Scuba diving inChuuk Lagoon
- Remote and legendary lagoon in the midsts of the Pacific Ocean
- Home to the world’s highest concentration of WWII wrecks
- Discover an array of munitions on the Million Dollar Wreck
- Dive the Fujikawa Maru, Nippo Maru, and Rio de Janeiro Maru
- Encounter blacktips, whitetips, grey reef sharks and silvertips
Chuuk Lagoon is a tranquil tropical atoll hiding a rather more merciless past. Within the calm, protected waters of the beautiful barrier reef, lies the highest concentration of WWII wrecks found anywhere on the planet. Home to upwards of 50 individual vessels, many bursting with military cargo and paraphernalia, descending beneath the surface here is guaranteed to give you goosebumps. And, unlike some rival wreck-diving meccas, many of Chuuk Lagoon’s rusted relics lie within advanced recreational depths – allowing a variety of experienced underwater explorers to get a glimpse of this iconic ghost fleet.
Wreck diving in Chuuk Lagoon
Schooling reef fishYear round
Healthy coralsYear round
Encircled by an extensive barrier reef, the natural protection of Chuuk Lagoon provided the perfect naval base for Japanese forces during the Second World War. But, in February 1944, a two-day air assault by allied forces resulted in the sinking of over 50 vessels and 250 aircraft, creating the planet's greatest concentration of WWII wrecks. Understandably, this destination has since garnered near legendary status, but it was Jacques Cousteau’s 1969 documentary, "Lagoon of Lost Ships", that first cemented its reputation as the Pacific’s premier wreck diving destination.
Today, some 80 years after their sinking, upwards of 50 coral-covered wrecks sit silently beneath the lagoon, beckoning underwater explorers from far and wide. And, many of these fascinating, flooded museums are relatively shallow, offering plenty of interest for both recreational and technical divers. In fact, some wrecks can even be snorkelled!
The 117-metre San Francisco Maru is one of the most famous wrecks in Chuuk Lagoon and is often referred to as the Million Dollar Wreck due to its immense, and unquestionably costly cargo. This Japanese cargo ship sits upright at a maximum depth of around 62-metres and its holds are filled with mines, ammunition, aircraft bombs, torpedoes, depth charges, and several tanks positioned on the deck. Fujikawa Maru is an equally impressive wreck situated at shallower depths, ranging between 12 and 35-metres. Measuring 132-metres long, this vessel features four open holds where an array of artefacts, including incomplete Mitsubishi Zero fighter planes, can be discovered.
Ranging between 25 and 50-metres, the Nippo Maru wreck straddles the realms of recreational and technical exploration, but the twin-barrel anti-aircraft gun, three Howitzers, and a Japanese battle tank make it a must for suitably certified divers. Other exceptional wrecks on offer in Chuuk Lagoon include the Betty Bomber and the I-169 Shinohara submarine, as well as Shinkoku Maru, Rio de Janeiro Maru, Heian Maru, and many more.
Coral reef diving in Chuuk Lagoon
While the WWII wrecks are undoubtedly what draws divers to this remote atoll, the warm, tropical waters play host to far more than metal. Over 300 varieties of hard and soft corals grow around Chuuk Lagoon, and the outer barrier reef comprises a ring of rolling coral mountains before dropping off into the abyss. In the lagoon’s northeast, the aptly named Shark Island harbours a cleaning station for reef sharks, while a plummeting wall known as Pizion Reef in the atoll’s southeast provides yet more incredible shark encounters.
Beginner to technical
Year-round, October - April
10 - 50+
10 - 30m
27 - 30°C
- A small museum located on Weno provides plenty of interesting context around the wrecks of Chuuk Lagoon.
- Clearing immigration in Guam can take a while, so leave plenty of time between your flights.
About Chuuk Lagoon
Chuuk Lagoon lies within Chuuk State, a group of small islands and atolls in the midsts of the Pacific Ocean. Located roughly halfway between the Philippines and Hawaii, Chuuk is one of four states that form the Federated States of Micronesia. Meaning ‘high mountains’ in the local language, the country’s name nods to the towering peaks that dominate many of these islands, whereas the common alternative, Truk, originated as a simple mispronunciation. Today, it is common to see Chuuk used to describe the state and its land, while Truk Lagoon is still widely used in reference to the scuba diving destination.
Chuuk includes several remote island groups – including the Mortlock Islands, the Hall Islands, Namonuito Atoll, and Pattiw – but the vast majority of its population and tourism centres around the iconic lagoon. Formed by a large coral atoll with a circumference of around 225-kilometres, Chuuk Lagoon encircles eleven mangrove-fringed islands which are split into two groups, the Faichuuk Islands and the Namoneas Islands. It is here that visitors will find the state’s capital city of Weno, situated on an island of the same name.
During WWII, Japanese forces utilised the protection of Chuuk’s sizable barrier reef to create a naval base, anchoring boats within the lagoon and building airstrips on the islands. In February 1944, the United States launched Operation Hailstorm – a multi-day air attack on Chuuk Lagoon that destroyed 50 ships and over 250 planes. 25 years later, Jacques Cousteau and his team explored this lagoon in search of the ghostly fleet, detailing their discoveries in a documentary and establishing Chuuk Atoll as a bucket-list dive destination forever.
The simplest way to reach Chuuk Atoll is to fly through the US island territory of Guam. Direct flights can be found to Guam from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Hawaii. Therefore, visitors travelling from elsewhere will need to transit through one of these destinations enroute to Guam, and may also need to pass through other international travel hubs first, depending on their point of origin. Flights from Guam to Chuuk typically operate in the morning and run several times a week. The trip lasts around two hours and touches down in Weno, which is located within the lagoon.
To help people get around the lagoon, ferry services operate daily between the islands of Weno and Tonoas, with additional services on weekends incorporating Udot and Fefan.
Where to stay
Weno is the main island in Chuuk Lagoon and is home to both the capital city and the majority of the region’s population. Here you will find their country’s airport and a few hotels, shops, and restaurants establishments. While there are also a few dive resorts scattered around Chuuk Lagoon’s islands, most dedicated divers consider a liveaboard the easiest and most efficient way to explore the region’s wrecks. Liveaboard diving itineraries last between one to two weeks and typically embark and disembark in Weno.
As a tropical destination, Chuuk Atoll enjoys fairly consistent temperatures throughout the year, ranging between 25-30°C on land and around 27-30°C in the water. Northeast trade winds blow from November through April, causing choppy surface conditions and stronger waves, before the doldrums take over around May. From around July through to October, moist southerly winds increase humidity and can produce the most rainfall. That said, visitors should be prepared for intense sunshine interrupted by short bursts of precipitation at any time of year.
When it comes to diving, Chuuk Lagoon can be enjoyed year-round. There is little in the way of current in the lagoon, though visibility can vary – reaching 30-metres on a good day but dropping to just 10-metres at times. It’s worth noting that the main liveaboard season in Chuuk Lagoon is October through April, with many vessels spending the rest of the year in Bikini Atoll.