Truk Lagoon

Ten eager froggies left Cairns in QLD for the small tropical islands that make up Truk Lagoon, or Chuuk as it is more correctly spelt, which is a part of the Federated States of Microneasia. After leaving Cairns at midnight, the red eye flight had us arrive in Guam, in the early hours of the morning followed by a connecting flight to Truk, early the same morning. The now weary travellers, arrived mid morning. Straight away, upon leaving the airport, we got to witness first hand what was described as one of the most impressive wrecks of the lagoon – it was the Toyota bus that was to take us for the short ride to the Blue Lagoon Resort – a true testament to rust.

HISTORY

Most people have never heard of Truk Lagoon or what makes the place so impressive, however, back in World War 2, Truk was a major player for the Imperial Japanese Navy. The attack on Pearl Harbour was staged from Truk. Truk, for want of a better description, was the Japanese version of Pearl Harbour. The reef that runs near the full length around the islands and the calm waters made it a near perfect military base, providing limited sea access. In 1944, the US Navy launched operation Hailstone and in their words ‘neutralised’ Truk Lagoon. More precisely, they sunk 70 + ships of the Japanese Navy, mostly supply ships (some fully laden), a couple of destroyers, patrol boats and one really unlucky submarine, as well as numerous downed aircraft.

BLUE LAGOON RESORT / DIVE SHOP

After surviving the bus ride, we checked into the resort. The rooms are twin share, with two double beds per room. The rooms are comfortable, air conditioned and have ceiling fans, for those that prefer the tropical humidity. The balconies, which overlook the lagoon, proving to be a great place to dry gear, chat about the dives, complete log books or just to have a drink at the end of the diving day. It should be noted that Truk Lagoon is in the tropics, the weather is very warm and very humid all year round. The resort grounds are very spacious and the dive shop is on the grounds. The resort restaurant serves very affordable meals, considering everything is shipped into the island, with the exception of fish.

After paying our diving fees to the shop, it was time to run back to the rooms, grab our gear and head to the dock for our first dive. There are lockers at the dock to store your dive gear, so you don’t have to take it up and down from the room daily. The dive boats are comfortable hand made things with twin out board motors, the driver sits in the middle of the motors, steering them individually.

TRUK DIVES

Whilst all of us were very tired by the time we hopped on the dive boats, we all woke up as soon as we hit the water. The water temp is 30 degrees, there is no current, no surge, you are only wearing a lycra or p2 suite for protection, so that means bugger all weight. The water visibility varies throughout the lagoon, ranging from 15mtrs up to that crystal clear blue stuff rarely seen in Sydney. We asked for and were given 95cf tanks, as opposed to the 88cf that they usually use – no one this trip used twins.

Overall we did 16 dives in Truk. We had a list of the wrecks that we wanted to dive, some of them, the more popular dive, such as the Fujikawa Maru and San Fransisco Maru and some of them the ones that are not dived very often, such as the Shotan Maru and Nagano Maru. The wrecks that are not dived that often tend to be more intact artefact wise, than the more popular ones, the downside is sometimes the guides even have a hard time finding them (no GPS & several hours for Nagano).

The biggest myth about the lagoon is that all the dives are deep dives, not so, whilst the Fujikawa sits in 34mtrs of water, the bulk of the wreck is in the 20mtr range, parts of the wreck come within a couple of meters of the surface. The betty bomber is in 15mtrs, just to name two. Overall, we dove around 13 different wrecks over eight days, most of the wrecks warrant more than one dive. The shallow wrecks are just draped in hard and soft corals, with scores of tropical fish, to the point that its sometimes hard to make out what you are looking at on the wreck, where as the deeper wrecks are just encrusted and a deck gun still looks like a deck gun


GUAM

After finishing our dives in Truk, drying and packing our gear, getting delayed at the airport for what seemed like forever, we arrived at Guam and civilisation (the mobiles worked again). Guam is an American territory and one of their major military bases in the pacific. The Agana area, where we stayed, reminds me of a much smaller version of Waikiki Beach, with the high rise hotels, trolley buses and Japanese tourists all shopping (Guam is tax free). We stayed at the Ohana Bayview Hotel, which was on the hill side and overlooked the entire Agana Bay area. Spacious twin share, again with 2 double beds.


GUAM DIVING

We did 6 dives over 3 days with MDA. The highlights had to have been the dive brief by our very anal dive guides that absolutely no one stuck to, which, on later dives turned to a very simple, “Come back when you run out of air and don’t go deeper than the bottom”. We dove the twin WW1 and WW2 wrecks that are side by side, a ship made from all concrete, a drift on a site called the hole in the wall – it’s a bit like a large key hole on a rock shelf that was excellent and GT (giant trevally) reef. This reef just had GT’s and purpose built feeding areas everywhere – pointing with your finger at these things was not recommended – and to top it all off, the Atlantis tourist submarine was also cruising around (us taking picture of them – them taking pictures of us). Other than the striped clean wrecks, the Guam diving did not disappoint.


We then had a couple of free days in Guam to site see, shop or just relax by the pool, before returning to Cairns for another overnight stay before returning home. If anyone has ever had the allure of wreck diving in calm, clear warm water, Truk is for you. I have been there six times since 1991, the diving is so good and varied with all the wrecks that trip number seven is already on the drawing board.

Grant Bucknell
MSDT 105385