You’ll notice I said Truk Lagoon but the country is actually Chuuk, which along with Yap and a few others constitute the Federated States of Micronesia. Originally it belonged to Spain along with the Philippines, Guam and many other Pacifica Islands. After defeating Spain I Cuba we took possession of many of her islands in the Pacific. Before we got to Chuuk they sold it to the Germans who later gave it to Japan. Because of the protected lagoon, Japan turned it into one of its major naval bases.
The name change came about because the Germans had a hard time pronouncing Chuuk and it sounded more like truuk. Our GI’s being phonetic started saying Truk and the name stuck. Even after the independence for US aid and changing the name of the country back to Chuuk, the lagoon stayed Truk as all the divers in the world knew it.
A native Chuukese named Kimio Aisek is really the one that opened it up to diving. In a short time it became the major wreck diving destination in the world. There are 64 Japanese ships and several planes at the bottom of Truk Lagoon. Some as shallow as 20 feet, and others over 200 feet deep. Most of the wrecks are support vessels but there are a couple of destroyers on the bottom. One was completely intact until someone tore the bow off with their anchor.
The majority of wrecks are well within recreational diving limits and you can usually get in four dives a day on Nitrox. There are only a couple of wrecks that require decompression diving, preferably on TriMix. Even the shallower wrecks are better with deco as you can really explore the interior when you have additional gas and are willing to decompress on the way up.
There are two ways of flying to Chuuk:
USA to Hawaii to Guam to Chuuk or the milk run from Hawaii through all the small islands to Chuuk. I don’t recommend the milk run as you have to deplane at every stop on the way there and back to Hawaii. Once on Chuuk you have several options: There are several live-aboards you can use although none will supply Helium for trimix. There is the Blue Lagoon (previously the Truk Continental Hotel) which again only does air or nitrox.
If you want to do some serious diving then the Truk Stop is your only option. Iive-aboards are unnecessary as except for the Oite, which is very deep and not visited by them, all dive sites are a short boat ride from shore. Technical diving is usually limited to two long dives a day. They have gas, scrubber and full technical support there. When I took the first mix gas divers there years ago we had to bring our own manifolds, nitrox stick, bands, analyzers and whips. Even the second time they had to get someone from outside to blend. Now they have a complete system and are great at mixing gases and guiding trips.
My favorite shallow dive sites are;
Shinkoku Maru: great penetration wreck and covered with massive coral growths.
Fujukawa Maru: Always a favorite with plane fuselages, machinery and other stuff to see
Hein Maru: good marine life and the large shells used by the biggest Japanese battleships
Yamageri Maru Lots of stuff to see
Fimitzsuki destroyer; was great dive until torn apart by boat anchor of one of the live-aboards
Nippo Maru: machinery and guns
Aikoka maru: great bridge and still body parts below decks
Oite Destroyer: fantastic deep dive with skulls, bones, old 78 records, guns shells and assorted stuff. A long boat ride but worth it.
The Truk Stop is not a fancy hotel but rooms are comfortable and food is good. Fresh sushi most days when the tuna fleet returns. Tours of island with old Japanese structures also available.
Unless you are in to wrecks this is not the best dive destination although there is a lot of marine life there. Usually see dolphins on at least one dive. Night dives lots of critters.
Most of the time I follow on to Palau for lots of mantas, sharks and other creatures. I prefer a live aboard, usually Ocean Hunter III as they will support rebreathers. If you are in to wrecks but your diving buddy is not then have them join you in Palau after your Truk Lagoon trip. Palau and Yap will be the next blog.
The way home seems even longer than the way there. Chuuk to Guam (you will usually do immigration and customs there so will not have to in Hawaii), then on to Hawaii and then the USA. At least 16 hours of actual flying time.