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Truk Lagoon : A Trip of Myths, Legends, and Fables

Things we hear when we mention Truk Lagoon : It's deep, dark and squeezy... Only for technical divers... Only for seriously experienced divers... Only for wreck divers... It's a long way.... And it's expensive...


Well... they are TRUE and FALSE. It’s all relative! Trust me – I have been there several times, so let me share my insights on Truk Lagoon.

First, let me share some facts straight away – Truk Lagoon (or Chuuk to be accurate) is the resting place for a large number of Japanese cargo ships and a smaller number of Japanese Imperial Navy ships that were sunk on the 17th and 18th February 1944 during the US Navy airstrike known as Operation Hailstone. Often referred to as the ‘Revenge for Pearl Harbour’, Operation Hailstone is incredibly well-documented, and the dive guides and crew are experts in the story.


If you are interested at all in history, especially the World War history, then Truk is a perfect destination for you. The whole island and the lagoon are a real-life museum. The Japanese Fleet lost two light cruisers, three auxiliary cruisers, four destroyers, six auxiliary ships, 32 merchant ships and over 250 aircraft. Nine further vessels were damaged, and over 4500 Japanese lives were lost in these two days. The US Forces, conversely, lost 25 aircraft and 40 lives with damage to two ships.


True, it is a long way.... Truk Lagoon is situated in Micronesia, a federation of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, northeast of Papua New Guinea, southeast of the Philippines and basically, a long way from anywhere! Getting there can be complicated, but there are numerous options, all of which end up in the US Territory of Guam before the flight to Chuuk.


Getting to Guam isn’t as difficult as it is often perceived – there are numerous options that make a trip to Truk perfect for adding in a second destination such as Australia, Philippines, Palau, or Yap. For our most recent trip in April 2023, we flew from London to Manila via Dubai with Emirates Airlines. A seven hour layover in Manila was followed by an overnight flight to Guam and then Chuuk with United Airlines. Total travel time with four flights and an overnight stay is around 32 hours.


So, it’s fair to say it is a long way, but the layover in Manila and overnight stay in a hotel in Truk before boarding the amazing liveaboard Odyssey make it a nicely paced trip. And using two mainstream airlines that understand long haul travel make it far easier than expected. We recommend the overnight stay as you don’t want a delayed or cancelled flight to mean missing boarding the liveaboard!


This year our arrival into Chuck was around 9am, and we were greeted by a tropical rainstorm, but getting off the plane, going through Immigration and collecting baggage was simple. The terminal is not much bigger than your local Co-op! Transport was waiting outside for us all, and it was a 10-minute jaunt through the rain and traffic to get us to the Truk Blue Lagoon Resort where we chose to stay overnight before the liveaboard. The hotel is well versed with the flight schedule, and 16 of us were checked in super-efficiently to our rooms within 10 minutes.

Truk Blue Lagoon Resort is one of our two choices when it comes to quality hotels in Chuuk. Board basis is room only, and meals are served in the main dining room. The food is decent and there is plenty of choice, but you can be waiting a while for your meal to arrive, especially if in a group. Rooms are comfortable, air-conditioned and there is wi-fi in and around the accommodation blocks. It almost resembles a former military installation, but being situated right on the lagoon, it is the perfect base for 24 hours. Odyssey moors just 20 metres off the jetty at Truk Blue Lagoon, so you’ll see the liveaboard when you arrive. Truk Stop is the other hotel we recommend and is a great option.


After our arrival it was lunch, sleep, dinner, more sleep and by the next morning we were fully refreshed and ready to go. Boarding Odyssey takes place at around 5pm, so we had a day at leisure. The Operation Hailstone Museum is right next to the hotel, and well worth a visit for the history buff. Others visited the local dive shops and stocked up on shiny stuff and tourist gifts, took a swim or snorkel in the lagoon and two even went for a dive with the on-site operator. Others read, snoozed, and ate, and by late afternoon we were ready to jump on board Odyssey. A simple skiff ride took us and our baggage out to the liveaboard. At last, we were about to start our dive trip!


The Odyssey is a top quality liveaboard, and in our opinion, by far the best in Truk Lagoon. Sleeping 16 guests in and seven double or twin cabins and two single cabins she has plenty of space to chill out and relax. Each cabin has a flat screen television complete with an extensive built-in movie library, an ensuite bathroom and air-conditioning, together with plenty of storage space.


A large lounge with camera table and charging station and a huge saloon where meals are provided also offers space to chill out and relax – after all, this is where the bar is! Talking of the bar… board basis is all-inclusive, and the bar is very well stocked. Food is exceptional – full cooked and continental breakfast, mid-morning baked goods, a buffet lunch, mid-afternoon snacks and gourmet themed dinners - BBQ night, steak night, burger night, seafood night…. this is not the trip to try and diet!!!


All in all, the boat is super comfortable, and the food is exceptional – and this is exactly the way it was on previous trips. This is why we use the Odyssey, there is nothing worse than the disappointment of a second class offering when you finally get to your destination.


True – it is wreck diving. The wrecks are, pretty much without exception, in fantastic condition, and this is testament to not only the sea conditions, but to the preservation and conservation efforts of the local governing bodies and the dive operators. Some wrecks more than others, are immense, and as they have been on the seabed for almost 80 years, are adorned with every species of coral you can think of. They have become in the best sense, artificial reefs, complete with critters galore, and schooling marine life populating every deck, hold, stay and davit. Expect every reef fish you can think of, plus turtles, sharks and much more – we even encountered a Leopard Shark!


False - it is not only for technical and super experienced divers. The vast majority, and I mean all bar but one of the wrecks, are well within recreational limits with Deep Diver Certification. Throughout the week, most of the wrecks are at a maximum of 40 metres – there are one or two deeper and planned deco dives on the San Francisco at a depth of 50 metres at the deck, and 62 metres to the seabed are made later in the week. And we managed to stay away from deco by using the well-blended Nitrox mixes, giving us good bottom time for each individual wreck.


The diving isn’t for the novice, but you don’t have to be a tech guru either. It is consistently deep, but not excessively deep, and care must be taken – knowing how to use your computer is imperative, and understanding NDCLs, the effective use of Nitrox, and possessing really good buoyancy skills are imperative – but you can have fins of any colour, don’t need to carry 4 cylinders, and don’t need a camouflage wetsuit – recreational divers are very well catered for, and are very welcome!


There are some wrecks here with deck space that you cannot cover in one dive they are that big, let alone penetrate, so diving with a guide is a great thing to do. They are truly expert and know the best places inside and outside of the wrecks to visit. Mini museums litter the decks, with cutlery, crockery, wine, beer and sake bottles, even gas masks laid out to see. Cargo holds full of ammunition, trucks, aeroplane parts, hospital equipment… like the Thistlegorm, but on steroids and wearing big-boy pants!

True, it can be deep dark and squeezy, but only if you want. Penetration of many of the wrecks is easy - cavernous open cargo holds with easy entry and exit are common. The accommodation blocks, helm and signal rooms are easily accessed on some of the wrecks as well. Deeper penetration into the below deck holds and spaces, engine rooms and workshops are also available on pretty much every dive, so those lusting after squeezy gaps and dark places are incredibly well-catered for too!

The diving operation on Odyssey is second to none. Recreational, technical, trimix, CCR, side-mount, twinset, stages and pony bottles – all and more are available. Deco diving is commonplace for those who want to and are qualified to do so.


There are four to five dives available daily, including night dives. There is very little current to consider, and visibility can be excellent – it can be pretty grotty too, especially inside the wrecks when diver buoyancy might not be as good as it should be and bits of rust and sand are stirred up. Bring your best skills and choose your buddy well! An misplaced fin kick can ruin a dive for you and everyone else, and the exceptionally talented guides will normally take such an individual aside and educate them – gently!


Our skipper for the week was Captain Michael Gerken. Not only a phenomenal skipper, but an exceptional underwater photographer and documentary film maker. And it just so happens that he wrote and produced a documentary for the History Channel on Operation Hailstone. You can watch an excerpt of his film here. He uses his expertise, schematics, sketches, and actual video footage of the air raid in the dive briefings, and I for one would travel across the globe again just to sit in one of those! Dive site routes are planned, options offered, instructions given, and the pool is opened. It really is an exceptionally well-oiled machine.


This is meant to be a trip report, and not a history lesson, but there is plenty of information available online to find out more about the actual airstrike and the events leading up to and following Operation Hailstone. It is a fascinating story, and we suggest starting with Naval History and Heritage Command website here


Our week came to an end far too soon, and it was time to leave the Odyssey. Some flew home with an overnight stay in Manila to provide enough time to collect baggage from United and check in with Emirates, and part of the group stopped off for a week of more diving in the Philippines. This is a phenomenal trip and lends itself well to adding in a second week, either prior to or after due to the flight routes.

So, in summary, Truk is a long way and can be deep, dark, and technical, but it is so much more! The marine life and corals are spectacular. The wrecks are so huge they are bigger than some of the reefs you may have dived. The journey there and back can be broken up into manageable chunks. Recreational divers will find themselves doing pretty much every dive except one, and price? You pay for what you get with this destination. This is THE best place on the planet in my opinion to experience not only amazing wrecks, but incredible history, surrounded by true experts, and to be looked after exceptionally.


It is a real privilege to dive these wrecks, to experience the story of Operation Hailstone in person, and to understand how it impacted the people of Chuuk – and it is also a great opportunity to learn more or use existing skills consistently throughout a whole week. There are few places in the world where this can be achieved.


Will we go again? Yes! On Odyssey – of course! Want to join us? Come Dive with Us March 2025!


Check out our brochure with full itinerary including an option to add on a week in the Philippines here.


 

Key Facts:

  • Getting there: We selected to fly from London to Manila via Dubai on Emirates Airlines. After our layover in Manila and checking in with United Airlines we took our overnight to Chuuk via Guam. We checked into Truk Blue Lagoon Resort for one night before boarding the Odyssey liveaboard. Return flights first to Manila with an overnight stay near the airport followed by an early morning flight to London via Dubai arriving the same day. We had 30kg of checked baggage on Emirates and 2 x 23kg on United.

  • Air temperature: Chuuk averages 24°C in the winter and 29° in the summer. We have travelled to Truk Lagoon in March and April and have enjoyed very tropical weather. The rainy season is May to September.

  • Water temperature: Expect an average of 28°C year round.

  • Visa requirements: A U.S. ESTA is needed to transit through Guam easily. An ESTA is a two-year electronic travel authorization that should be applied for no later than 72 hours before departure and costs $21USD. More information can be found here. https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/. A Micronesia tourist visa is issued on arrival and authorised for the number of days requested but shall not exceed 90 days.

  • Health protocols: When we travelled in April 2023 there were no health or COVID requirements in place.

  • Currency: The U.S. dollar is the official currency. Most major credit cards are welcomed at Truk Blue Lagoon and on-board Odyssey.

  • Electricity: U.S. type outlets with 110 volts standard

  • Internet and Wifi: Wifi was readily available at Truk Blue Lagoon and on Odyssey when we were closer to shore.


Accommodation: We spent one night at Truk Blue Lagoon, room only, before boarding the liveaboard. Seven nights on board the premium all-inclusive Odyssey. Nine staterooms with a maximum of 16 divers. All staterooms have private ensuite, air-conditioning and television with a full library of movies! The dive deck offers loads of space with personal dive lockers, rinse tanks and freshwater shower with warm towels and the ever-popular dive lift to lower you into the water or help you out at the end of a dive. NITROX is available to qualified divers along with other technical mixes.


Diving: The water is warm, clear, and current free in the lagoon. Up to 5 dives a day are offered depending on location. A typical a day begins at 7am with a hot breakfast followed by the first dive briefing of the day. Two dives before lunch, then onto a new site. After lunch you can do another dive or relax. A late afternoon dive is offered with dinner served around 6:30pm. Choose to do a night dive or enjoy some entertainment in the lounge.


Price Guide: For our trip in April 2023 which we booked in 2020 pre-Covid, we paid £5600 per person based on double occupancy for this bucket list 9-night itinerary. The ATOL-protected itinerary included flights from London to Chuuk with one night at Truk Blue Lagoon, seven nights on board Odyssey and one night in Manila on the trip home. All transfers are included.


Extras:

  • US ESTA: Purchased online prior to departure for $21USD

  • Food and drink : While staying at Blue Lagoon and overnight in Manila.

  • Tips : This crew works hard! We suggest $200USD as a minimum.


Our Advice: This is an amazing destination that takes some time to get to, so we suggest adding a week in Yap, Palau or the Philippines on your way home. Let us help you design your dream diving holiday!

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