My wife and I (+200 dives each) enjoyed outstanding diving in Palau with Sam's Tours over a 10 day period in March 2014. We saw sharks on almost every dive, mantas at German Channel, turtles, octopus, stingrays, napolean wrasse, bumphead parrots, titan triggerfish, giant clams, clownfish and many many more exotic fish and coral. All the while swimming in beautiful aquamarine water at 28 Celsius (82 F). The following is our personal list of pro's and cons:
- All the office staff we interacted with at Sam's were excellent. We were especially pleased with the service provided by Ashley and Jeremy.
- All the dive masters and boat captains we went with were also excellent. Joedyn and Matsu were especially good at pointing out interesting things to see.
- The BC's and Regs we rented were in like-new condition. Sam's allowed us to keep the same rental gear for the entire time we dove with them.
- Free nitrox
- Complimentary pick-ups and drop-offs at our hotel. We stayed at the Sea Passion hotel as part of our package with Sam's. It is a nice medium cost hotel located near Sam's.
- Tasty/filling lunches between dives, usually at a nice beach on one of the Rock Islands.
- A very good on-site restaurant/bar which provides free coffee.
- Lots of dive boats (about 10).
- secure gear storage between dive days.
- After our dive vacation was over they let us dry our wetsuits in the compressor room so that we didn't exceed our airline luggage weight limits.
- Although Sam's dive boats are fast and have good sun shades, the rides are long (30 to 60 minutes) and there is no protection from wind and rain. As far as we saw, all dive operators in Palau employ the same type of boats.
- Divers are rarely assigned to the same boat for more than a couple of days in a row and never get much of an opportunity to develop a rapport with individual dive masters.
- Sam's daily schedule does not include the dive site destinations. This is decided by the dive masters on each boat. As a result the more popular dive sites (Blue Corner and German Channel) are over dived while other just as good sites are under dived. We think Sam's needs a system which allows divers to sign up for the sites they want to go to.
- Sam's has begun surcharging for payment by credit card or paypal.
- Palau requires all divers to purchase a 10 day permit which covers only a part of the dive sites. Other areas require additional permits and if you intend to dive for more than 10 days you also have to purchase additional permits. Since divers tend to come on one or two weekly packages, we think it would benefit both the country and divers to offer permits covering all of Palau for the length of time each diver wants to dive.
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