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Dive Review of Sam's Tours/West Plaza Hotel Coral Reef in

Sam's Tours/West Plaza Hotel Coral Reef, Jan, 2004,

by Carl Scott, TX, USA . Report 973.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments One huge difference is always the dive guide and other crew. I reserved a week with Jonas Bernburg, but he was busy with another group my first 3 days. The guides provided for those days were inexperienced and, thus, were like shepherds. They did little after the dive briefing, except to give you someone to follow underwater. However, Jonas is a subperb guide, who knows the sea as well as anyone I've met. He fixed us up with a day of diving with mantas, at my request, and we saw about 30 individual mantas during 2 dives at the same site. We saw mantas in German Channel and other sites, as well, but only 1-2 per dive. In fact, we saw mantas nearly every day. Jonas says that he thinks mantas are more plentiful in Palau than in Yap, if one knows where to look - most guides don't. Anyone will tell you that he is the only guide at Sam's who can put you on the mantas (the inside scoop is that he may be starting his own dive service next year, to dive the relatively uncharted North areas of Palau). Blue Corner, as always, offered up some great shark action, as well as dogtooth and yellowfin tuna, napoleon wrasse, bluefin trevally, and schools of barracuda. The coral in Palau is generally nothing to write home about, but Ulong Channel does serve up some very impressive stands of lettuce coral, along with many other species. Peleliu is worth the extra fee, as it is home to big numbers of fish and many animals that are hard to find elsewhere in the area. The currents at some sites make this destination a poor choice for a novice or rusty diver, but they should be no problem for divers with moderate skills.

Jonas's experience also makes him a diver-friendly guide, who has no problem with letting you be responsible for your own safety and dive profile, once he is comfortable with your skills. He knows the marine life well and can spot creatures that many guides would miss. The service at Sam's is generally good, with reliable pickup service, a staff that does want to provide you with a good diving experience, as well as a popular bar at the water's edge.

West Plaza hotels come in 2 types: new and decent, and old and smelly. I'd avoid West Plaza by the Sea, and West Plaza downtown. The other 3 are like a Best Western, but with highly courtous and friendly Filipina staff. Rates are much less than those at the popular resorts, too.

Ask many different people about restaurants, if you want a treat. There are some good ones that are off the beaten path and look like houses. If you want to experience the local cuisine, emphasize it, and you may be rewarded with some great food in a homey atmosphere. There is also plenty of Japanese food, Thai, Chinese, Italian, etc. Most restaurants are in the downtown area, within walking distance of many hotels. Prices are generally similar to the USA.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Thailand, Sulawesi, Costa Rica, Cozumel, Little Cayman, Belize, St. Croix
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 81-82°F / 27-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 1
Water Visibility 60-100 Ft/ 18-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Divers are typically expected to stay with the group, but a trusted diver may do his own thing within the dive area and surface whenever ready. Deco diving not encouraged, but not strongly policed.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments Sam's has a photo shop and capable staff. However, provisions for guest photographers were limited to a table at the dock. The only rinse tank is for all dive gear. The crew does not bring a rinse bucket on the boat, but there is safe (dry) storage for time between dives.
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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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