We boarded our plane in Brisbane headed for Cairns. It was going to be a long trip, but extremely worth it once we got to TRUK LAGOON. We arrived in Cairns at 3pm and went into town for dinner and drinks. Our flight from Cairns to Guam was not until midnight, so we had a few hours to kill.
We arrived in Guam at 6am in the morning, and checked into our day room. We all had a power nap and met at TGI Fridays for lunch. The anticipation was building, it was less than 24 hours till we were diving the most amazing WWII wrecks in the WORLD!!!
Our flight from Guam to Chuuk was only 2 hours, and we landed around 8pm. It was a 45 min transfer to the Blue Lagoon Resort. After 36 hours of travelling we had finally arrived!! The group woke up to a tropical island paradise, overlooking the stunning, turquoise blue lagoon.
The plan was to meet at the dive jetty at 9am for our first dive, so we had breakfast, grabbed our gear and walked down to the dive shop. Once we arrived we met our local dive guide (Jonke) and our skipper (O’Brian). Jonke had been diving the wrecks of Truk Lagoon for over 10 years, completing on average 12 dives every week… you do the math.
Our first two dives were on the Fujikawa Maru and the Betty Bomber. The Fujikawa is one of the top 5 dives in Truk and lies in 30 meters of water, with the main deck at 20m. As we descended to the ship, the water was crystal clear, oh and warm… 29 degrees to be exact. The hard and soft coral growth on the wrecks simply blows you away….so much color, it is like nowhere you have ever seen!! Jonke guided us through some cavernous cargo holds and we saw gas masks, a whole plane, oil drums, machine gun shells and much much more!!
The Betty Bomber is a light aircraft that lies in 18m of water. You can swim right through the inside from the cockpit to the tail. There were thousands of bait fish around the wreck and the soft coral on the wings was absolutely stunning.
We got back to the dive dock around 2pm and had the rest of the day to laze around the resort. The bar is right on the lagoon and the sunsets over the ocean were amazing.
The next day we dived the Nippo Maru and the Rio De Janerio. The Nippo has a very photogenic bridge, it is featured in a lot of award winning underwater shots. The wreck lies in 45 meters of water, however the main deck is in 30m, with the top of the stack around the 15m mark.
Day 3 of the trip took us to one of only 2 purpose built destroyers in the lagoon, the Fumitzuki Maru. The ship is 109m long and was fully covered in hard and soft corals. The macro life on this wreck was great! So many glass shrimps, it is a macro photographers dream. The deck was in 30m and the bottom was 38m. The second dive of the day was on the Yamigiri Maru, and we were all looking forward to seeing our first skeleton. We entered the wreck around mid-ships and after a few ins and outs Jonke pointed to the skull. It was quite surreal at first, however we all wanted that perfect shot.
Towards the end of the trip we dived the Heian maru. The BIGGEST wreck in Truk. Depth was 12-30m and it is approx 4 times the size of the HMAS Brisbane. We saw massive torpedoes in cargo hold 3, lots of fine china (cups, plates, ect). The engine room was absolutely huge! Laying on its starboard side, it can be quite disorientating when you are swimming inside. However it is a very safe, easy, open wreck to dive.
When diving in Truk you have the option to do single dives with lunch back at the resort restaurant, or double dives with a packed lunch on the nearby deserted islands…..
During our time in Truk the group opted for a night dive on the Fujikawa Maru. One word… Stunning! Being a night dive we were instructed by the guide that there was no penetration. So we spent the entire dive looking at all the beautiful hard and soft corals encompassing the whole ship. The deck lies in 15m and we got to a max depth of 20m. After having done this dive already, it gave us a chance to check out all the macro life. Lots of weird and wonderful creatures were on the wreck, some things I have never even seen before.
On our second last diving day, we dived the world famous San Francisco Maru, we had been building up to this dive all week. She is nicknamed the ‘million dollar wreck’ due to all the war time artillery left on the ship when she sank. The wreck starts in 42m and the cargo holds are 55m. The main attractions are the 3 army tanks on the main deck.
On our last diving day we opted for a bit of a change, we did a shark dive on the local reefs. It was quite shallow, only 5 – 15 meters. Jonke places fish heads in and around the coral bommies and you just sit and wait for the action. The dive lasted about 1 hour with lots of shark action. I counted 15 sharks at one point, all around 1.5 meters in length. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking at going.
We were all very sad to leave Truk, we said our goodbyes to the staff, got a whole heap of merchandise and were on our way to the airport at 4pm. As we were checking in, the United Airlines staff informed us that the plane was delayed 1-2 hours and may not even stop in Truk at all. We had a one hour window in Guam in order to make our Cairns connection, so as you can imagine we were all starting to worry. The positive that came out of the situation is that the plane did land, however it was 1.5 hours late, we knew we were not going to make our Cairns connection at this point.
When we arrived at Guam airport the United Airlines staff were waiting to inform us that we had missed our connection and had to spend the night in Guam. United Airlines covered all accommodation, transfers and food while we where in Guam. After a lengthy discussion with the United staff, we came to the conclusion the easiest and quickest way to get to Brisbane was to fly Guam to Seoul and then Seoul to Brisbane.
We got a good night sleep in Guam and were transferred back to the airport at 6am for an 8:30am flight to Seoul. We managed to get a business class upgrade from Guam to Korea which was very nice… “would you like a warm hand towel sir” “champagne before take-off”?? We landed in Seoul at 10am and had a 7 hour stop over, a few of us checked into our day room and a few others took up the opportunity of a FREE transit tour.
Our Korean Airlines flight was on time and we took our seats in economy (we did ask for a business upgrade, but unfortunately we were not as lucky this time around). It was a 10 hour flight from Seoul to Brisbane, however most of us slept during the flight. Seoul International Airport was probably the cleanest, well laid out and accommodating airport I have ever been to. Being stuck in Seoul for 7 hours was not a bad option after all.
We landed safely in Brisbane at 2pm (only 16 hours after our original planned arrival time). I would like to thank Steve Bowtell, Brett Comollatti, David Hawes, Katrina Lam, John Moody, Jen Ritchie, and of course Raelene for a fantastic holiday. You were all safe, competent divers and it was a pleasure to have you on the trip.
I know one thing for sure, we all can’t wait to get back to Truk!! 2017 anyone??? All the best, Mike McKinnon
Wrecks we dived:
Rio De Janerio
Shark Dive (Reef)