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Dive Review of Sam's Tours/Caroline's Resort and Sea Passion in
Micronesia/Palau

Sam's Tours/Caroline's Resort and Sea Passion, Dec, 2011,

by Mary Herndon, MA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports). Report 6407.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Caribbean, Hawaii, Sea of Cortez
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 84 to 87 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 30 to 80 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Depth limits, No deco
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments Camera rinse on the boat, captain was always happy to hand the camera on and off the boat for us. Sam's has underwater photography and video expert on site, and offers classes.

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 4 stars
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments We dove with SAMs for 8 days. For the first week, our family of five was the only group on the boat. Daniel was our dive master and did a great job to make sure we had fun, saw the best Palau has to offer, and had safe dives. They really took care of us, rinsing our gear and changing tanks. We were so pleased that we cancelled our dive reservation of three days at another charter the following week and went with Sam's instead. We were not nearly as happy the next week. We were on three different boats with three different dive masters each day. On one day there were 14 divers, making the boat and dives too crowded and chaotic. Dive masters Neil and Nicole tried vary hard to keep us happy, but I left with the impression that SAMs management was not interested in catering to our wishes and it felt more like a cattle boat operation. That said, even those days were not bad, but it was definitely a big disappointment compared to the service we had received earlier. To be fair, this was over Christmas-New Year's holiday, so the fact that they fit us in with a last minute reservation is probably part of the reason we were bounced around between crowded boats. Underwater Photography class offered through SAMs was excellent and instructor Nick went above and beyond to accommodate us.
We also went on the Sam's kayak tour. Be careful as this is not fully representative of the day- after a 745am pickup, we didn't actually get into a kayak until about 11am. We were on a tour of the rock islands - seeing lots of interesting and beautiful sites, as well as snorkeling in peaceful lagoons. We paddled a bit before lunch, then more customers joined our group. We definitely got the impression they were stalling so the other guests could catch up before we ventured too far on the kayak tour. After being told we would be back by 330 or 4, we didn't get back to the dock until almost 5. Between that and the latter dive experience, I left Palau feeling a bit sour on SAMs, but even with these criticisms, they were still quite good overall.
While in Koror, we stayed at Caroline's resort the first week and Sea Passion hotel the last 5 days. Caroline's is beautiful and secluded, and you really get the sense of being away from it all. Their staff is extremely friendly and the bungalows are beautiful. Sea Passion is much more accessible - walking distance to stores, Sam's and other Koror sights. Its a standard hotel, but the rooms are very nice and include a huge breakfast buffet. Regardless of where you stay, Sam's will pick you up and drop you off each day, and the drivers are always happy to make a stop at a convenience store for groceries, ATM, etc.
Between our visits to Caroline's and Sea Passion, we spent 4 days on the island of Peleliu and dove with MAML divers. Their office in Koror is a total mess of an operation, and they are completely unprofessional and disorganized. But once we got to Peleliu, we only dealt with our divemaster, Bernard, and he was great. Bernard is a very excellent guide, nice to talk to and excited about the sights and wildlife. And when our group had equipment failures he was right there to handle the situation. Diving felt safe but low stress. Boats never had more than 7 divers and we were grouped with other English speakers. However, we noticed that their boats that catered to Asian divers typically looked more crowded. Spending a few days on Peleliu is well worth it. It allows you to dive the Peleliu sights, which are very beautiful and not to be missed, but with <15 minute boat rides (they would be an hour trip from Koror). The famous Peleliu currents were not very strong while we were there, so that was a nice relief. However, when diving sights on the outer side of the island we experienced really rough seas, which is apparently typical for Dec-Jan, and a rude awakening compared to the mirror flat seas we had on the more northern sights. We stayed at Storyboard Inn on Peleliu. The owners were great and very accommodating. Transfers between the hotel and diving or other activities were always taken care of for us, and they went out of their way to arrange tours and extra dives for us. The bungalows at Storyboard are not deluxe like Caroline's. Storyboard is more of a cabin-type feel, but they do have bathrooms and window AC, so you're not exactly roughing it. But they definitely feel very basic. They are right on the water and have a beautiful, remote, relaxing feel.
In summary, the Palau trip was the best diving we ever experienced. Mantas, sharks, healthy coral and lots of fish highlighted the dives. And the boat rides through the beautiful rock islands, and surface intervals on gorgeous beaches, were an amazing part of the whole experience.
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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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