I had the rare treat of sleeping in until 5:30 this morning - yippee!! We went down to breakfast still at our normal early hour, and enjoyed our last breakfast at the Sea Passion. Although our two stays here have been good, I don’t think we will be coming back, but I would still recommend it as a reasonable location close to the dive centers (Sam’s and Neco).
It’s no secret that we haven’t been happy with Sam’s Tours’ front office this trip. Dermot’s reorganization and streamlining has made it a less friendly, attentive and discerning operation. New divers are mixed in with experienced divers, repeat visitors are made to go through dive checks again, the billing system is highly flawed, and the staff at the desk seem to say “No, it is impossible to do that” rather than “Let’s see what we can do.” If I hadn’t recruited other divers, we wouldn’t have made it to Peleliu (and the gentleman working the front desk actually told me no, we couldn’t go to Peleliu because there was no way he could get permits at 3 in the afternoon). We signed up, but never got to go on a night dive. We had five different divemasters and four different boats. Not that we are complaining about the divemasters, we appreciated them. The tanks are poorly cared for - so many leaky valve stems and valves, chewed up yoke adapters. The front office doesn’t have a spreadsheet controlling what gear goes on which boat - we even had to use creative replacements for camera buckets! And the poor Hammerhead has seen better days, and needs some serious repair. It just seemed like the front office didn’t care. And neither do Sam or Dermott. I am going to have to write to the Traveling Diver’s Chapbook about this visit. And I don’t think that I can go back there again.
With all of that in mind, we walked up to the Carolines Resort to check out the rooms. The manager was quite friendly, and we went up to see one of the cabins. They are lovely, all with lanai views of the water below. There are only 8, so the service is very personalized. I expect that we will be staying there in June this year when we return.
From there we walked to Fish ‘n Fins - a little over an hour away from the resort. We walked in and the shop was as busy as Sam’s, but it took only a few minutes before someone came up to us to ask if we were being helped. And it turned out to be one of the owners - Tova. She took us around and showed us the operation. We were both very impressed with the tour. Despite the December crowd, the mechanics were efficient, not chaotic. Divers are on the same boat for their entire trip, and the boats are booked by skill level rather than haphazard choice. The other owner, Navot, is a Naval engineer, and he custom designed the boats. Each row is set up to enter the water separately rather than jockeying for position on one of two or three entry points. Each set set has an area to set up the tanks, and its own dry box. The seats are cushioned!
Gear rinsing is set up by equipment type and clearly labeled, and the gear is very close to the boats. The dining area seems clean, and the bento boxes are made in their own cafe. We spoke with a number of the divers who have used FnF, and they all rave.
Oh, and did I mention, they have a cat? I’m sold! We’re booking a try-out visit in June, and asking to tour their live-aboard boat.
From there we walked to Red Rooster Cafe for lunch. A diver we met yesterday gave rave reviews to their New York pizza, but, eh, hard to do NY pizza outside of NY. It was passable, but no real rush to eat there again. :)
We cabbed it back and enjoyed nap time! After packing gear, logging dives, and starting the difficult photo selection, we headed back to the Taj for our last meal in Palau. Robert (owner) was very kind to us - gave us the meal gratis, and then arranged to have us driven back to the hotel to get ready to return home. He has done very well with the Taj, expanding it with a bar, and having a creative menu that is also authentic. If you ever are here in Palau, you must come and eat at the Taj!
Back for a little rest before the long flights home. I already miss Palau!