Protected by one of the longest barrier reefs in the world (225km-long), Chuuk remains the most unexplored member of the Federated States of Micronesia - the only tourists are wreck divers.
Topside Chuuk is worthy of exploration and to do so a local guide is essential. Lush, tropical vegetation is characteristic of the islands and memorabilia of the Second World War is scattered among scenic hills and ridges. The quaint Sapuk lighthouse constructed atop a hill commands a panoramic view of the strategic northeast channel. Amid its subway-fashion graffiti-clad wall, bullet holes from machine guns are a reminder of an island under siege more than 50 years ago.
Chuuk is legendary for the quality of its wreck diving. This maritime graveyard is a legacy of the US aerial assault, 'Operation Hailstorm'. Between 17 and 18 February 1944, aircraft from nine carriers unleashed wave after wave of bombs and torpedoes, day and night. The Japanese lost 260 planes, nearly 60 vessels and thousands of troops, compared to the US loss of a mere 26 aircraft. The 180,000 tonnes of Japanese warships sunk in just two days was unprecedented.
Chuuk has since become a magnet for wreck divers. The combination of warm water and tidal currents serving as a natural incubator, has transformed these lifeless hulks of war into magnificent artificial reefs.
The diving The variety of wrecks within the range of recreational divers is impressive: submarines, Japanese Zeros, Betty bombers, destroyers and submarine tenders can all be dived. Like good wine, the wrecks improve with age. Guns now wear garlands of sponges, tunicates and hydroids, exploding with kaleidoscopic soft corals. Water temperature is a constant 27ºC all year round, but repeated diving will warrant a 3mm neoprene suit, which will also serve as protection against the huge population of jellyfish that live in the lagoon.
There is very little current and, though there are some shallow wrecks, the average depth range is between 20-35m. A diving computer and torch are essential pieces of equipment.
The Blue Lagoon Resort and Truk Stop are obvious places for divers to stay. Both are situated next to the water and are in close proximity to all the diveable wrecks.
The Truk Aggressor, the Truk Odyssey and the Thorfinn liveaboards all operate within the Chuuk lagoon. These boats cater for hardcore divers who want to dive four or five times a day, and offer superb diving.
When to go
Diving in Chuuk is available all year round, but it's usually best to avoid the rainy season from July to October. You should find visibility is generally about 25m around the shallow wrecks and 30m-plus at the deeper wrecks.
Top dives Fujikawa Maru
This 132m-long freighter is one of Chuuk's signature dives. There is lush coral growth on derricks and the mast, which looms towards the sky. A cargo of fighter planes, as well as bow and stern guns are still in place. Depth: 9m to stack, 18m to deck and 34m to bottom.
Shinkoku Maru This makes a stunning dive. The Japanese freighter is covered with a variety of soft corals from end to end. The bow guns are very impressive and the end sections are overwhelmed with long whip corals, millions of glass and cardinalfish. Do not miss this wreck. Depth: 12m to bow gun and top of bridge, 38m to propeller.
This freighter has a beautiful foremast. It is completely encrusted with hard corals, droopy soft corals, sponges, and swarming with blennies, hawkfish and enigmatic blue wrasse. The front section is remarkably well preserved but little remains from bridge to stern, which was completely blown away on the first day of the raid. This is an ideal wreck for the second or third dive of the day. Depth: 3m to crosstree of foremast, 15m to deck and 24m to bottom of bow.
A superb battleship, this 103m-long destroyer once had a cruising speed of 37 knots. Guns and torpedo launchers are still in place and marine growth on the davits is prolific. Gas masks, china and bullets can all be seen on the gun platform. Depth: 38m to bottom, 30m to superstructure.
Now lying on its port side, this 220m-long freighter was an ammunition ship for Japan's battleship Musahi and the biggest shells (46cm) ever used in the Pacific war are found on this wreck. The propeller is surrounded by droopy yellow and purple marshmallow soft corals and millions of glassfish swarm between the blades. Since the vessel is lying on port side, the view to the sky from beneath is almost surreal. Depth: 15m to starboard beam, 34m to bottom.
Those interested in military artefacts and armaments will particularly enjoy this dive. Three artillery guns and tanks sit on the main deck, all pointing to the sky. There are also plenty of guns, trucks, radio equipment, and hemispherical beach mines, acid bottles and shells to look at. The huge density of jellyfish around the wreck is also fascinating. The freighter rests upright with a considerable list to port. Sunk in the first hour of the invasion, this wreck sits in deeper water and is for experienced divers. Depth: 24m to bridge, 35m to deck and 38m to hold.
San Francisco Maru
One of the most photographed wrecks in the lagoon, the three tanks on the deck against the bridge of this freighter are hauntingly photogenic. The forward hold is full of mines and there are vehicles in the cargo area. Depth: 45m to deck, 52m to stern and 58m to forward hold.
A privately-owned recompression chamber operated by Bruton Enterprises is located in Neauo Village, Weno.