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If you want a destination where stepping into history is a giant stride away; where you can still find traditions of ancient cultures still cherished and being practiced despite the presence of the modern global village; and where you can find some of the most beautiful landscapes on the entire planet, these Central Pacific islands are where you need to be. Micronesia consists of thousands of small islands covering thousands of miles, scattered across the Pacific, a few hours’ flight northwest of Hawaii. The region starts in the island of Chuuk and extends nearly all the way to the Philippines and incorporate independent nations and lands the United States lays claim to, following the defeat of the Japanese army in World War II. The independent nations are Palau and its neighbors such as Yap, Chuuk (formerly Truk), Kosrae and Pohnpei, self-ruling states within the Federated States of Micronesia.
Prepare to slow down once you arrive. Not all these islands have daily flights from far-flung destinations arriving at its airports. A few of the islands don’t have television, let alone daily newspapers and you may not always have high-speed Internet access. But with all the magnificent beauty surrounding you and the calming, relaxing vibes washing over you, you’re not likely to complain. With the distinctive and myriad diving attractions on each island, it’s best to combine visits to a few of them, rather than travel halfway across the Pacific to visit just one.
This is your entry point to the region, which since the Spanish-American War of 1898, has been a U.S. Territory – except for a brief occupation by the Japanese during World War II. You may really want to take off your tank and stay a while here, as you can meander through wrecks, dive a blue hole and enjoy the unique culture and food of the Chamorros, the island’s original inhabitants.
This intricate maze of lush, limestone islands west of Guam was first made famous for its underwater treasures in the 1990s IMAX film, “The Living Sea.” And for the diversity of dives, this country easily matches with any other on the planet. If you want wrecks to explore, take your pick of heaps of sunken World War II Japanese planes and ships, which can be dived and snorkeled. If you’re into pelagics, you’ll find plenty here, from sharks to eagle rays. Drift dives? No problem. Head to Peleliu Express, attach a reef hook on a piece of dead coral and then watch the big fish traffic push on past. How about a blue hole with incredible drop-offs? Palau has that, too, with the magnificent Blue Corner. For something totally different, try a cave dive at Chandelier Cave.
On the surface, the principal city of Koror has a well-maintained cultural museum of Micronesian artifacts and a lively mix of Micronesian, Filipino, Chinese and Japanese influences. Adventurers won’t be able to resist a kayaking excursion through the limestone islands, or snorkeling in a lagoon with millions of non-stinging jellyfish. You’ll also want to take home a signature “storyboard,” a hand-carved work of art by a local artisan.
Here on this tiny pebble of an island east of Palau, if you don’t see manta rays here, you’re diving with your eyes closed. Life has few guarantees, but you’re as sure to see manta rays – perhaps on every dive – as the sun rising each morning. In fact, there are so many mantas here, at least one resort’s dive shop has catalogued and named them based on the distinctive markings on their underbellies. Sharks also populate the waters and there are channels and reefs to explore. On land, Yapese culture thrives. Venture out of Colonia, the main town, to a village, where you’ll walk along a stone path, past enormous taro plants to an area where men, women and children perform traditional dances in their colorful non-Western attire.
It’s both the easternmost part of Micronesia and the world’s World War II wreck capital, which until recently was known as “Truk.” You won’t find a greater number of sunken Japanese World War II vessels anywhere else on Earth than there are ringing this island, especially in and around Chuuk Lagoon. The U.S. Armed Forces turned the tide in its war against the Japanese by laying waste to vessels here, during Operation Hailstone and today, you can dive into this history. With repetitive dives at depths beyond conventional recreational limits, it’s a good idea to take specialty courses to earn the necessary certifications and learn which operators here may supply mixed gases and rebreathers. Chuuk also offers a newly developed shark dive.
Scuba Travel Ventures offers packages at great resorts and berths on live-aboards throughout Micronesia. Inquire with us about diving and resorts on two other less-visited Micronesian islands, Kosrae and Pohnpei.