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Quick trip report: Chuuk Odyssey; Pohnpei/Village

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We're just back from a couple weeks of travel: a week in Chuuk on the Odyssey, a few days in Pohnpei at the Village Hotel, and a final weekend in Honolulu at the Hawaii Water Sports Expo (for my wife's beads, http://www.JujeeBeads.com).


A longer trip report with pictures will follow, but I wanted to write something now, since I know at least one other guy out there is on the way to Pohnpei.


Sorry, as well, to be cross posting this if you've seen it elsewhere, but I got help from many forums and wanted to pay all back equally. Plus I know that at least one guy from this forum is headed to Pohnpei soon and others were interested.




Chuuk and the Odyssey:


The Good: More like, the Outstanding. The diving was beyond our expectations, the boat was excellent, the crew was a lot of fun. Midweek, my wife was talking about when we should book the boat again. The vis was good, the wrecks were great, sea life was great from large to small, from jacks, sharks, eagle rays to nudibranchs.


The Bad: Nothing.


The Ugly: there are still signs of dynamite fishing, and other dive operations aren't using moorings, the damage to the wrecks is obvious and ongoing. Dynamite fishing is one thing, there are lots of locals not benefitting from tourist money and they have to eat, but it's really a shame to see dive boats from the other operators pulling parts off the Fujikawa Maru with grappling hooks. Yes, I have pictures of it.




Pohnpei and the Village Hotel:


The Good: Again, Outstanding. It's a beautiful island, with seemingly good infrastructure, it seemed friendly and safe. The Village Hotel is beautiful, the food was excellent. They brought in a fresh tuna every day, I had tuna for breakfast lunch and dinner. Diving was excellent: I've never seen so much fragile, branching hard coral, clearly, diver pressure is low. We did see mantas, and also wonderful wide angle scenics, and even lots of nudibranchs. Sharks, too.


The Bad: Nothing.


The Ugly: some con artist tricked the Pohnpei Airport into buying luggage carts that only hold one bag and then tip over. Skip them. Carry your bags, no matter how heavy they are. An airport is where a country makes its first impression, Pohnpei's is clean and likable, on the water, with a great view of Sokehs Rock. I was fully prepared to like the island from the outset. But then your luggage takes a dive, your camera bag goes rolling, and you think, ah, the governor's idiot nephew must work here....


The Be-Aware-Of: the Village's cabins are the real deal, real thatched roof bungalows. We loved it, but I'm not sure my Mom would last long before heading for the Marriott. Also, diving is out of small boats, as in many operations. If you have a camera, bring a soft cooler or something to keep it in, there isn't a camera table and rinse tank. The diving day is relaxed, with a start at around 9:30, rides of varying lengths, a relaxed lunch with some snorkeling... a day with only 2 dives can take until 3 or 4PM. Everyone was quite accommodating, though, and I imagine a schedule could be worked out that would give you an earlier start and a shorter day, with time for 4 dives or an afternoon trip to town, maybe a day spent on the closer reefs. Don't skip the snorkeling or lunch, though. Both are excellent. My favorite lunch was the tuna sandwich, a fresh tuna steak on great bread with so much mayo that you made your own fresh tuna salad as you ate it; the bento box (more like a bento bag) was also great: tuna, rice, a hardboiled egg, some portugese sausage in a banana leaf.




Honolulu/Waikiki and the Hawaii Water Sports Expo


The Good: decent water pressure in the shower at the Ala Moana Hotel.


The Bad: The Expo Show Floor was quieter than our hotel room. I'd put attendance in the low hundreds, a few percent of the promoter's estimated 15,000. Apologists made excuses for the promoter and his first attempt, but I won't, it just cost us us too much in time and money, and the gap between his estimates and actual attendance was much, much, much too vast. Those who pulled out were much smarter than us. We should have realized that a population as small as Oahu's could not support an expo worth attending. We should have pulled out when we realized the promoter had scheduled it for superbowl weekend. We should have gone to the beach, rather than the show, when we saw the lack of signage and traffic at the convention center. It's tough to accept that 2 days of standing around an empty convention center cost us as much as a week on the Odyssey, not to mention many days of time, and the risk of shipping my wife's entire inventory.


The Ugly: Been to Waikiki? It seemed overgrown and commercial to us, having just come from thatched roofs and mosquito netting, but then, I think that Waikiki would seem overgrown and commercial compared to, say, Manhattan.


If you ever do need some privacy and peace and quiet in Waikiki, try the convention center.




Most of our flying was on Continental, on the Island Hopper: A long flight from Honolulu to Maduro, then short hops to Kwajalein, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuck, then ending at Guam. And vice versa. Baggage inspections were normal and more or less thorough, carryons were normal, it's a regular plane, a 737. The nice thing about it, compared to the more direct route through Guam, is that we flew during the day and never really got jettlagged or stuck an a redeye. It does mean adding a day to your vacation, but there is something to be said for less jetlag. We'd do it again.



Photography: A series of factors caused me to finally decide to move past my aging 5050, more on this in my longer report (yes, this is the short one). I've always liked olympus and their Four Thirds system optics. My rig was an Oly E1 (yes, 2.5 year old technology) and the 7-14 lens. Tio was kind enough to rent me his housing and 8" dome, and I added my pair of Ike DS125s and EV controllers. All I can say is Wow.


More to come. For once, I will actually sort my pictures quickly. My photo library is 41GB, after culling, and I have to get some room back on my laptop.

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You like tuna Roger!?! ;D


Great mini report, glad to hear you like Micronesia

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Sounds like you had a great time. I'm going to Chuuk the middle of March staying at the TrukStop Hotel the first week and on the Thorfinn the second week. Do you have any thoughts/comments on these two? Any other information you think I should know would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.



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We ran into people who had been on the thorfin, and saw the trukstop and have friends who stayed there a few years ago. People were happy with both. Unlike the Odyssey, you get to choose (democratically) where the skiffs will take you every day. You might want to take a soft cooler to take care of your own camera, I don't know what the skiffs will have, and I like protecting my own gear in my own bag, just in case, I want to be responsible for my own floods and damage.


I heard that the food at the trukstop was good, but we were very happy with the food at the blue lagoon (we stayed there on either end of the odyssey trip.


The odyssey may be the best accomodations in truk, it has been rodales best livaboard of the year a few times, it's about as good as a boat can get. The blue lagoon hotel is probably second best room in truk, thorfin and truk stop probably tied for third. Haven't been to those two myself, so I can't really say. I only say this in case the thorfin or truk stop turn out to be unacceptable (unlikely) so you have the blue lagoon as a backup option.


I'd be happy to go with you to show you around if you need help. carry your bags, whatever.


Water was a steady 84. I was in long enough to need a 1mm henderson suit and a polartec skull cap. Some around me wore 3mm, some wore shorts.


if you are doing the island hopper, sit on the right side, better island views this time of year.


if you buy any wood carvings, don't buy the ones with the shark teeth in them, I think the sharks should keep them (another diver in the airport said, "I think they just find the teeth"). Yeah. Same place they find the fins.


See if either operation uses moorings or grappling hooks. At least one is using hooks.


eat all the fruit you can, it's excellent. The tangerines look green but are great. The little bananas are like candy, you will never have a banana that good again. I am trying to find the species (apple banana?), hope they will grow in my backyard. Everywhere we went, the odyssey, the other hotels, they had a stalk of the bananas hanging. If they don't have a stalk on the thorfin, give somebody the money to get a stalk when they go into town. All the stores have them hanging in front. Boy, I miss them.



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Here is a follow up to Roger's report from our trip over 29 April/16 May


For our trip to Micronesia we were able to fly direct from Salt Lake

City to Honolulu on Delta where we overnighted, then took Continental's

island hopper flight the next morning. Our first stop was a week in Pohnpei

where our plan was to dive for 4 days then go in land to see the

island. We arrived in Pohnpei on a Saturday afternoon in pouring

rain. The rain was to become the theme for the week as it rained

everyday. Based on other reviews we decided to stay at the Village

Hotel. The staff greeted us at the airport which was nice.


The Village is approximately 7 km out of Kolonia and sits up on a

point. It is a set of 20 or so thatched roof bungalows and is very

environmentally friendly run hotel as all of the materials are from

locally cut and sawed trees. Our room was spacious and very open so

that breezes would pass through. No air conditioning just fans. The

beds (which are waterbeds) are covered by mosquito netting or as my

wife liked to call it " The fairy princess cave." The staff would come by

each evening with fresh towels and turn down netting for the evening.


For the first two days we ate all of our meals at the Village. The

food and the wait staff were excellent. The ladies served breakfast

while the young men served dinner. Breakfast and dinner's were a good

value for the money and always tasty. The lunches which they packed

for each day's diving where a bit sparten for the money. $6.50 got you

a tuna sandwich and an orange. Another $1.50 for a coke. On the third

day we skipped diving and went into town and bought a few groceries to

supplement our lunches. For the third day of diving we bought one

lunch split it between the two of us and then on the last day just

brought our own.


We ate all of our dinners at the Village except one where we went into

town and ate at Japanese's buffet the was a great deal for the



Because the Village is a ways from town they will let you store food

and drinks in their refrigerators. Which is a really good idea as one

night I unknowingly dropped a couple of M&Ms which resulted in a

great ant convention in our room. Fortunately, by morning the goods

were gone so they left.


Now for the diving. We did 8 dives over the 7 days we were there. We

had planned to dive for four days when take a break for three days

before going over to Chuuk for another week of diving. However our

plans got changed when we were informed that a group of 16 people

would be coming in on our second day and that we would have follow

their schedule as they were going to be allocating all of the their

boats to accommodating this group. I asked about at least splitting

the group up so that we would not all be diving the same location at

the same time. He said we could not as he had only one dive-master

(the others were dive guides with just OW certs) and was renting a

boat just to handled the tanks. This was partially true as they did

rent another boat for the tanks but then had "Kenny" who was a dive

instructor from Japan for I believe the Pohnpei Dive Club join us. As

consolation we were asked if there was any particular place we wanted

to dive on our first day because it was going to be just us and three

other divers. I immediately said Ant Atoll. They said it might be

possible but normally they did start going over until mid May when the

seas were calmer. We arrived 29 April.


The next morning we got out to Ant Atoll. We left at 9:30am which is

their standard departure time with just one other diver Simon; from

Hong Kong, Stamp; the dive-master, and a dive guide. The ride out is

about 8 miles of open water and was a bit rough but not bad. The total

boat ride time was 1.5 hours. We did one dive on the inside of the

atoll and the second going from outside back inside the atoll through

the one navigable pass. Both dives were great dives with a nice variety of

pristine coral and sea life including some reef sharks. Coming back we

got caught in a wicked rain squall which reduced visibility to about

100' and the ride was pretty bouncy. The cost was $110 per person.


We decided to see how the group coming was and choose to dive the next

day. This was a mistake. They came in late (2am) from Chuuk and were

rather disorganized. We were ready at 9:30 but we did not leave the dock

until 11am because they were still getting themselves organized. Also

because they were such a large group Simon who we dove with us the day

before could not dive because their boats were full so he was out for

the day which we thought was rather rude because he was not informed

of this until that morning. The other thing that was rude was the

group was passing a cold around and the person who had it got on our

boat one day. Just what my wife and I wanted was the chance of getting

a cold just as we were beginning our trip.


The two dives for the day were on Poahloang and Dawahk Passes. Both

were nice drift dives to the inside of the atoll that surrounds

Pohnpei. Diving in mass was fine until on the second dive when Kenny

the instructor mentioned that on rare occasions Scalloped Hammerhead

sharks had been seen. So naturally, there was a gang bang on the

corner of the passage for 5 minutes before people gave up. We drifted

pass instead to get away.


The next day we skipped diving and went into town and hiked up Sokeh's

Mountain which was several gun placements built by the Japanese during

WWII. It was a nice hike of 3 hours with some great views. We also

visited one of the waterfalls, Kepirohi just outside of Kolonia. It

was okay but nothing spectacular and I was certainly glad that I did

not pay the $5 photo fee. back in town we also found a few stores one

of which sold Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Naturally I bought a six pack which

surprisingly was only $8.50.


For our third day of diving we joined the group again the next day in

hopes that it would be better. We left promptly at 9:30 and headed out

to Manta Road and Mwand Pass. Manta Road though with poor viz 40'

yielded two mantas around the cleaning station. After lunch at the

site of a Japanese Sea-plane Base we dove Mwand Pass which again turn

into a bit of the circle jerk when Kenny decided to turn the drift

around after about 5 minutes to go the other direction. The dives the

with group were $85 per person.


The next day the group had all of the boats and was going to to Nan

Madol early in the morning then doing an afternoon dive. We had had

enough of the group and we had hoped to sea kayak around Nan Mandol

but that was not possible because all of the boats were for the

group. So we decided to go into town and visit the local wood carvers

then rent a car and see Nan Madol on our own by foot and wading. The

local wood carvers do traditional carving of sea animals while the

women doing weavings that utilize coconut leaves, shells, and the

carvings. One carver invited us into his woodshop and was very

friendly. After getting a car at Budget for $45 for 24 hours we headed

out to Nan Madol. The road leading to it is not marked but the locals

were very friendly in guiding us the place. The fee was $4 person as

you cross private property. We walked then wadded to several of the

structures that we built on small islets using columnar basalt. Quite

interesting but the ruins are pretty beaten down. On the way back to

our car we noticed the local family had caught a turtle and had it

hold up. Though illegal to catch it is still done and we figured the

poor guy was going to be dinner that night. Rather sad this was the

only turtle we saw one our trip.


After Nan Madol we visited another water fall, Liduhduhniap which was

truly ideal. We paid $3 each as it is also on private property. There

was still plenty of day light left so we drove around the island. The

drive took about another 1 hour and 20 minutes before we got back to

Kolonia where we had dinner at the Japanese buffet.


The last day of diving the group was gone so it was just us. Yeah. We

started at Areu Wall and then headed back to Manta Road. This day we

went out with just two guides (no dive-master). So the thing about one

dive-master and sending them with divers was smoke. Areu Wall was

great Nudis to Reef Sharks. At Manta Road we did not drift like last

time and just dove down to the cleaning station. Our reward was 11

Mantas several of which were at the cleaning station. We sat our butts down in

the sand and enjoyed the view. The cost for those two dives was $100

rather than $85 because we "only" two people that day. After putting

us with the group on their schedule we did not think much of this.


In summary, the diving is worth the stop especially if you can get to

Ant Atoll. A couple of days of local culture is also worth while.

However, Pohnpei is on map and if I were to do this again I would do

the same except I would check to see if a group scheduled to dive, if

so I would skip it if there is more than 8-10 other divers. Unfortunately

when I made the comment that I wish the staff at the Village would

have told us a head of time of the group so we could at least plan

better they were hesitant do so.


On a side - the dive guides who have just an OW cert. told us that

they learned to dive when an instructor came through and The Village

exchanged dive classes for a room and meals. The guides seemed vey

interesting in obtaining more formal dive training. So any instructors

out there might inquire about this.


Next stop was Chuuk. We arrived on a Saturday and boarded the Odyssey

Sunday at 5pm. Because we had all day Sunday and were already over any

jet lag (one advantage of overnighting in Honolulu and doing the

Pohnpei stop) we decided to dive that day with Blue Lagoon. We

requested a local wreck and to go out to Shark Island. Our dive guide

said no problem. So we dove the Yamagiri which is probably one the

better wrecks in terms of growth and things to see. But the highlight

that day was really seeing Shark Island. Even before we got in the

water a few sharks showed up (habitated by some other people feeding

which is totally unnecessary). By the time we reached the cleaning

station there was around 14 white and black tip reef sharks

around. The cleaning station was really cool as the sharks would come

in flare out, hover, and slowly sink as the wrasse went about their

job. We watched for approximately 15 minutes while 4 sharks got

cleaned. A big thanks to Tim Rock for providing the information on

Shark Island.


That evening we boarded the Odyssey. Not much can be said about the

Odyssey and Truk Lagoon as it deserves every bit of the reputation it

has. All very positive. We did 20 dives on 13 different wrecks over

the course of six days. The only dive we skipped was their reef dive

where they do a shark feeding for entertainment. Both my wife and I

object to this and prefer to see sharks a natural so we stayed on

board. Others thought the dive was contrived as well while one thought

it was the best dive of the trip.


The diving was very good. With lots of rain the viz at some sites was

not very good. Though the day we dove the San Francisco Maru is was

great. It was especially cool to see a Spotted Eagle Ray sailing by

just as we hit the fore deck.


Perhaps the only non excellent comment we had was that the food was

though very good it was very Americanized. I could have skipped the

steak night and the chili mac for lunch one day. Also though dinner

Saturday is not provided there were plenty of leftovers to dig into

so no one left the boat Saturday night and went into town. Also we

thought it strange the the two instructors/deck crew on board, Nick

and Charlie, both Brits ate with the guests, but the two dive guides,

Kent and Sam, both Chuukees, did not. We were not sure if they did not

like the guest food or because of some sort of crew division. All of

the crew were good.


The flight back on the island hopper was not too bad although two

people who we dove with on Chuuk were denied boarding because they put

too much fuel on board and had cargo to fly. So they were off

loaded. I would have been pissed had this been us.


One other comment as Roger noted the local dive outfits do not use a morning but

anchor to the wrecks whereas the live-a-boards have morning that are 15'-20' under

the water. Even the day we dove the San Fransisco the Odyssey skiff did the same - anchor

to the wreck. I believe this is because if above water mornings were used for the small crafts

there would be even more thefts from the wrecks. So by not having visable mornings it

helps preserves the wrecks. I might be blowing smoke here but this IMHO.

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Photography: A series of factors caused me to finally decide to move past my aging 5050, more on this in my longer report (yes, this is the short one). I've always liked olympus and their Four Thirds system optics. My rig was an Oly E1 (yes, 2.5 year old technology) and the 7-14 lens. Tio was kind enough to rent me his housing and 8" dome, and I added my pair of Ike DS125s and EV controllers. All I can say is Wow.



Have you finally housed your E1?

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No, not yet, I rented the housing for that one trip. The low-light focusing on it is poor, in my opinion, worse than my 5050, which makes the focus-lag, at times, worse than the shutter lag on my 5050. I'm holding off for the E-1's replacement. I hope it has good color and can match the E1, particularly in the blues. If it turns out to be not as good, or insanely expensive, I'll probably try out the 330 or 500, but I'll probably buy a couple of the E1's at $400 and make it work.


I'd also like the E1 to have lower noise at high iso, I'm an ambient light junkie, but the noise doesn't bother me as much as the focus.

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Are you sure about that? Because during topside use, I'm quite sure the E1 focuses a lot faster in low light, less than half the time it takes my 5050 to do so. By the way, do you have a gallery of your E1 underwater shots from the Chuuk and Odyssey? Thanks.



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Yes, I'm certain of the slow focus on the E1. It's even hit me on land. Particularly when you have the 5050 on ESP focus, where it can look for contrast anywhere in the frame, it can be faster than the E1 with its more limited selection areas. The lag of the 5050 rarely frustrates me; the E1 frequently frustrated me. But it was really dark.


No, no gallery yet. My day job keeps me really busy, and I never quite get time to sort through all my shots, and I keep getting out to take more. I'm not going to turn down a dive trip just because my hard drive is full. Someday, I swear...

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