Dive travel: Destination Micronesia

Although scuba diving provides a great form of exercise and an activity to do while on vacation, for many, it is the core reason for planning a vacation apart from the fitness aspects of it. This tranquil, relaxing and popular sport opens up an entirely new world of travel opportunities to exotic destinations all over the world that might otherwise be overlooked.

In planning a vacation around scuba diving, divers get to know other cultures, countries, peoples and geographies that encompass such pristine destinations as the beautiful and teeming Micronesian islands. Divers travel from all over the world to experience firsthand the vibrant colors of the underwater marine and plant life, the playful dolphins, schools of non-stinging jellyfish and majestic manta rays. Imagine crystal clear water, deep-wreck scuba diving, an abundance of sea life and coral, and year-round water temperatures of 78 to 80 degrees. If you’re a scuba diver, you might already know about the glorious diving of Micronesia.

The Micronesian islands are comprised of 2,000 tiny tropical islands scattered over more than three million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, which are situated north of the equator in the Western Pacific. The distance from one end of Micronesia to the other is 2,040 nautical miles. The islands of Micronesia are the result of volcanic activity that took place millions of years ago, some of which are the tips of huge underwater mountains, and some — the atolls, are the rims of sunken volcano craters, which peak above the blue-green water surrounding, and thus forming serene lagoons. There are eight distinct and unique island groups, each with its own culture, language, history and stunning tropical attractions. These island groups represent Guam, the Republic of Palau, the Marianas, Ponhpei, Yap, Chuuk, the Marshalls and Kosrae. The climate in Micronesia is tropical all year round with very little variation between seasons. The average temperatures year-round range from 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit with 70 percent humidity, depending on the island.

Palau

Divers from all over the world that have visited Micronesia will agree that Palau, which is also known as “the rock islands” is one of the most extraordinary diving spots in the world. Palau’s profuse, unspoiled reefs offer a wealth of marine life, coral formations and wrecks. Dives begin in knee-deep water and plunge straight down to depths of 1,000 feet and more. Blue holes, huge caverns and an immense variety of rare and exotic marine species are breathtaking spectacles in these clear waters with visibility often exceeding over 200 feet. Palau will afford the avid scuba diver with the opportunity to view substantial quantities of large pelagic predators, sharks, dolphins, turtles and many other species of migratory fish not found anywhere else in the world, which gather here at a unique crossroads of three of the world’s major ocean currents. Some of the best wall dive sites include Blue Corner, Ngmelis Drop-off, Blue Hole and Peleliu Corner. Wall dives are often considered to be advanced and can be quite strenuous when major currents are present. Currents here have been known to range from nil to dangerously strong, with four Japanese divers carried away in 1994. Always stay close to the dive master when diving in foreign locations, avoid diving alone and practice regular cardiovascular fitness in order to prevent such a catastrophe. A wonderful way to see the sites above the water in Palau is by kayaking, which provides the sightseer with spectacular views of the rock islands as you paddle past them through the calm, aquamarine waters.

Pohnpei

Pohnpei’s many reefs give divers the opportunity to see a variety of sea life, including large pelagics, reef fish, turtles and manta rays and displays some of the most beautiful coral formations in the world, including the exotic black coral. Pohnpei offers probably the most diverse scenery among the islands of Micronesia and is considered by many to be the most beautiful, and is commonly referred to as the “garden island of Micronesia.” Although mangrove swamps cover most of Pohnpei’s shoreline, artificial beaches have been created and the nearby reef islands have beautiful beaches. Rugged mountain terrain covered with luxuriant forest dominates the interior of the island. Because of the large amount of rainfall that Pohnpei receives, these islands are teeming with rushing and scenic rivers, tranquil fresh-water pools as well as some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Micronesian islands. The island’s highest point, Mt. Nahna Laud, is 2,633 feet high and is thought to be one of the wettest spots in the world with an average annual rainfall in excess of 400 inches. Because of the humid, wet and tropical climate, the jungles are full of blooming flowers, forests are dense and plentiful with trees and palms enticing you in for strenuous hiking on-land. When visiting Pohnpei, you must visit a group of tiny atolls called “ant,” which are one of the best kept secrets of the Pacific Ocean and accessible via boat from Pohnpei.

Truk

Truk is a unique island with advanced diving readily available. Truk lagoon is another of Micronesia’s incredible undersea phenomena. The giant lagoon is almost 40 miles in diameter and reaches depths of 300 feet. Aside from the sheer beauty of the undersea coral reef beneath the clear water, the bottom of Truk lagoon is the final tomb for more than 100 ships, planes and submarines – the legacy of a fierce World War II battle between the Japanese Imperial Fleet and Allied carrier attack planes. This is the world’s most diverse wreck diving where you will see lionfish on the bridge, giant clams on the deck, and bottles of ink and erasers for students of the vanished Japanese Empire still visible in the hold. The wreck diving here is fantastic even without penetration. Expect calm and warm water in the high 80s with very little current.

Yap

Diving is excellent and unexplored in Yap’s clear waters and virgin reefs. Manta Ridge, in Milli Channel, offers divers a unique experience, and you are sure to have clear water except at the entrance of the lagoon where the mantas pass. Schools of manta rays, the graceful, gentle giants of the ocean, regularly feed here, while divers swim freely among them. There are steep coral-covered walls and drop-offs, a wide variety of colorful reef fish and warm water temperatures in the low to mid 80s. As with the other Micronesian islands, when diving, a light exposure suit is recommended such as a skin in order to maintain body temperature at a comfortable level and for protection against abrasions or stinging marine life. Yap may not have the luxury and bright lights of a big island, but the friendly faces, traditional lifestyle and unspoiled beauty make it an unforgettable part of the charm and mystique that is part of the Micronesian experience.

Kosrae

Kosrae is truly the undiscovered Micronesia — still unknown to the commercial world of general tourism. This is a beautiful, unblemished island of peaceful villages and a traditional way of life in a remote setting of tropical beauty. This island supports a rural population of 7,000 islanders who live a simple life and are devoutly religious. Its high volcanic peaks are lush and green, and the island is encircled by a coral fringing reef that is exceptionally healthy and remarkably diversified. Researchers report seeing more than 170 species of stony coral and 10 species of soft coral in Kosrae and just like the other islands of Micronesia provides exceptional diving.

Scuba diving is a way of life that encourages a healthy, active lifestyle and provides a reason to explore the undersea treasures and land adventures that such exotic places as Micronesia have to offer. Not only does scuba diving provide unique escapes as this one, it is one of the best ways to stay physically fit, if done on a regular basis, and will keep you looking healthy, feeling great and refreshed upon returning from your dive vacatio