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Diving the wrecks of Truk Lagoon

Written by Marc van der Poel

I have recently been asked ‘Where is the best diving in the world?’I find this a hard question because there is so much I haven’t dived (yet), but more importantly how can you compare apples with pears. I think I have my favorite dives, experiences that leave an Map of the islands of Chuuk Lagoon (Truk)impression forever. For example, I will never forget the first time I swam with Whale-sharks.

Tec divers on the Nippo Maru by Marc van der PoelThe reason why I find it a hard question to answer is because there are so many different places to dive. Trying to compare muck diving in Wakatobi to the wrecks of Chuuk is not realistic. The two extremes both really thrill me, but I cannot choose one
over the other. It amazes me what crazy critters exist and what the untrained eye can miss when rushing unsuspectedly over the reef. Frogfish, harlequin ghost pipefish are amongst my favorite critters in disguise. But wrecks tell a story, often much more than just the incident that brought them to the bottom of the ocean.

Chuuk is the ultimate in wreck diving and tells an incredible story. Recently I visited the highly acclaimed atoll in the pacific. It is quite a trek to get there from Perth, but worth it. We flew from Cairns with Continental Airlines to Guam and from there to The International Airport of Chuuk. I say this a little tongue in cheek because it has only one runway and it is shorter than the street I live in. I had read a lot about Chuuk and over the years heard a lot from keen divers who had made the pilgrimage. So you can imagine I was quite excited and full of  high expectations. Seen the pictures on the net of what the islands looks like, as well as some pictures of the wrecks.

We arrived at midday and were there for 10 days. I think we were all tired but running on adrenaline because we were about to get to start with some check-out dives this afternoon. No time to waste…

The first dive was an easy wreck, starting at 9meters descending to 34 meters on the bottom. I was just happy to be in the water and have a cruisy swim, get the feel for what the conditions were like in Chuuk. It was a balmy 29 degrees, viz was 15- 20 and the wreck was easily visable, no current, with beautiful calm tropical surface conditions. As we descended I completely forgot how tired I was. The adrenaline and excitement kicked in as we entered through the air vents dropping into the engine room. The fujikawa Maru sits upright so the sunlights shines straight onto the top of the boilers. From there we make our way to the bow and pass the first hold. It is littered with sake bottles bullets. From here to the second hold and we are looking at nearly a seventy year old fuselage of a Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane. The cockpit clearly identifiable with seat and gauges still in place. This wreck has soo much to see, gas masks, bullets of various sizes, bombs, spare props for the planes, more shells and two enormous guns on the fore and aft deck. This is day one, dive one..Aikoku Maru

From here we only got more and more spoilt. The choice of wrecks is endless in Chuuk. If you have a look at the map there are in excess of 40 wrecks including planes varying from 10 to 70 meters.

This means that there is something for every skill and comfort level, everyone can have fun here. On many of the ships, guides have left ‘treasures’ in the deck to see for those that do not wish to penetrate. There are teapots, bedpans, lanterns, cutlery, ships lights, bullet shells, gas masks, shoes, the list is endless.

Nippo MaruThere was also a group of techies on the trip, for whom there was a set of ‘twins’ waiting. The deeper dives were calling, like the Nippo Maru, one of my favorite wrecks out here. She is a real beauty, in about 55 meters of very clear water in the anchorage of the fourth fleet. The water is bluer than blue and while you drop down, she slowly appears and almost can see her full length. The growth of soft corals on the frames are amazing. The colours can only be fully appreciated with aid of a torch or camera. The Nippo has got a mini tank, a couple trucks, anti aircraft guns, some gigantic bomb shells and a very interesting wheelhouse.

What makes Chuuk such an amazing place to dive is not only the huge amount of wrecks to choose from, but also the quality of the wrecks and the ease of access. They are, at most approx. 30 minutes away from the Blue Lagoon resort. The water is warm and
clear, there is hardly any current and last, but not least they have so many artifacts!!

If you are into submarines, there are ships that were supply vessels for the subs, with onboard all sorts of spare parts and supplies including spare periscopes.Rio de Janeiro Maru

If you like planes, there are planes to be dived on, but also the supply vessels with the spares for them. If you are into engine rooms ( this is my fetish) then you are in heaven here, the Rio de Janeiro, the Heian and the Shinkoku Maru all have enormous engine rooms to explore. They are so large you spend a whole dive just in the engine room.

For techies there many deeper wrecks to explore. My favorites are the Nippo, Hoki and San Francisco Maru. The San Fran has got two 1930’s trucks in its hold, complete with cab, grilled bonnet and beautiful running-boards. I think you could come back every year for a decade and still not see the whole arsenal  of Chuuk’s wrecks. Over the years I have dived many wrecks in  different parts of the world, some great and some that were fun but I wouldn’t be in a hurry to go back.

Chuuk … is a whole different story. If I can quote my dive buddy, Neal Antoncich, who put it so aptly ‘I had very high expectations and I was not disappointed, we did some truly awesome dives!’ I could not describe it any better. I now have the before and after syndrome. The way I looked at wrecks before going to Chuuk and after. The Rockingham wreck trail will never be the same.

Sankisan MaruIn my opinion, Chuuk will have to be the best wreck diving in the world. It is the largest maritime war museum I have ever visited and have vowed to go back to see it again. It is humbling and gives you such an impression of what went on in the
South Pacific during the Second World War.

So to get back to the original question, Where is the best place in the world to dive? I simply don’t have an answer to that, all I can say is‘What kind of diving are you into?’ If it is wrecks then I would have to say CHUUK. But if you like wall diving, it would be Osprey reef or the pinnacles of West New Britain in PNG. If you are into critters and pristine coral  formations I would say, one of the best i in the world would have to be  Wakatobi Indonesia. Would you like to more about the best sites in the world then check out our travel section on. Perth Scuba is committed to a full travel section with trips to the best dive destinations on the planet. If you have any questions about travel come in and have a chat and check out our pictures.

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