CHUUK: Rated E, For Everyone

By Tarrant Dunford

“This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun… We’re all gonna have so much (bleep!) fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our (bleep!) smiles!” — Clark Griswold, National Lampoon’s Vacation

Do you feel like Clark?

You are trying to plan your next family vacation or dive trip. Unfortunately, you are having a tough time finding a spot where everyone in the group will have fun. Well, I have the spot for you…Chuuk! Before you ask:

  • Do we have enough training?
  • Is there enough variety?
  • Are conditions good enough for us?

…read this all the way through. Chuuk is not just for the “hardened, badass, tech diver.” It is for everyone! Even those of you that do not particularly enjoy wrecks, but prefer corals and wildlife. The wrecks of Chuuk have been underwater for almost 75 years. They are bursting with wildlife.

Why should you believe me, someone, who grew up diving in the cold, dark, low visibility quarries of Virginia in the United States? Living in Chuuk now as a dive guide for Truk Lagoon Dive Center, I have taken countless divers out from the Truk Stop Hotel. These divers vary in training levels ranging from having just finished their Open Water class, to Nitrox, Trimix, and rebreather technical divers. Even Junior Open Water Divers. Everyone loved their dives!

Our certification levels vary from open water to instructor and everything in between

I grew up in a family of five, me being the baby of the family. We are all certified scuba divers. Our certification levels vary from open water to instructor and everything in between. Like our certifications, our interests underwater are just as widespread. Ranging from shallow reefs full of fish and wildlife to deep wrecks that end with decompression and brushing the rust off of your wetsuit/drysuit.

If all of them were to hop onto a plane and come and visit me for a week here in Chuuk, Lord have mercy on the flight crew! But, we could easily dive all week, seeing what we like, and be able to all dive together!

The wrecks that my family and I could do without much difficulty in Chuuk are: Shinkoku Maru, Heian Maru, Fujikawa Maru, Rio De Janeiro Maru, Yamagiri Maru, Kiyosumi Maru, Gosei Maru, Hoyo Maru, Kensho Maru, The Emily, and The Betty Bomber. Let’s break it down by family member.

My loving mother

My mom has skipped many family dive trips off the coast of North Carolina for three simple reasons:

  • It is too cold.
  • It is too deep.
  • She does NOT like wrecks!

She likes warm water, shallow water (about 18 m/60 ft or so deep), and lots of colors and lots of fish. Ther Emily and The Betty Bomber are going to be perfect for her because of their shallow depth and they are surrounded by coral reefs.

She is the conservative diver of the group. Divers like my mom prefer their dives shallow in depth and deep in visuals. Their preferred style of diving may cause them or others to think that this area of the world is not for them. This could not be further from the truth.

There is beauty both inside and outside of the wrecks. With a myriad of colors coming from the fish, corals, sponges and the wreck itself with its varying degrees of decay. My mom would enjoy any of the above wrecks for many reasons. One of which of course being because she is my mother.

Next up is my sister

She is a bit timid and hates small areas while diving, such as the confined space of a school bus with all its seats removed. She also gets seasick when the waves are about 2 m/6 ft high. This caused her to sit out a dive on a trip to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands last year.

While a bit hesitant or second-guessing in the beginning, she would regret not joining. Luckily wrecks like Heian, Yamagiri, Kiyosumi, and Rio de Janeiro have huge wide open cargo holds that a bus could turn around in! Some have so much ambient light that dive lights seem to be unneeded.

On a bad day the waves within the lagoon are about 1 m/3 ft. There is no need to let fear or seasickness be a reason to turn down the chance to come and see these breathtaking sites. Plus, we have Dramamine.

Now we have my brother

My brother began studying marine biology in college and later pursued his master’s in environmental science. He is the most environmentally conscious member of the family. My brother enjoys looking at fish, large animals and the insides of a wreck. Since he doesn’t get to dive often due to a busy life, his skills are a bit rusty (pun intended).

My brother represents the type of diver who likes to ID fish but also has not set up his own gear in a while. The wrecks here in Chuuk offer a wide arrangement of skill levels from the “it has been awhile diver,” to the “I dive on a daily basis.” All are welcome.

Divers can come across resident zebra sharks, marble rays, large schools of jacks and even see spotted eagle rays. The Fujikawa and Shinkoku Maru would be the ones that this kind of diver would enjoy. Whether you are like my brother and really enjoy looking at fish during your dive, or more like me and would rather see them on your plate, you will love every minute and every turn of the wrecks here in the lagoon.

Now it is Dad’s turn

My dad is the reason that all of us are certified. He achieved the rank of Assistant Instructor while in college. Over the years his dives have become a little more spaced out than he would like. He is the kind of diver who most dive guides love to have. The kind that is just happy being underwater, scuba diving.

Throw him in a quarry, on a reef or inside a wreck. The man is going to be happy even if he literally sees nothing. That being said, he does enjoy wrecks the most and has instilled that love into our family. So I can place him on the less-visited wrecks like the Hoyo Maru and Gosei Maru and he would love them.

Divers like my father are typically the hardest to read underwater. This is because it is difficult to see their excitement. However, when they surface they go on and on about the dive, and typically loved every minute of it.

And then there is me

I am last up, and honestly, Chuuk is my kind of divers paradise. I love wreck diving and technical diving but hate the crowds that some places have on its sites. To me, the best dives are the ones that have rust in them. I proudly represent the dive nerds. I love learning about anything diving related and diving sites that are full of history.

Chuuk has wrecks that can easily handle multiple divers without feeling like you are at the state fair bumping into everyone. The history is so rich and real that you can feel it reach out and grab you! Both emotionally and physically.

I have been diving these wrecks since the beginning of 2018 and there are times that they still stop me mid-fin kick. Ones in particular are the Kensho Maru, Shinkoku Maru and the Heian Maru. These wrecks have spots that will make you forget to breathe. Even if a member of your group has been here before, do not leave them out. They will probably be the biggest advocates for returning.

In short, it does not really matter what kind of diving your customers, dive club members, or family are into. From history and dive nerds, to fish know-it-alls, everyone is going to find something that they love about the diving here in Chuuk. Now, it may not be as crazy as the Griswold Family Vacations, but it will definitely be as memorable.

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