Although the name, Micronesia, makes this wide swath of the north Pacific sound like a small state, it stretches across more 3,200 kilometers/2,000 miles of ocean, comprising several different countries and hundreds of islands. Included in the area known as Micronesia are true superstars of the dive world: Palau, Yap, Chuuk and Guam. Palau has been called one of the "Seven Underwater Wonders of the World" and has so many dive sites that belong at the top of your wish list, it's hard to know where to start. You'll find everything from World War II (WWII) wrecks to shark and manta cleaning stations to caverns. A close neighbor to Palau, Yap is one of the world's top places for guaranteed manta ray encounters in Mi'il Channel, along with walls, sharks, and macro wonderlands. Yap also has one of the world's most intact cultures where ancient stone money is still commonly seen. The major hub for Micronesia is Guam, which is littered with both World War I and WWII wrecks, some right on top of the other. And, of course, you need only to be a certified diver for about five minutes before you hear about the wrecks of Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon, all the aftermath of Operation Hailstone. Between dives, Micronesia exudes tropical splendor, with cultural and natural heritage that includes secluded island beaches and explosive sunsets.
When to go:
The wind is milder during July through October, producing flatter seas, although visibility may be slightly reduced by run-off during monsoons.. Water temperatures remain in the very warm year-round. Typhoons are most frequent between August and December, but are rare in Palau.
When to Get the Best Deals:
August to December.
What to Pack:
A full skin or 1/2 to 1 mm wetsuit; sunscreen, mosquito repellent, inflatable signal tube for drift dives, DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 26°C/79°F in winter and 27°C/82°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 27°C/82°F year-round.
US Dollar. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
Included in your airfare.
What to Eat:
A wide variety of international food is available in Micronesia, but be sure to look for local dishes prepared using staple foods, such as taro, yam, breadfruit, banana, coconuts, fish, crabs, shellfish, pig and chicken.
What to Drink:
There are a several fun little bars in the islands, usually very close to dive operations. Palau has its own beer called Red Rooster. Stone Money Brewing makes a micro-brew on Yap. Guam has a couple micro-brewers - Mermaid Tavern and Gril,l and Ishii Brewing Co. making Minagof Pale Ale.
Visit Anguar Island on Palau for WWII artifacts; Cruise the Rock Islands on Palau; Visit a village on Yap; Buy a wooden storyboard from the jail on Palau.
Customs and Culture:
Because Micronesia is so spread out, each island group has unique traditions, customs, arts and handicrafts. Enjoy exploring, but be respectful and dress conservatively when visiting outer villages.
Yap Day Festival, March.
Electricity and Internet:
The supply current is 120 volts and 60 Hz. Internet is somewhat available.
Drink the water?
Water is safe to drink.
English is the official language.
Amazing Marine Life
The giant rays are almost guaranteed in places like Mi'il Channel in Yap, and in German Channel, a cleaning station in Palau.
Hook in at Blue Corner in Palau and grey reef sharks line up right beside you. Silvertips, bulls, occasional hammerheads and other shark species can show up on almost any dive.
Huge aggregations swirl over the reef.
Spotted Eagle Ray:
This dappled cousin of the manta ray can be seen soaring near reefs near open water.
Hawksbill and green turtles can be found swimming in leisurely fashion or napping under ledges on most reefs.
These striking, wildly-patterned macro fish come out just before dusk and mated pairs rise above the reef in an unforgettable dance.
Named for the black chevrons on its silver body, these predatory pelagic fish are often seen on the reefs.
Look for Nemo and his cousins throughout the region.
This yellow butterfly is marked with a large white triangle on each side.
These small schooling fish brighten the reef with pinks and oranges.
Top Dive Spots
Blue Corner, Palau:
A shallow coral shelf projecting into the ocean with vertical walls on both sides, this site hosts schooling reef fish and large pelagic swimmers. Grey reef sharks cruise along the wall that is alive with napoleon wrasse, dogtooth tuna, wahoo, giant grouper, chevron barracuda, pyramid butterflyfish, eagle rays, and turtles. Occasional visitors include hammerhead sharks, manta rays, sailfish, whale sharks, marlin, and whales.
Ulong Channel, Palau:
Watch writhing bait balls and the sharks that soar in to prey on them. The channel is lined on both sides with coral gardens, including stacks of plate corals that shelter glasseye squirrelfish, and soldierfish.
Peleliu Express, Palau:
TFamous for its stunning steep drop-offs, the currents at this site create a nutrient-rich environment which attracts both reef fish and pelagic swimmers. Look for napoleon wrasse, oriental sweetlips, palette surgeonfish, rainbow runners, schooling jacks, snapper, red-toothed triggerfish, anthias, pyramid butterflyfish, sharks, barracuda, Giant groupers, tuna, and manta rays.
Shark City, Palau:
Contoured with sheer vertical walls and canyons, this reef's residents include gray reef sharks, schooling barracuda, snappers, unicorn fish, pyramid butterflyfish, square anthias, moorish idols, napoleon wrasse, spotted eagle rays, yellowtail fusiliers, big-eye trevally and black snappers, as well as the occasional bull shark, silvertip shark, or hammerhead shark.
Eagle's Nest, Yap:
A coral head along this sloping reef serves as a cleaning station for eagle rays, which can be seen circling and waiting their turn. Look for nurse sharks under ledges, as well as turtles. This dive is accessible from June through October.
Fanif Wall, Yap:
Inhabited by white-tip reef sharks, turtles and enormous anemones, this wall boasts an astonishing 45-meter/150-foot visibility. Swim into one of the "blue holes" to explore the remnants of a Japanese Zero that crash-landed in the lagoon.
Mi'il Channel, Yap:
Watch manta rays, as big as 4 meters/14 feet across, line up for a cleaning station. Look for trevally, black snapper, parrotfish, sharks, moray eels, turtles, eagle rays, dolphins and mahimahi.
Blue Hole, Guam:
Located off the Orote Peninsula, this vertical limestone chimney drops more than 18 meters/60 feet, where you can exit and drift up a wall to return to the surface.
Apra Harbor, Guam:
This harbor is dotted with wrecks of both ships (Japanese, German, and American) and planes.
Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon:
A wreck-diver's paradise (and now officially an underwater museum), Chuuk holds the record of the largest collection of World War II wrecks in a single location. Dive on battleships, patrol boats, fuel tankers, bombers, tanks, cargo ships, landing craft, air fighters, submarines, Japanese Zeros, torpedo boats, gunboats and mine sweepers.