Diving Guam

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Guam, USA

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Country: USA  Area: United States (Unincorporated Territory)

Water Temp: 28 - 30°C (82 - 86°F)

Visibility: 10 - 50m (33 - 164 ft)

Depth Range: 10 - 40m (33 - 131 ft)

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Guam is the largest island in the Mariana chain of islands within Micronesia. West of Hawaii, Guam also saw plenty of action during WW II. Guam was subjected to years of Japanese occupation after being snatched away from the American forces just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbour.

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Ironically, Japanese tourists now flock to the island and are the main revenue source for the territory. Equally ironic perhaps, is that the second biggest source of revenue for Guam's inhabitants are the sizeable U.S. Armed Force and Naval Bases located on the island.

The climate, the culture, the beaches, and of course, the diverse and spectacular diving draws visitors to Guam from around the world. While the occasional typhoon does sweep through, the climate is generally pleasant and disaster-free. The mean temperature is around 28 degrees, and pretty much every day, there is a sheltered site somewhere well worth a dive.

Raccoon butterflyfish, Credit

Marine Conservation

Sea turtle populations were devastated by the harvesting of eggs that was common until the 1950s. Fortunately, the 1970s brought a degree of enlightenment and both the Green Sea Turtle and the Hawksbill Sea Turtle became protected species. Aerial surveys, and regular monitoring and recording of nests and hatchlings are helping to save the turtles that remain. Tumon Bay was once dredged by the hotels in the area, thinking that this would provide a better beach experience for their guests. Thankfully, the practice was halted, and most of Tumon Bay today has been designated as a protected marine area.

Whitetip Reef Shark, Credit

Climate

Diving is possible at some place pretty much every day of the year. There are two seasons, the wet and the dry. The driest months are between December and June. Guam is situated in a part of the Pacific known as Typhoon Alley, and during the wet season (late summer, early fall) there is a risk of serious storm activity. That said, most wet weather passes by in a matter of hours, and many dive sites are relatively sheltered. The trade winds blow through continuously, and the temperatures are usually in the mid-twenties.

 
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The Diving

Guam has got it all. Whether it is a wall dive, ship wreck, shallow reef or deep blue cavern that floats your boat, Guam will not disappoint. There are more than 60 sites to choose from, the majority lie less than a half an hour away from shore. Shore diving sites are plentiful as well, and for advanced divers in search of big and plentiful pelagics, nearby Cocos Island offers some awesome drift dive opportunities.

Yellowfin goatfish, Credit

Hundreds of hotels line popular Tumon Bay. However offshore much of the northern ocean acreage is a Marine Protected Area. Several excellent dive sites lie in the Tumon area. Gun Beach is a popular shore dive, with plenty of healthy coral (Guam is home to over 200 varieties of the stuff!) turtles, reef fish and even Manta Rays can be spotted a little ways out. Tumon Bay boat dives will get you a little further from the crowds, and closer to the fish. The visibility is usually between 20 and 30 metres. Colourful hard corals are home to equally colourful reef fish including Parrots, Triggers, Angels and many others. Paranoid puffers may try to hide, but don't be surprised if you find you and your buddy stalked by a Batfish or ten!

To the west of the island is Apra Harbour, home to many more magnificent spots, and several WWII wrecks. It's near here you will find the famed Blue Hole. This is probably Guam's most famous dive, and for good reason. “Blue Holes” exist in many areas of the planet and can be defined as underwater sinkholes or vertical caves. This one starts at around 18m and goes all the way down to 90m. However, there is an exit around 40m. Experienced and deep water certified divers can “shoot the hole” and exit at the 40m mark. Keep your eyes peeled as you exit for big Triggerfish, Unicorns and schools of tuna. Moray eels hide in the crevices on your way down.

Blacktip Reef Shark, Credit

Also in the Apra area are many shipwrecks. The Tokai Maru, a Japanese freighter is well worth a visit. It's possible to take a tour of the Tokai and then head over to the SMS Cormoran. She was a German merchant raider who fell to the ocean floor in 1917 also at the hands of the American forces. Two wrecks from two different wars, all on one dive. Hard to beat, and definitely deserves a check off on your scuba diving bucket list. The Kitsugawa Maru, Val Bomber and numerous barges also lie in the vicinity, and are well worth a look.

11 Mile Reef is around 11 miles from shore off Agat Marina. This can be a challenging dive with rough seas topside and strong currents sucking at you once you get below. The massive Barracudas, turtles, sharks and other big beady-eyed beasts make it worthwhile. Most shops will only accept Advanced Open Water divers that have already demonstrated their skills at easier sites on the island, on trips to 11 Mile Reef.

Yellow-spotted trevally, Credit

Cocos Island is a short ride from Guam and offers dramatic drift dives. Cocos East is also known as the “Yellow Wall” and hard corals are here in abundance. It's also the perfect place to spot big pelagics that are passing by in crystal clear water. Sharks, rays, tuna, jacks and much more make regular appearances. The currents are swift, so keep an eye on your depth gauge, know which direction you are drifting, and be sure that your computer is working correctly! Another spot that is best-suited for advanced divers only.

Cocos West is another drift dive on the opposite side of the island. A sloping wall drops off into the deep blue around 30m. Unlike Cocos East, you'll see lots of soft corals on this side of the island. Cardinalfish, snappers, tuna and barracudas all call Cocos West home. Massive Manta Rays sometimes fly by to say hi, or stop for a cleaning courtesy of the local wrasse colonies. Keep one eye open and looking up for Mantas silently circling overhead! Lots of current, so be sure and stow a safety sausage, if you want to get picked up after you surface.

Blue Starfish, Credit

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How to Get there

International flights arrive at Guam - Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport (GUM) from cities around the world. Guam is also a jumping off point to more remote islands in the Micronesia, including Yap, Saipan, and others. Car rentals are available at the airport, or take a taxi to your hotel. Most resorts are happy top arrange for transfers between their properties and the airport. The fare and length of time required to reach your destination will depend on which part of the island you decide to stay on.

Too Inviting, Credit

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Where to Eat & Drink

There are hundreds of places to dine on Guam, from low-budget food trucks, to blow the budget gourmet gluttony. The many Japanese tourists who visit the island mean excellent sushi bars abound. They may not be your cheapest option, but the quality of the seafood available, combined with the skills of the Japanese-trained Chefs ensure an unforgettable meal.

BBQ and burger stands are local favourites, and indigenous Chamorro delicacies are worth a go. Kelaguen is similar to a ceviche. Seafood, chicken or beef is marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, fresh coconut, chili, and other ingredients and often served over rice or in a warm flour or corn tortilla.

Food! Credit

Nightclubs and bars can be found on the main beaches, Tumon in particular is packed with eating, drinking, and entertainment spots. Karaoke bars are popular with Asian, American, and European tourists looking to let off a little steam after a day of diving. The sake and songs continue long into the wee hours of the night!

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Other Activities

Opportunities abound to explore desolate, divine stretches of sandy beach all over the island. Rent a car or arrange for a taxi. Public buses are available in many areas. Deep-sea fishing is a favourite past time for locals and tourists alike. High-end boutiques offering designer names are numerous, as are local markets selling hand-crafted artisan's works.

There are sunset cruises when you need to sit back and relax, and skydiving adventures to give you that adrenaline fix you know you need. Spas and wellness services are available at most of the high-end hotels. The Guam Zoo is a private property that is home to hundreds of island critters, big and small.

A resort in Guam, Credit

Family Friendly

Underwater World offer the whole family, divers, and non-divers, a chance to get up close to sharks, rays and hundreds of species of reef critters. Stroll through the tunnels that wind their way under an awesome aquatic complex. Hungry? There are special gourmet dinners available that allow you to enjoy a meal in a tunnel dining area while an underwater light show (and the tanks inhabitants) entertain and delight.

Playing Golf, Credit

The Magic Rocks Theatre comes highly recommended. It is a family-friendly magic show that is suitable for children of all ages. The Guam Beach and Culture Park is an amusement park that focuses on the unique Chamorro culture. A traditional village has been recreated, and local craftspeople weave coconut leaves, and encourage you to join with them in song and dance. Located in Tumon, close to many hotels and other attractions. 

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Tips

Guam is a very safe destination, and the diving truly is superb. A wide variety of sites around the island ensure that every day of the year there will be at least one site that is enjoying calm conditions and great visibility. Tech-divers can reach extreme new depths, while newbies can enjoy easy beach dives. You will hear Japanese almost as often as you hear English in the hotels, shops and restaurants! The local Chamorro people, the army and navy base residents and the many international tourists make Guam a unique island dive destination.

Flowers & a butterfly, Credit

As anywhere, keep your valuables locked in your hotel safe or leave them at home. One danger that has cost several tourists their lives is the strong currents that exist just over the reef barriers where the waves break. Inside Tumon and other bays, the water is crystal clear and very calm. However swim out to where the reef drops off and you can easily be sucked out to sea. Always snorkel with a buddy, and never lose sight of shore!

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