Diving in Micronesia (via Hawaii)
If you get married in the Bahamas, that can’t really be your honeymoon at the same time. I think there’s actually a rule against it. For that reason, we planned a three week diving trip to Micronesia. I’ll explain where it is later. Oh – and this was also over “the millennium”.
Once we figured out where it was, we had to figure out how to get there. Flights leave from Hawaii a few days a week, and given we were traveling on frequent flyer tickets, that meant a layover in Oahu on the way there and Maui on the way back. First world problems 🙂
Other than visiting with one of my besties and getting a tour of a nuclear submarine, our favorite part of Oahu was the North Shore. We watched the surf at Pipeline, ate shrimp from Giovanni’s Shrimp Shack, and picked up an authentic Hawaiian shirt for Andy.
Andy had never been to Hawaii, and I’d never been to Kauai, so we used one of our “layover” days for a day trip. We absolutely loved Princeville, and Haena (you know, as in “Puff the magic dragon, lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Haenalee.”). We did the helicopter tour right when we got there, which was a great way to scope everything out – never flown inside a volcano before!
Layover complete, we were finally on our way to Micronesia. We took the Continental island hopper, which is a 10 hour flight that stops at just about every island along the way. Some of the islands we stopped at were about the size of aircraft carriers. We had the exit row the entire way, and got out to stretch our legs when we were able to (weren’t allowed off at Johnston or Kwajelein – the place where they aim the missiles at from Vandenberg AFB). Gotta give Continental credit though, the flights were smooth and every single one was on time.
Chuuk (a.k.a. Truk) was the most remote place we’d been to thus far. During this trip, the farther East we traveled, the more remote it got. Having no idea what to do, and being a little scared by the chaos at the airport, we followed a group of confident looking divers. Turns out they had been there before, were from Augusta Georgia, and were headed to the same place we were. The drive to the hotel was an adventure – the one “road” on the island was full of pot holes and our transportation had no shock absorbers. We were very pleased when we passed through the barbed-wire fence of the Blue Lagoon Beach Resort (a.k.a. Truk Continental Hotel). Supposedly there is “strife among the locals” in Chuuk, but since there was no reason to leave the resort, this wasn’t a problem. Our room had a lovely ocean view, tv and purified water, and a family of kittens living on the balcony. Every night we had leftover sashimi wrapped up for them. The food was surprisingly good. We weren’t expecting five-star dining, but for such a remote locale they did well with what they had. The diving was amazing – Truk Lagoon (the Graveyard of the Pacific from Operation Hailstorm in World War II) is chock full of wrecks and it we had the place to ourselves. The group from GA went off on their own, which left Andy and I with our own divemaster and boat for the entire time – perfect! Our divemaster would show us a schematic of the wreck, then take us inside for the guided tour (bones, dishware, tanks, weaponry, skulls). Very very cool and unlike no other place on earth.
To get from Chuuk to Yap, we had to overnight in Guam. The flight schedule is pretty messed up – the flights only operate a few days a week, and they leave Guam at 5am (which means getting to the airport at 3am). With this in mind, we got a room at the Mai’Ana Hotel, which is basically in the Guam airport, and ordered delivery from Pizza Hut ($35 pizza!). When we arrived in Yap, we were greeted at the airport by a representative from the Pathways Resort. She gave us an “orientation” on the way to the hotel, but it was 6am so we just wanted to get to the hotel and nap. She did make sure to note that women cover their legs above the knees and frequently go topless (gotta love a society that hides the thighs and bears the boobs!).
The Pathways is a charming hotel – thatched bungalows perched on a hillside. There are only two other hotel options in Yap, and if we had it to do all over again, we’d probably stay at the Pathways. Yap reminded us of something that you see in National Geographic, but sprinkled with things from the west like SPAM.
We dove the Mil Channel everyday – we were there to see mantas so there was no reason to go to other dive sites. The dives were unusual – you go to the bottom (about 50-60 feet), hide behind coral heads, and wait quietly. The mantas come out of nowhere and they are huge! Like 15″ wing spans! Several times there were a few mantas doing that motion where they open their mouths and feed by swimming in circles – VERY cool. We quickly formed a group with other travelers, and before you knew it there were 14 of us everywhere we went. We got along best with a couple from Australia – they were staying on the other side of the island and, since they had a car, took us on a tour. There was another couple from New Jersey (Continental employees), and a couple from The Hague. There was also an awesome couple from Hawaii – they retired, bought round-the-world tickets, and have been traveling ever since. We all went out for New Year’s Eve and had a fancy dinner at Trader’s Ridge (new resort that just opened), and then went to the local party (where they counted from one to one-hundred, then sang “Feliz Navidad” at midnight. O…K…
The flight from Yap to Palau was easy. We asked the hotel in Yap to reconfirm our flight. They looked at us quizzically and said, “when you hear the plane, you should go to the airport”.
Flying in to Palau we had a fantastic view of the mushroom-shaped limestone islands. We stayed at the Carolines Resort – thatched bungalows on a hillside, with beach and pool privileges at the Palau Pacific Resort. We dove everyday at the Blue Wall, which is an unusual dive where you hook in to the coral using a reef hook (I know, sounds damaging, but it is the preferred method and required here). You just float there, flying in the very strong current and watch the creatures fly by. You name it, we saw it – it was like the Living Seas IMAX movie. For lunch, they’d take us to some deserted island for a picnic. Palau was unreal and we would definitely go back if we get the opportunity (it’s a hoof to get out there!).
In Maui, we stayed at the Hyatt, which is an awesome resort and very luxurious (a good use of points). Being in a resort was a bit overwhelming after Micronesia, so we headed for Hana (as in the 8 hour road to Hana). We drove out in the afternoon, which was great because we missed the morning traffic (all the guidebooks say leave by 8am, so everyone does). And the whole 8 hour thing is a lie – we made it in 3.5 flat (“Honey, don’t you want to stop and look at the black sand beach?” “We’ll stop on the way back – we’re making great time!”). The drive was worth it – and staying in Hana overnight without the daily crowds was perfect. Would definitely go back for more than a day.