Diving the World's Largest Underwater Museum

Author: Christopher Knox and Madeleine Swann

The green hills rise abruptly out of the uniform blue of the Pacific Ocean, encompassed by a narrow band of turquoise where the barrier reef thrives just below the surface.  After travelling half way around the globe we had finally reached the remote tropical paradise of Truk.  It’s hard to imagine that this picturesque area was once the symbol of Japanese Imperial might in the Pacific.  The mountainous islands around the lagoon once bristled with heavy gun emplacements protecting the various bases, airstrips and repair centres from naval bombardment while thousands of soldiers occupied the bunkers, trenches and tunnel networks to ensure the futility of any land invasion.  Inside this fortified natural harbour, a large portion of the Japanese fleet assembled, sure of the safety afforded by their island defence network.

Our first stop was the Truk Blue Lagoon Resort.  Founded by the late Kimiuo Aisek who pioneered diving tourism in Truk, this was the first dive operation in the region and it is still entirely owned and operated by the Aisek family.  With several days at the resort we had plenty of time to enjoy the range of Western, Asian and local specialities on the restaurant’s surprisingly diverse menu.  We were particularly fond of the locally sourced fresh fish and drinking from a coconut grown on site was a rare treat.  The immaculately kept gardens of the resort are home to a variety of tropical birds, flying foxes and frogs, which are particularly active around dusk.  We often had to watch out for frogs crossing our path on the way to the open-air bar for a relaxing sundowner.

With a team of expert guides and a fleet of skiffs, diving from the Blue Lagoon Dive Shop is a very personalised experience.  Groups are welcome to plan their own schedules and choose the sites they want to visit, as long as the groups’ abilities and the conditions permit.  The guides have been diving these wrecks for years so they know them all inside and out along with the locations of the most interesting artefacts.  We visited a different wreck on each of our 8 dives so this was a great way to see the highlights.  With the Blue Lagoon we visited some of the shallower wrecks that the larger liveaboard vessels can’t get to such as the P34 Patrol boat.  These make an excellent third dive of the day.

After our stay at the Blue Lagoon Resort, it was time to board the Truk Odyssey for another week of diving the fleet of Truk Lagoon.  The Odyssey offers the perfect combination of a luxury vessel and a friendly, knowledgeable crew.  From our first moments aboard it was clear that this was going to be a very special trip. During the course of a week diving from the Odyssey we had the chance to enjoy two or three recreational dives on most of the wrecks we visited, giving us ample time to explore each at leisure and look for the unique features that characterise each vessel.  Many of the wrecks have excellent penetration opportunities and the minimal souveniring and salvage means you will be able to see dozens of artefacts that help build a clearer picture of life on board these ships. The comprehensive briefings and video clips added an extra dimension to each dive detailing the highlights of each wreck while filling in some of the background story.

Most of the wrecks in Truk Lagoon were cargo or passenger ships that had been requisitioned for the war effort by the Japanese Imperial Navy.  Although many of these ships were fitted with weapons, it appears that this may well have been more for morale rather than combat purposes.  On the Fujikawa Maru, the maker’s plate on the bow gun shows it was forged in 1899 in the UK.  This weapon was already 40 years old and was obsolete before the ship was even built.  Similar weapons are found on some of the other armed merchant ships with the wheeled cannon on the deck of the Seiko Maru being the most bizarre example.  There were plenty of functional weapons on board as well and you'll see depth charge launchers, massive long lance torpedoes, shells and ammunition of all sizes, field artillery and tanks.  Another running theme throughout a week of diving Truk, both above and below the water, is beer.  Bottles can be found on most of the wrecks but some like the Rio de Janeiro Maru have whole cargo holds full of them.  It’s clear from the ration kits and water tanks on the Nippo Maru that the Japanese had to ship in both food and water to the troops stationed here so it would seem impractical to dedicate so much of their limited cargo space to luxuries like alcohol.

The Odyssey’s relaxed approach to dive scheduling worked very well for us and it was easy to dive at different times from the other guests and have the wrecks more or less to ourselves.  Many of the penetrations into cargo holds and superstructures are quite straightforward with plenty of space, light and exit options so an experienced and careful buddy pair can explore these at leisure.  Throughout the week we also had several deep, dark adventures into the tight recesses of engine rooms and machine shops where the assistance of a guide was invaluable.

Like all of the best dive trips, the end came around far too soon.  Overall we completed 32 dives on 15 varied wrecks.  The main attractions of Truk Lagoon are the cargo ships which include a submarine tender complete with spare periscopes and submarine batteries and a fleet oiler, which had a well equipped sick bay.  We also had the chance to dive one of the few destroyers in the lagoon and admire its array of weaponry and complete a shallow dive on one of the bombers.  With so many varied wrecks in warm, clear water that teems with life, it's easy to understand why Truk Lagoon is considered the world's premier wreck destination.

An 18 inch shell on the wreck of the Yamagiri Maru

Bones and artefacts in Truk.

Bow Gun on the Fujikawa Maru.

The famous R2D2 on the Fujikawa Maru.

Heian Maru's spare periscopes.

Portholes in the wreck of the Kensho Maru.

Gas Masks on the Nippo Maru

The helm of the Nippo Maru.

Patrol Boat 34's engine room.

Beer bottles on the wreck of the Rio de Janeiro Maru.

Medical box on the Shinkoku Maru

Website handcrafted by the Accent Design Group.

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: Certificate

Divequest is a division of Birdquest Ltd, which is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY.