Few places in the world are as famous and legendary as Micronesia’s Chuuk Lagoon (to divers known as Truk Lagoon). Since I first started diving, the pictures of Truks stunning wrecks have lured me and visiting this almost mythical atoll had been on my bucket list ever since.
But life happens and even though I have been fortunate to dive and travel a lot, for one reason or another Truk still kept losing out to other destinations.
Then in 2018, I felt that it had to be done, I just could not wait any more. I had to go diving in Truk.
There are two main ways to go diving in Truk Lagoon, Liveaboard or Resort.
I chose liveaboard because just like the Red Sea, I like when the boat is parked next to the wreck, I’m not a big fan of long boat transfers, especially when it’s hot outside.
Having said that, doing Truk Resort based has its advantages, but to me, the Liveaboards are a better option. I’m a liveaboard kind of guy.
The Liveaboard moored on anchor points in front of the wreck, sitting with stern over stern, so when you jump in, you are literary just over the wreck, and most of the time you can see the wreck straight away. All you have to do is deflate your BC and let gravity take you down under the surface. It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s just the way I like it. The Odyssey also has a lift to help you in and out if the water if you need to, very nice!
When you sit and look out over the tropical paradise that is Truk Lagoon, it’s very hard to even imagine that one day 75 years ago, it was the eye of the storm we call the Pacific theatre of world war II. Truk is a Pacific paradise island and it’s easy to look around and feel like you’re in an advert as everybody goes here for the wrecks you never hear anyone mention it, but it is actually really lovely above the surface. If it’s not pointed out to you it’s very hard to see the traces of the Japanese bases hidden among the shorelines and under the foliage.
During World War II Truk was once of Japan’s most forward bases and hosted not just ships but also a huge number of planes and troops. However, it is for its role as supporting the Japanese navy that it’s mostly famous for. Its location made it perfect for supporting the units they had in the southern Pacific. Even though Truk’s importance had started to fade in 1944, it was still home to a lot of transport ships at the time of the American attack. The Japanese expected that an attack might be imminent had started to remove some of their most important ships. When the American attack started there was still about 40 ships (mostly transport ships) and over 300 planes still located around the Atoll. Most of these were sunk and/or destroyed. Since most of these were sunk inside the lagoon, it has left us with one of the greatest wreck experiences in the world.
Today in Truk there are about 30 divable shipwrecks and a few planes. The ships are laying in various depth from snorkelling depth to deeper technical wrecks. The Americans shot down a lot of planes, but most of these were shattered into smithereens when they hit the surface and compared to the shipwrecks they don’t make as interesting dive sites.
The first thing that hits you when descending upon a wreck in Truk lagoon is how time has stood still. Despite the fact that wrecks have been underwater for 75 years they are time capsules and it’s easy to feel the presence of history. Like the Thistlegorm in the Red Sea, these wrecks are resting on the seabed just as they were when they were sunk in 1944. Visiting them is like entering a museum where nothing has been curated, cleaned or displayed. It’s history in its rawest form, and that is a very special feeling. Tools are hanging exactly on the same place as they where in 1944, machine telegraphs are still sending out the same orders and guns are pointing in the same direction. This continues on wreck after wreck. Every single wreck we dived had it’s own features and history.
Most of the wrecks you will dive in Truk are transport ships of various kinds. Some are smaller and basic, whilst others are rather large former luxury liners like the Heinan Maru and San Francisco Maru. Every wreck is different and is unique in its own right. In particular the different cargo and different equipment they were carrying at the time. Many of them were at repair anchorage and have empty cargo holds. Whilst others were unloading and have aeroplane parts, torpedoes and submarine spare parts. This means that even though most of them are “just” transport ships, what you can see on them varies a lot and this makes things very interesting.
It’s illegal in Truk to take anything from the shipwrecks and thanks to this there is still a lot to see. It makes the wrecks come alive a bit more and magnifies the feeling of “time standing still”. I think the best way to describe it is that in Truk every wreck is its own version of the Thistlegorm. If you like Thistlegorm but also like 30 degrees water, no current and amazing visibility, then Truk is the place for you.
Many divers believe that Truk is all about Tech but that is really not the case. Onboard Odyssey there were about 2/3 recreational divers and 1/3 tech, the boat accommodated everyone’s wishes with ease.
Truk is a popular destination for photographers too. Thanks to the vastness of the ships and the massive amount of natural light, Truk is a fantastic wide angle destination. I did all my dives with a 10mm lens and it felt perfect for me. I did not change it all week. I did not bring any flashes ( I just did not have space ) and I did miss them. So if you have strobes, try to bring them.
One thing that surprised me a bit in Truk was the quality of marine life. All pictures and adverts focus on the wrecks and their details. But many of the wrecks have top quality reef systems on their more shallow parts. Especially on those parts sticking up over 15m, you find hard corals, soft corals anemones, and this brings shoals of reef fishes, turtles, stingrays and reef sharks. For example, on the Shinkoku Maru, there is a resident guitar shark (that I missed) and a resident spotted Eagle ray.
I’m not going to talk to you about all the wrecks because that would make this blog a little bit too long, but here are my 3 favourite dive sites in Truk lagoon:
One of the most famous shipwrecks in the world, and she features on almost every single “top wreks of the world” list ever made. She is 133m long resting upright on 30m What’s good about this wreck?
She is packed with everything, but mostly famous for her aeroplane parts in her holds, but look around and you will find so much more, a must do wreck dive when you’re in Truk Lagoon.
155m long laying on its side in 35 m of water.
The Heinan Maru served as a submarine tender and it’s one of the largest ships in Truk lagoon and also has some of the coolest cargo I have ever seen on a ship. For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip.
Another huge 150m long ship resting upright on 35-40 meters. The top mast starts at around 12 meters and she is packed with marine life, this is a wreck that I would have loved to dive more. Apart from the marine life she also has telegraphs and bathrooms and an engine room that I can recommend you to visit.
Full wreck list on my trip:
Rio De Janeiro Maru
San Fransisco Maru
If like me you are a wreck lover, Truck Lagoon should be on top of your bucket list. Find out here how to book this fantastic trip.