Sam's Tours leads you off the tourist trail When Sam Scott first mentioned a sunken village, I was intrigued. He described the Palauan legend about a village that was sunk in a remote area of central Palau Lagoon. Needless to say, I was eager to join in the search and the next morning we were motoring two hours north along the glassy calm west side of Babaldop Island. Tracing the route told by ancient storyboards, we located the area and launched our underwater search. What we found was a virgin coral reef of amazing colors and delicate forms, very possibly a coral mound that had completely covered the lost village. This hunt was just one of many adventures I've experienced in the remote corners of Palau Lagoon with Sam. On another equally fascinating sojourn, Sam led me to a very special spot along the remote western side of Babaldop where we encountered no fewer than six giant manta rays, so close that you could reach out and almost touch them. He calls the place Devilfish City and it is indeed a strange encounter. Descending to a shallow, flat bottom, you lie motionless and wait. Soon, immense shadows seem to float out of the blue mist, as the great manta rays move in to their favorite cleaning station. Much like movie UFOs, these awesome giants hang motionless just above your head, as small cleaner fish pick parasites from their aerodynamic bodies. Another time Sam took us to a remote coral channel with a Palauan name so long and complex that I could not pronounce it. We slipped over the side into a flat sea and began our drift dive. Without any warning or fanfare, Sam quietly pointed out the most bizarre fish I had ever seen - a large crocodile fish. Looking much like a prehistoric monster, this species has the flattened head and side-mounted eyes of a crocodile, joined to the slender, tapering body of a normal fish. It is so ugly that it is beautiful and remains one of my favorite Micronesian fish photos. On still another trip, our most amazing discovery occurred after the dive. On the return trip, Sam made a brief stop at an uninhabited rock island where he led us to an ancient cave used by the Yapese money carvers. Yap is the only island on earth where great hunks of carved stone the shape and nearly the size of wagon wheels were used as money for centuries. Yet the Yapese seldom used stone from their own island for these sculptures. Instead, they sailed hundreds of miles by canoe to find a very special type of stone known only to exist among the rock islands. Sam pointed out a half-completed stone money carving that stood in bas-relief, and I wondered why that carving was never completed. The backwaters of Palau Lagoon contain a hundred different discoveries that are seldom seen or known to the average Palau tourist. These secret spots are located well off the beaten tourist trail and yet represent some of the most prized adventures. There are secluded caves and rock walls where you can view prehistoric petroglyphs of the original settlers. Magnificent waterfalls lie deep in the interior of Babelthuap, the lagoon's largest island. Japanese WW II gun emplacements, sunken planes and shipwrecks are scattered throughout the lagoon. Visitors can use kayaks to silently search for elusive dugongs, a close relative to the manatee. Sam has a reputation for taking divers on offbeat trips to places that other Palau operators do not traffic. He has spent 18 years in Palau, exploring this 90-mile-long lagoon from top to bottom. Today, he has compiled a list of more than 70 dive sites, many of which are known only to Sam and his team of guides. American by birth, Sam has spent so much time in the islands that he now speaks Palauan fluently and is accepted by the locals as an adopted son. Yet, the easy-going, soft-spoken diver has a natural talent for organization and leadership. As a result, he has built a highly successful tour company that offers dive trips, kayak tours, fishing trips, island explorations and World War II history tours. For more information about diving and exploring Palau, click onto Sam's home page below. For general information about Palau, click on the home page below.
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