Destinations: Truk, Micronesia
Chuuk is one of the largest atolls in the Pacific, an archipelago comprising 14 mountainous islands and numerous small islets it is circled by 200km of outer reef and is home to the some of the best diving in the world.
This remote part of the South West Pacific held much strategic interest during World War 2 and the huge protected shallow waters of Truk Lagoon led to the Japanese Imperial Navy using it as their Pacific base. Strongly fortified and a natural anchorage Truk was home to hundreds of Japanese boats and planes during the war. As the course of the war changed through 1944 the waters of Truk became a highly important target for Allied forces.
In February 1944 one of the war’s most significant airplane based attacks destroyed vast sections of the Japanese boats and planes in and around Truk. Through February 16th and 17th the US carrier based planes flew dozen of sorties during Operation Hailstone. Initially Japanese fighter planes were attacked and then bombers flew behind to target the now near defenceless boats and fortifications. A follow up raid was conducted in April 1944. Over 60 ships were sunk during this period and dozens of aircraft shot down.
From the surface the clear blue waters of Truk Lagoon give no hint of these tumultuous events but in the waters below divers tell a different story. Truk is wreck diving central. In fact for most divers it is the number one place in the world to visit for wreck diving.
Chuuk lies just 700 miles north of the equator and has a warm tropical climate. The larger islands have a rugged terrain and lush green interiors which are home to many rare plant and bird species. Local guides will be happy to show you historical sights on land and the small islands within the lagoon make for perfect island hopping and kayak days.
For many people in the islands there remains a very simple way of Pacific life with copra production, fishing and tourism being the most important parts of the largely self subsistence economy. Many of those on the more remote islands are still able to travel at sea by using entirely natural navigation, the ability to read the shape and colour of the waters and the sky to guide from one destination to the next.
Travel in and around the islands is generally either by taxi or by boat. Reaching Chuuk is simple and more economical than ever before: Continental run flights from Manila to Chuuk via Guam.
Our featured resort is the Truk Stop Hotel, established for nearly 14 years and a modern and well run establishment on the shore of the lagoon. Just a short drive from the airport it is within walking distance of the centre of Weno the administrative centre of Chuuk. The 23 spacious rooms all have private balconies, fridges, air-conditioning, cable TV and hot and cold water. Truk Stop Hotel is widely considered to be one of the best value for money resorts in the Pacific region and is a perfect stop for divers, holidaymakers, businessmen, politicians and local celebrities.
The Hotel also provides inter-island tours, jungle treks, visits to World War 2 relics and cultural tours.
The Restaurant and Bar
The restaurant within the Hotel has a great reputation and specialises in seafood, steaks and pizzas. The restaurant comprises of a dining room that can be booked for private functions and an outside terrace that allows customers to dine in the moonlight overlooking the lagoon.
The Hard Wreck Bar and Café adjacent to the hotel is a popular place to spend the evening talking about the day’s diving activities. It is popular with guests and local residents alike, serves cold beers, great cocktails and has the ‘finest pool table in the Western Pacific’!
The Dive Centre
Truk Lagoon Dive Center, a PADI and IANTD dive centre, is situated within the grounds of the hotel and is a walk of just a few seconds from your room. The shop offers three dives every day, nitrox and tri-mix, technical diving, rebreathers and of course the full range of PADI courses. The centre has a private dock for its boats, excellent washing and rinsing facilities, and safe and secure lockers for your equipment.
Absolutely world class diving, the tranquil warm clear waters of the lagoon are home to over 60 wrecks and most of them accessible to recreational divers of varying levels of experience. Visibility is often so good that it reaches over 50-60m and the wrecks have become artificial reefs that play host to an amazing array of marine life. Hard and soft corals cover the surfaces of the boats and it is underwater photographers dream.
The wrecks of Truk Lagoon are a monument and protected by law, that means that there many of the ships are unscathed and the lagoon is scattered with planes, tanks, vehicles, guns, munitions, utensils and personal effects. At times it feels just like diving in a museum and gaining a wonderful insight into the past. There are so many wrecks to write about that we only mention some highlights here:
One of the best known is the Fujikawa Maru a 133m long cargo boat converted into an aircraft ferry. The boat sits upright in 36m of water and contains a cargo of fighter planes. Jacks and other reef fish school all around and the decks contain lots of personal artefacts. The engine room makes for a fascinating exploration.
The Nippo Maru contains a tank, lots of shell casings and the bridge house is largely intact with wheel, compass and telegraph still present.
The Heian Maru is the largest wreck in the lagoon and the cargo holds and engine rooms are great for exploring
Finally the San Francisco Maru, a submarine tender, sits in deep water and has three armoured tanks on her main deck and trucks, mines and other materials spread throughout her holds.
There is also fantastic diving away from the wrecks. Absolutely not to be missed is Shark Island in the middle of the lagoon. Here in 18m deep water with a sandy bottom is a shark cleaning station where dozens of black-tip and grey reef sharks swim by in a non stop parade. The clear waters and the close proximity of the sharks make it a great opportunity for photographers to get those difficult pelagic shots. Load your camera for bear!
Further away, the little explored deep outer reefs are in pristine condition and home to deep drop off and walls where you can see fantastic numbers of marine life.
As fellow partners in the Philippine-Micronesia Alliance we are proud to be a travel partner for Truk Stop and Truk Lagoon Dive Center.
Packages last updated: 22nd July 2008, 1:00pm (Manila time)
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