boat!

The boat was moved a very short distance for the second dive. This time Chris stayed on board while the teenager dove with us and the others snorkled. We could see the turtles surfacing for breaths of air while we geared up. There were both green and hawksbill turtles and they were quite calm around divers, allowing us to come within a few yards of them. Before anyone got into the water Stuart had made it clear to all that no one was to touch or ride any of the turtles. It was fun to lie on the bottom and watch as turtles rose to the surface for a gulp or two of air and then glided back to the bottom. There were tropical fish, a couple of moray eels, arrow crabs and Peterson shrimp, even a lion fish (the only one we saw on this trip). A very special sighting was next to a pile of cement blocks - squirrel fish hid inside and I also saw a mature highhat - and at one end of the cement blocks I saw 7 thumb-nail sized fish that had to be juvenile highhats! The max depth of this dive was 29'.

La Samanna, the resort where we stayed, was very nice, on a lovely beach, the staff was friendly and helpful - even the room maid asked if our expectations were being met. My husband and I were in a 2nd floor room near reception and the pool (L-11) that had a huge two level terrace that was much bigger than the room itself. The couple we traveled with were at the far end of the complex in a similar room with a much smaller but ample sized balcony. The non diver in our group enjoyed the well-equipped resort fitness center (no extra fees to use it). La Samanna is a great place to stay but is pricey - especially if you use the spa (a 50 minute massage is $165 USD). Also, it is not within walking distance to any other restaurants. A very nice buffet breakfast was included in our package, but lunches and dinners were expensive. Food is expensive everywhere on St. Martin - it is all shipped in from somewhere else. Although we had a rental car we took Andre "The Train" Taxi to dinner at a different restaurant each night. That allowed us to enjoy wine without worrying about driving. Andre was friendly and willing to tell us about life on this two-country island. No worry about his accent - fluent English! I would also recommend him for an island tour (French Cell - 0690 87 30 72 / Dutch cell - 599 554-6256. Email:andrethetrain@hotmail.fr).

Although not "high-voltage" diving with huge schools of fish or colorful corals the diving here was fun with a good variety of sea life and we were quite content and happy. Another thing we liked was that both days Stuart gave a quick briefing of the safety equipment on board and where it was located.





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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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