The In-Transit Report

Chuuk Lagoon: Part One

Since I picked up the scuba diving habit in Australia, I decided to look for other places to dive. Since I’m really interested in both ruins and World War II history, I decided to try for Chuuk Lagoon, in Chuuk, Micronesia. This lagoon was held by the Japanese in WWII and was attacked by the Americans, leading to over 60 ships, aircraft carriers, and other vessels being sunk.

First, I should probably give you some helpful geography:
– Chuuk – a collection of 40+ islands that constitutes a state in the FSM. The main island, where the diving companies and hotels are based, is Weno, which is close to the wrecks in Chuuk Lagoon. The population is Chuukese and speak that language.
– Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) – this encompasses four states: Pohnpei, Yap, Kosrae, and Chuuk, each with their own different Polynesian cultures.
– Micronesia – Micronesia is both a region of the pacific ocean, encompassing many islands, and another shortened name of the country I visited. Guam and Palau are considered to be Micronesian islands, even though they are not part of the FSM.

 

I had gotten both Open Water Diver (the first and most basic dive certification, down to a suggested depth of 18 meters / 60 feet) and Adventure Diver, which trains a bit more on deep dives, allowing you to go to a suggested depth of 30 meters / 100 feet. Most of the wrecks in Chuuk are within these depths, so this makes them accessible to beginners.

Chuuk is not easy or cheap to get to and stay in, but I lucked out in two ways: First, I have a cousin who lives in Micronesia – incidentally in Chuuk, and incidentally on Weno, close to the lagoon. I was able to stay with him during my time in Chuuk, which was considerably helpful, both because of the money it saved me, and how cool it was to get to know a distant relative I’d never met (or maybe met when I was one or two!). He works for the FSM court and has lived on Chuuk for at least a couple decades, maybe even more, and knows all the ins and outs, restaurants, and a lot of other people on the island, including the staff of the hotel whose dive center I went through for all the dives. Secondly, I still had some frequent flier miles, and used them to cover what would have been expensive flights from New Zealand to Guam, and Guam to Fukuoka (the most direct way to Chuuk and out is via Guam).

Truk Stop Hotel and Dive Center is one of two land-based dive centers on Chuuk, and there are another two or three liveaboard dive boats as well. The liveaboards range from cringe-inducing to laughably expensive, so I opted out. I was able to hire gear and dive 2-3 times a day out of Truk Stop for much, much cheaper, and loved my experience there. I also took another certification (Enriched Air) that allowed me to stay in deeper water for longer.

Chuuk itself was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been. It’s definitely not on the tourist train, unless you’re a dedicated scuba diver with a lot of money, or there with Peace Corps, World Teach, or working for the government. That being said, I found Chuukese people incredibly friendly and open. No one ever tried to rip me off or anything like that, and one of my favorite parts of being in Chuuk (aside from the dives) was simply walking back to my cousin’s place and stopping to buy random fruits and baked goods, and the conversations that ensued from there. The road is under construction, leaving parts of the main road just an unpaved mess of muddy potholes that became a game to dodge between. That’s part of the fun of travel – accepting that you can’t always be comfortable, and that sometimes there will be spiders in your dive locker, sunscreen can be hard to find, and that the fish you order at the restaurant comes with its head still attached.

I’ll update with more details on the diving in a bit.

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