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

April, 2012, an Instant Reader Report by Dorothy McDonald , OH, US
Contributor   (17 reports, with 2 Helpful votes)
Report Number 6507
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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

sunny, dry  
calm, no currents  
Water Temp
76   to 78    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 75    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Stay within sight of dive guide.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 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
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
5 stars   
4 stars    
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

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.

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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