Many destinations claim to be the "Wreck Diving Capital of the World," but while diving Turk (Chuuk) islands you should know that it maintains the title of "World's Greatest Wreck Diving Destination".
The 820 square miles of calm water diving Turk (Chuuk) Lagoon serves as a graveyard for 57 known World War II Japanese ships and several airplanes. Nearly 70 years ago, the United States military sunk more than 220,000 tons of vessels in a two-day raid known as Operation Hailstone. Combine the vessels' historic nature and an abundance of marine life, and you've got enough to excite both reef lovers and wreck hounds.
The Fujikawa Maru, a 430-foot freighter ranging in depth from 30 to 110 feet, sits upright in the sand. Her superstructure is covered in soft corals and has many highlights, including a nearly intact Zero fighter plane in one of her forward holds, while her engine room's well-lit, several-story-tall skylight is a must. Just off the engine room, divers can visit "R2- D2" — an air compressor named for its resemblance to the lovable Star Wars robot — in the mechanics' room.
The 370-foot Sankisan Maru, also known as the "Bullet Wreck" for the abundance of rifle ammunition in her forward hold, is in waters between 50 and 80 feet and is cloaked in a rainbow of soft corals. The most impressive display is on her forward masts, which ascend almost all the way to the surface. Medicine bottles, airplane engines and trucks are also some of her more notable artifacts.
If you're looking for a gigantic wreck to explore, try the 460-foot Rio de Janeiro Marti, whose depth ranges from 40 to 110 feet. this former passenger- liner turned wartime freighter rests on her side and has several highlights, including her enormous propellers and "wall of beer" in the stern hold, where a multitude of beer cases once stored on the floor now form a precariously balanced vertical wall of glass bottles.
The Nippo Maru is about 100 feet shorter than the Rio and is well preserved. Explore the intact superstructure, which includes her wheelhouse, and don't miss the field artillery strewn about her stern deck, with the barrels of her big guns still pointing skyward (wreck diving). For those using trimix and double tanks or rebreathers, visit the 385-foot San Francisco Maru, whose 160-foot depth rewards guests with several intact battle tanks, a truck and a cargo of bombs, torpedoes, airplane engines and more.
Unlike other wreck diving destinations, while diving Turk (Chuuk) most vessels are beyond recreational limits, so you'll need to complete deep-diving and technical-diving courses. PADI recommends its Tec Diver Level One and Tec Deep Diver courses through its affiliate, DSAT (Diving Science and Technology). SSI (Scuba Schools International) offers a course through its technical branch, SSI Tech XR, called Technical Foundations and then Decompression Procedures. Both agencies' courses train ff divers to make dives in excess of 165 feet. S Doubles, mixed gas and rebreather support are all readily available while diving Turk (Chuuk).
1. Engine Room. This four-story space is easy to reach, and has many openings and plenty of natural light illuminating its beautiful network of catwalks and stairways. It feels more like an atrium.
2. "R2-D2." In the mechanics' room off the engine room, there's an air compressor, which resembles the Star Wars robot. Besides R2-D2, the mechanics' room also has an assortment of tools and toolboxes.
3. Forward Hold No. 2. A must-see collection of Japanese Zero fighters and other plane parts can be found here.
4. Pilot house. There's a veritable garden of brightly colored soft corals sure to dazzle the eye.
5. Bow Gun. The garden of corals growing here makes you forget you're diving a wreck. The ominous weapon sits silent in the center of the deck, surrounded by schools of fish.