Dive Instructor Stan Bow went overseas to the rust capital of the diving world, Chuuk or Truk last year on tour with St George Underwater Centre. Here is his story:
At some time most divers will have the thought cross their mind what it would be like to dive on or in a sunken ship. Some will say immediately “no thanks” and that will be as far as it goes. But there will be others at the opposite end of the scale that will become devotees of the rust. For those and all the other divers in between that harbour a little curiosity Truk Lagoon is nirvana.
Although I fall into the middle category of diver, my curiosity has had the better of me on more than one occasion and as a consequence I have made the long trip to that isolated spot in the middle of the Pacific which lies just seven degrees above the equator.
The official name for Truk is in fact Chuuk, and is a member state of the Federated States of Micronesia. It has had a long history of colonisation too long in fact to be discussed here.
But on February 17th 1944, just after sunrise American aircraft attacked what was then the largest Japanese Fleet anchorage outside of Japan. ‘Operation Hailstorm’ had begun. Throughout that day and into the next the American pilots dropped 400 tons of bombs and torpedoes and sent over sixty ships and their crews to the bottom of the Lagoon.
Seventy years later these same ships lie at peace. Today their battle scared hulls are covered with marine growth which softens their shape and provides a floral tribute to those who died.
For today’s diver what this place offers is an opportunity visit a truly remote part of the Pacific and quite literally touch history and observe and marvel at the transformation of the ships, their cargoes and weapons into a marine wonderland of colour, beautiful corals and all manner of fish species.
Although the majority of the dives could not be considered shallow, the guides at the Blue Lagoon Resort are considerate of all levels of diver skill, ability and comfort when conducting the dives. So at the very least a diver with an Advanced certification and say a Deep or Wreck Certification, will have plenty of exciting diving on offer.
Mark and I travelled with six former fire service friends and colleagues. For most it was their first visit to Truk. We had nine days of diving with 18 dives planned with a complimentary 19th included. But due to some excellent negotiating on the part of our Leader Mark, 21 dives were completed, with no additional cost.
Although this was my third visit to Truk it was my first time at the Blue Lagoon Resort. This resort is set in a beautifully maintained coconut plantation. The accommodation although getting old is clean and very comfortable and the dive centre was less than a minutes’ walk from our rooms. The food was good and very reasonably priced, with some judicious planning the cost of alcohol can be kept low also.
Truk is very much a diver’s paradise it offers very little to a non-diver. Diving tourism is pretty much the only thing that brings people to Truk. So if you are feeling a little curious, as mentioned earlier with a lust for rust. Don’t deny yourself go! But do travel with a group, it’s more fun, it provides dive buddies you know, and good company to share the experience. YES I would go back again, just ask!!
Last week we shared a post for those divers who had questions about taking your first overseas dive trip and we got a great response through email and FaceBook about wanting to learn about the “hidden” costs of travel. Travel is of course, not cheap but when you take a dive tour through St George Underwater Centre we lay it all out, crystal clear. Sure, the package you pay is not the exact amount you will end up paying, but here are some of the things some people don’t consider when they plan a holiday.
Food & Drinks
9 times out of 10 your dive holiday will not include meals and it should be advised that you are the captain of your nutritional ship. This is the most common question we get when we plan a trip overseas and one that can really change depending on where you go or the currency they request.
Most of our dive trips include breakfast in some form and each location
Most dive trips will be within walking distance to shops, restaurants and eating facilities and your tour guide will be able to give you some ideas. Most of our trips we have dinners together as a group – its a nice way to meet new people and form great friendships. Most people like to try different foods while they are away and your dive tour guide should help you with finding a great local experience or restaurant while you are away. If you are traveling alone, ask your dive tour guide or hotel for ideas on how to find a great restaurant to try. Drinks and alcohol will significantly increase the cost of your trip away and as a rule of thumb, its important to remember to not drink in excess while diving frequently. Never drink between dives and most importantly, when you crack open your first drink of the day, that’s when diving ends for the day too.
We normally recommend around $300-500 in personal spending money depending on the length of the trip and the location. Places such as Vanuatu and Vietnam, $300 is normal expectation to spend on food and drinks for around 5 days. Places such as Palau, where you can pay quite alot and in USD we recommend around $500+ for your food and drink bills. It honestly depends on the amount of food you eat and how much booze you drink – please use this as a guide and ask your tour guide if you are unsure.
Going overseas on a dive trip doesn’t mean you have to dive every second of every day. If you are new to a country, why not explore the area and see new things? Activities and things to try and do in another country will differ in price and you should consult the person you are travelling with. We normally arrange for some cultural activities on our trips but some can be additional in price. We always say to take a tour and take it with a local – they can offer you insights into different things and share personal stories with you rather than someone who is not from the area. Do you research before your travel to get an idea of how much to take, but it’s safe to say an additional $200.00 with you for sight seeing and recreational activities is a safe bet. Some places will charge more, so speak to your tour leader for more information.
Going to Palau or Micronesia? You will need a dive permit.
These are non-negotiable and you need to have it with you at all times. These change in price and are normally purchased on arrival at your dive store.
These permits allow for diving on protected areas and the price you pay normally goes back into preservation and maintaining the area. They are issued by the local Government and diving without them will result in massive fines if you are caught. Dive tour operators will not allow you to dive without your permit. People often don’t like the idea of paying for these permits, but as tour guides we have seen these used to improve areas such as the stairway to Jellyfish Lake in Palau, and so we are happy to pay to improve the area and allow for it to be safe for future trips.
Factor in around $100+ to pay for these permits – this cost is not included in your trip.
Most countries, tipping is not required and as Australians it really isn’t something we are familiar with. But take a trip to Micronesia and you’re on American soil and tipping is the way it goes.
Each country has a different way of tipping, but as a rule of thumb 10-15% of the total bill is a normal tip and if your service has been brilliant a tip of 20% is seen as a representation of your great time. Tipping is used for any service – eating out, having a massage, a tour guide, your taxi driver. Tipping can easily dip into your travel spending so keep it in mind if you are going to a country where tipping is the norm.
Planning your own trip? Going through a travel agent? Coming on one of our tours?
Find out about transfers from the air port and back again: do you need a taxi? Do you need to hire a bus?
Every location is different and it pays for peace of mind to arrange a transfer before you arrive. When you’ve been on a long flight and you’re tired, finding someone to take you to your accommodation can be hard: language barriers and bartering can be the last thing you want to deal with!
All of our tours at St George Underwater Centre include transfers so you don’t have to worry about additional fees to get to and from locations. Most hotels will provide transport but some will ask a fee or tip, depending on location. It pays to have cash in the local currency on hand in case these things happen.
Currency Conversion & ATM fees
Going overseas means payment in a foreign currency: and you will pay to change. It often pays to look into the exchange rate prior to your trip and when you notice a drop, buy where you can. It helps to have a bit of cash with you before you arrive in case you are required to pay for your VISA (some countries ask you to pay on arrival, some allow for purchase before hand) or if you need to hire a TAXI to the resort. You can always exchange at an air port but remember you will pay more for the convenience of their services for being at the air port.
Taking money out of the ATM is a great idea if you hate carrying cash but just remember each bank treats this service different: you may be charged a withdrawal fee PLUS an exchange fee. Always check with your bank prior to leaving the country and at the same time notify your bank that you are going overseas so they are aware of pending O/S transactions and no ‘fraud’ pings come their way!
In some countries you will come out ahead with currency conversion but other you will be behind: US Dollar is commonly accepted and preferred as a method of payment and these exchange rates drop and rise all the time.
Visa & Departure Taxes
As we mentioned earlier, many countries require you to pay to enter and to exit their soil and these are paid in local currency and in cash only.
Your travel guide will notify you of the fee for entry and exit, and it is important to have the correct amount ready and in the local denomination only.
These fees can be from anywhere from $20-50 but can be as cheap as $2.50.
Arrival into some countries require a VISA and some places require you to organise this prior to arrival. USA and their territories requires an ESTA which is applied for online and costs around $15.00 for 2 years. Places like Papua New Guinea also require paperwork to be completed prior and can take a number of weeks to be processed. It pays to be prepared and find out more from your tour guide.
Don’t have your own gear?
In our Part One we spoke about the cost of hire gear and this is important to factor in as most times you will not have this included in the cost of your trip. Expect to pay between $20-$120 a day to hire your gear (depending on what you hire) although most places will give you a special rate. We recommend taking hire gear with you from a dive store such as St George Underwater Centre where you know the gear is in good condition and has been serviced regularly.
We spoke about this in our part one of the series and it something alot of people forget to factor in to a trip.
It’s important and you need it – don’t skimp on cheap insurance.
Got anything to add?
We would love to hear what you think!
St George Underwater Centre Travel Guides
- Part One -
How to pick your first dive holiday
Travelling with diving is something you just have to experience to understand. You have a chance to experience a new world in a new place that snorkeling or boat trips just cannot provide. Perhaps you have traveled yourself before or maybe you are looking to dive on your next holiday – either way, when you team diving with your next adventure you are guaranteed to have the best time.
For those who travel frequently, or those who have never set foot on a diving holiday, there are always questions or advice you are looking for. We’ve decided to put all of these together to give you the best advice we can give.
St George Underwater Centre travels overseas with our dive expeditions between 3-9 times per year. We take our dive trips seriously (fun) and we know what to look for and what you should expect. A St George Underwater Centre trip is full of diving, laughter, good friends and even better food and drink. We love hanging out after a dive, love exploring the area above and below the water and we always love making friends with locals in whatever place we travel to. This guide is part of a new series featuring our experiences and advice to new and experienced travellers who are taking part in overseas dive travel.
How to pick your first dive holiday
Dive holidays can be scary: a new place, new skills, new experiences. But, they can also be some of the best holidays you will ever have!
Diving in a new environment is awesome but there are a few things you need to consider.
Where do you want to go?
It seems obvious, but with so many places to travel in the world, you really should think about the type of diving you want to experience. Talking with other divers is a great place to start: ask where they have gone and what they thought! Speaking with our team is a great start too, we travel frequently and have all the gossip on the trendiest places to go right now.
What do I want to do?
Are you looking to dive-dive-dive-sleep-eat-dive-dive-dive? Or are the type of person who will dive one day, explore the next & relax on the beach with a cocktail? There are different kinds of dive trips and you need to think about what you want to do.
Most dive holidays will have a set amount of dives includes, which normally have 2-3 dives per day.
If you are looking to dive all day, then perhaps places like Chuuk Lagoon, or Palau are for you. Or if you are looking for a relaxing holiday with some diving along side, places like Vanuatu and Vietnam may be just up your alley.
Budget – How much will it cost?
This is one of the most important things to consider when planning a holiday or going on a tour.
Diving with a group through a dive centre is one of the best ways to travel. You will have a tour leader, everything will be organised and all you really need is a passport, certification and lots of fun energy! It can be a great way to travel but also a nice way to start dive travel if you have not done any prior.
Dive holidays overseas tend to start from $1200 – and can skyrocket depending on where you go, what time of year and the operator. Sometimes that price doesn’t include food, sometimes it excludes diving. The best thing to set a budget and speak with our friendly dive team on 02 9502 2221.
Many packages offered by dive store allow for payments over a certain period – almost like a laybuy. Just remember to confirm the deposit amount and pay in full by the set date to be able to secure your flights. Most trips must be paid for 8 weeks prior, sometimes earlier.
Do I need travel insurance?
At the time of booking your trip and paying your deposit, it is highly advised that you take our Travel Insurance with a reputable insurer. Your travel guide may offer you a suggested agent to use based on experience and cover. If you do not take our travel insurance, you are risking the chance of loss of personal goods, no health cover if injured overseas and a variety of other concerns. On all of our trips, travel insurance is highly suggested. Insurance normally starts at around $100.
What is important to look for in insurance?
Does the insurance provider cover the loss of dive equipment and personal items? Think about the cost of your equipment or what you will be taking with you. Most policies should have a coverage of $3000.00 for personal goods if you are on a dive holiday. If you have a camera or other technologies, it is highly suggest to have them covered in addition. This will incur additional charges but is important for peace of mind.
Other things to consider are the level and amount of health cover if you are injured on the tour, if the policy includes cover for travel delays or cancellation and if your policy includes hire vehicle cover (if appropriate).
Travel insurance is important and we highly suggest speaking with us if you have any questions.
Am I qualified to dive here?
New diver? You will find that most overseas travel destinations require you to have an Advanced Open Water or equivalent qualification. The reason being is you may be required to dive off a boat, dive below 18m and have experience for using equipment such as a safety sausage. If you are a new diver, or just looking for somewhere to have some easy, fun diving, ask your dive tour guide for advice before booking.
Some trips overseas can include an opportunity to complete the dives of your course overseas while on your dive trip. We recommend being confident with your diving before taking the step into your next course. For more information, give us a call on 02 9502 2221.
What equipment will I need?
Going to a tropical island but don’t have your own gear? Your dive tour leader should give you this information but always ask! Most dive stores will have equipment for you to hire but you should ask your tour leader to pre-book your hire equipment for you to avoid disappointment. In some locations however, you will need to hire your equipment or take your own from here in Australia.
You should never, ever have to take weights & tanks with you overseas. If you tour guide tells you to do this, reconsider who you are booking with! Aviation laws rarely permit to transport of SCUBA cylinders without prior consent or checking and the carrying of weights will severely reduce your travel allowance!
It is important to remember that you have no opportunity to check your hire equipment prior to arrival, and so sometimes it is highly suggested to take pre-hired equipment from a local dive store to avoid arriving to broken, un-serviced or non-maintained equipment.
Remember, hiring equipment is most likely not included in the price of your holiday. Ask your tour leader for the rates of hire to ensure you are not surprised at a big bill on arrival. At St George Underwater Centre we offer discounted hire for the time of your trip.
If you do hire prior to arrival, remember to take our Travel Insurance so that if anything happens to the gear you have hired, you are covered.
Most dive tours include the use of SCUBA tanks and weights in their packages, but make sure to ask before booking.
What do I need to do prior?
Every trip will have something you need to consider, and with every location different and specific, here are some things to consider:
- Is my passport valid and does is have 6 months remaining?
- Do I need to apply for a VISA for entry and exit from the country or stop-over countries?
- Do I need to get any vaccinations or medicines prior to travel?
The most important thing to consider when travel is the reason: what is you want from your trip?
Taking with an experienced dive tour guide or any of our team is great way to start the travel bug and get some ideas for your next or first dive holiday.
Look out for our next post in the series where we will share some tips about packing for your overseas holiday!
Just a few short weeks ago, a crew of our divers headed across the seas to take a splash over yonder to diver paradise….Chuuk, or as many say, Truk Lagoon. Home of the wreck divers dream, our team enjoyed beautiful wrecks, lovely (but rainy) weather and a host of underwater wildlife.
One of our crew, Stan, took the plunge and had lots of fun with the sharkies! Stan shared this video on our Club facebook page (are you a member?) along with a few other great vids! At our September club night Stan shared his story with us along with some wonderful photographs. Next time you see him for a dive, ask him about his adventures!
Keep your eyes out for more stories from our trip to Chuuk, coming soon to our website!
Available free of charge, as a firmware update, on all Shearwater Petrels! This new Nitrox mode is clearer and easier to use than ever before. Perfect for Air and Nitrox diving, the new mode offers optional safety stops, obvious warnings and plenty of customization. When you are ready, the Petrel still has its industry leading Trimix and Rebreather modes to take your diving to the next level.
While the Petrel has always done Air and Nitrox diving, this new mode has been designed specifically for recreational diving with big clear text and an uncluttered display.
Feeling the chill?
Combat the cool waters with a hot deal: half price off our great range of undervests!
Grab an undervest from St George Underwater Centre for 50% off until the 20th of July. Store stock only. No holds or layby. No further discounts. Includes Probe and Scubapro brands.
Get ready for a week of SALES and SPECIALS here at St George Underwater Centre.
Each day, a new special! Stock is limited, so make sure you check out FACEBOOK page!
To buy, give us a call on 02 9502 2221 or send us an email to email@example.com
SALES START MONDAY
There are no holds, no layby and the only way to secure your items is to pay in full!
SO get ready…..keep checking out Facebook page for our DAILY SPECIALS!
DIVE THE GREAT WHITE SHARKS!
MAY – 15th -19th 2014
Join St George Underwater Centre as we go face to face with Great White Sharks in South Australia.
Taking a four day adventure with Rodney Fox, prepare for seals and sharks as we explore this beautiful area of Australia.
Package includes your meals, accommodation and dives aboard the Rodney Fox Princess.
- Swim with sea lions at Hopkins Island
- Surface cage diving
- Ocean floor cage diving
- Tender boat of Neptune Island seal colony
- Great White and Seal Education session
- Use of tanks and weights on board
- Shared cabin accommodation
- Meals, soft drinks and snacks
Price excludes flights and travel to Port Lincoln, spending monies, travel insurance, gear hire, additional drinks, meals and alcohol.
Click through to see more pictures from Rodney Fox…
With a new look, you can now find The Deco Diary online and accessible anywhere you go! Keep up to date with what is happening at the store, find out about new products and even get some updates on our courses.
In issues to come, expect reviews and more features: and you can become involved too!
We are calling out for reviews on Dive Equipment, Trips, Dive holidays….you name it! If your story is published, you will receive 5 air fills! Easy!
The Deco Diary is a monthly online magazine that you can find through our website, through email or through our online publisher. We would love to hear your thoughts and hope to see you for a dive soon…you never know…you may get in magazine yourself!
Take a look at the magazine above (you can zoom in, enlarge to whole screen) and share with your dive buddies!
Caitlin and the Crew