A trip planned since childhood

Back in 1971 the only reason I was allowed to say up past my 8:30pm bedtime was to watch my favorite show “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau”.  I can still remember sitting on the floor and watching his special on Truk Lagoon and thinking “someday, someday I will go there.”  Thirty seven years later we were on our way to another adventure; 5 days in Yap to see the mantas and then on to Chuuk Lagoon and 7 days aboard the highly acclaimed Odyssey live-aboard.
There are several excellent books and plenty of information on the web regarding Operation Hailstorm and Chuuk Lagoon so I won’t go through all the history.  If you are interested one of the best books on Chuuk and Operation Hailstorm is Dan Bally’s book: http://www.amazon.com/World-War-Wrecks-Truk-Lagoon/dp/0911615067

Blue Lagoon Resort
Due to scheduling we had 3 days in Chuuk prior to boarding the Odyssey.  We had booked a room at the recommended Blue Lagoon Resort.   The Blue Lagoon Resort is a decent facility in a very scenic spot.  There is no pool but there is some nice beach areas were you can sun and take a swim.  From our balcony we could see the contrast of a hulking, rusting wreck framed by the beautiful backdrop of a tropical paradise.  While the rooms were adequate, staff friendly and attentive the resort is getting a little worn.  We were locked out of our first room when the dead bolt broke.  They went to move us to another room and that door could not be opened, lock issues again.  But the third time was a charm, sort of, the sliding door to the balcony wouldn’t close once opened and the shower was not much more than a warm trickle. 

The dive shop is on the grounds, walk in, give them your schedule and you will be assigned a dive locker, boat and guides.  Like in Yap they seemed a little surprised we wanted to do 4 dives per day, in the end we got in 3 dives two of the days. 

You meet the boat around 9am at the dock, pull your gear from your locker and the crew will set-up your tank.  We typically never had more than 3 skiff mates.  Boat rides to the wrecks run 10minutes to 1/2hr.  It was a bit windy and some of the rides to and from the sites were jarring and wet enough we all got down the deck of the skiff to keep from getting bounced around and pelted with waves.  We only did 6 dives with Blue Lagoon but our guides all did a good job and really worked to show you the major attractions of each wreck.  Surface intervals were done on a small park like area out by the site or back at the hotel. 
http://www.bluelagoondiveresort.com

The Odyssey
As we researched our trip the live aboard figured prominently in every search query.  Trip report after trip report the writers raved about their experience aboard the Odyssey, well this in another one!

The Odyssey is the largest live-aboard we have been on to date and one of the most comfortable.  They have a very good website with plenty of info and photos.  All we can see is the photos don’t do the ship credit.  We booked “last minute” so we had the “small cabin” which was still bigger than most standard live-aboard cabins.  The food was great, much better than what was available at the hotels in Yap or Chuuk.  Capitan Lenny mentioned they import many foods and drinks that are just not available at the local market or even to through the local food importers.  Also there is a full on bar a selection of punches, juice, pop, or just about any adult beverage you may desire. 

One beauty of diving Chuuk Lagoon from the Odyssey is all dives start from the stern of the Odyssey and end there.  You can’t get any easier or more convient.  The crew of the Odyssey is top notch, easy going and attentive to every detail. 

The Odyssey runs an “open dive deck” so dive as much or as little as you wish and the tables will allow.  Our group were mainly “recreational divers” with only one diver sporting twins, with additional deco bottle.  Due to the nature of our group there were always 2 dive guides and often more in the water.  You need to find R2D2, the Red Skull, etc, just ask and you will have your own personal guide to get you to the spot.  This is a destination were good buoyancy and fining technique is recommended.  Mainly this is appreciated by all others who follow you into some pretty narrow areas that can silt up.

The beauty of diving in Chuuk is that there is something for everyone.  The wrecks have become vibrant reefs.  The decks, super-structures, davits are just covered in life.  You could shoot macro the whole trip and never get bored.  One wreck sports a reported 60 anemones just on the bow quarter, some in colors we have never seen anywhere else.  For wreck fanatics the wrecks of Chuuk are not the de-cluttered, striped down shells many equate with wreck diving in the states.  Everything is intact, you do come across the occasional human remain and respect must be always shown for the integrity of these war monuments.

A couple of suggestions to improve your time diving the wrecks of Chuuk.
1. It is advisable to study your computer and know how it works for when or if you go into deco.  Without a doubt you can have a great time, do plenty of penetration without ever going into deco but eventually you will want to.  For us it was great to get comfortable with this aspect of our diving
  1. Especially if you are a photographer you might want to wait out the first dive Get on a schedule where you are going in when everyone else is coming out.  Some of the interior destinations can get silted out regardless of how careful everyone tries to be.  Just your exhalation can rain down rust.
  2. Do a little research as to the main features of each wreck.  Of course these features will all be reviewed during the very informative dive briefings. 
  3. Use the dive guides!  Tell them what you want to see/photograph and they will get you there in the most efficient manner.  Once there take your time, you might not repeat that specific site.

    Again if you are a photographer talk to your shipmates and find out there plans.  It helps avoid everyone converging on one spot.

  4. Chuuk is unique in everyway.  It is one of the richest wreck sites in the world but draws many who do not consider themselves wreck divers.  Man’s constructs have been re-claimed by the sea.  Vessels built for function have now being molded into beautiful reefs.  One moment you are enjoying the antics of clown fish in their vividly colored anemone and then you are gliding over remains of sailor who will never return home.  Chuuk will make you smile, will charm you with its beauty and remind you in unexpected ways of what created it.

 

 

 

Yap Manta

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