Micronesia - Where Mantas are not micro

Half half photo while diving

My biggest fear of coming here was to incidentally find some old Japanese soldier from WW2, somewhere in a jungle hideout and then have to explain that the war is over and he can go back home now. Above and under water a place with many WW2 relics in good condition, almost the same as they were left behind back then 70 years ago.

Micronesia's Chuuk might be more interesting when it comes to wreck diving but, Pohnpei has all the Mantas rays - plenty of them - big black and fat white ones.

May 8 – Finally arriving in Pohnpei after a 26 hours delay

I was supposed to arrive yesterday in Micronesia, but United Airlines canceled the flight and rescheduled it for today.

This morning still in the Marshall Islands, I was looking forward to moving on to the next try to reach Pohnpei, the island with the capital in the Federated States of Micronesia. Unfortunately, the Majuro Airport in the Marshall Islands isn't made of high technology equipment and airconditioning works by wind power. As there is no wifi available at the Marshall Islands airport, the airport ground staff let me use the computer of an employee inside the airport control tower... haha.. nice.. they even allowed to call in Micronesia and arrange Hotel and pickup :)

The whole delay summed up to 26 hours, 26 hours, but it could be worse and I knew the chance that this happens in Oceania is ultimately high. I just hope this is the last time during this trip or else... I will have a BIG PROBLEM as my further flights among those 19 flights in these 5 weeks do not match up anymore.

Stopover in Kosrae, then to Pohnpei
Plane from Marshall Islands lands in Kosrae and then continues to PohnpeiNice view when approaching PohnpeiLots of trees

Micronesia (FSM) the country, and Micronesia the AREA

It took me years to realize that there is an own country called Micronesia (or the Federated States of Micronesia, aka FSM) and that there is an area called Micronesia. For example, Palau is in the area of Micronesia but doesn't belong to the country of Micronesia (obviously as Palau is an own country). Its a three-hour flight from the Marshall Islands to the country Micronesia.

Map of Pohnpei:
Things to see around the island

Arriving in Pohnpei

The United Airline (so-called "Island Hopper") plane comes from Honolulu via small Kwajalein to the Marshall Islands. From there it continues via small Kosrae to big Pohnpei. After arriving this evening in Pohnpei, luckily the hotel staff was already waiting with a car to pick me up and within 15 minutes after leaving the plane I was already in the hotel.

Downtown Kolonia, the biggest city in Pohnpei.
One of the few mainroads in the city center of KoloniaCan get busy during rush hourAdministrative center Kolonia

I didn't want to hurry like I did but it was necessary. It was some minutes before closing time and urgently had to arrange a rental car for tomorrow for driving around Pohnpei.

Now its 21.33pm and just some seconds ago a loud siren was coming from speakers from the city center. First thought was "TSUNAMI" but the hotel reception told me then that in Pohnpei there is a curfew starting every day at 21.30pm and advises people to go home and not doing bullshit.
Micronesian church time

May 9 - Road trip around Pohnpei takes a lot of time

Yesterday evening I arranged a rental car with the reception. It could have been easier, but it was not :( As this week there are different business meetings and events all over Pohnpei, most of the car rentals had no more cars. But no wonder when each car rental company has on average 3 cars on stock. So today morning I was surprised when the car rental owner arrived with an almost brand new Toyota Yaris with good air condition.

There is no shop that sells sunscreen. So thanks to the airport securities in the different countries so far, that they allowed me to take some more of the small sunscreen bottles through the scanners.


WW2 tanks stop me from driving

As there are no more shops or restaurants outside of Kolonia (the busiest part of Pohnpei), it was necessary to stock up with snacks for the day. I knew about the Japanese WW2 tanks which were located in Kolonia and behind some specific hardware shop in a storage area. So had to ask around and finally found out that its located behind a car garage. There are these Japanese WWII tanks all arranged in one row - all on the same location as they were left behind back in 1945.

Japanese Tanks behind the ACE Hardware.
The tanks from the WW2 can be found behind ACE

Asked the store owner and they told me:
“Yes no problem, you can go look behind the building, the tanks are there. Just be careful with the guard dogs”

Just be careful with the guard dogs?

So I asked if they can send me someone with me who keeps the dogs away and I had to search for a guy called the friendly employee "Joster", the facility manager. Joster guided me to the tanks and stood there taking a look if the dogs are appearing, and hopefully if they would have, also kept away from me while jumping into the line.

Don’t want to be bitten by a dog here on a small island far away from everything, while climbing through some 70 years old rusty Japanese tanks. Indeed had better plans for today!

Tanks in good condition 

There are about 10 of those rusty old Japanese tanks. All of them are disarmed of course, but all are in a good condition when considering their age. Once the war has ended, the Japanese forces left them right here, exactly at this point where they are now. They haven’t been moved since then.

One tank to rule them all

Employee "Joster" told me there is another garage up the street and I should take a look there as well, cause they have taken one of these tanks and renovated it, put a Nissan Engine in it and they even can drive around with it.

Of course I went up there, I mean, who wants to miss an opportunity to drive around with a 70-year-old Japanese tank from the WWII?! So up there the tank was there and it completely was re-painted and repaired, all the chains were fixed and even the original machine gun was implemented… really cool. Unfortunately, the owner of the tank didn’t have time to make it run, as also the battery would have needed to be replaced and the tank filled up with fuel.

One road around the island - next stop "Nan Madol"

I spent too much time with the tanks.

I needed to move on the circular island road. Its just one 60 miles main road around the whole Pohnpei, it's not too difficult to navigate. My next destination was a construction of many temples, the so-called "Nan Madol" complex. The sacred temples, from where the Pohnpei ancestors have started inhabiting Pohnpei is located on Temwen island.

Nan Madol has to wait again... its time for the WW2 gun battery first

Map of the area where the battery is located. 4 huge canons can be found at the spot.
Map of the WW2 gun battery in Temwen
On the way to Nan Madol I made a stop at the most famous waterfall in Pohnpei and at another WWII place, where this time there were no WW2 tanks but WW2 cannons. Oh nice, get me there!

There are no signs on the road and no paved roads towards there. I asked some local and luckily it was the owner of the land where the relics are. Just by looking at here I already know what she wanted from me.

Three dollar. Is waking-through-land-fee. Is Normal.

She is the grandma of the family Perez, the owner family of the land. Gave her the "walking-through-her-land-fee” and she pointed me in the right direction, in which I immediately drove with my small 2-wheel drive Toyota Yaris through the muddy forest.

At the end, I needed to walk anyway as there is no more trekking trail to drive in any car. It’s a walk up through the thick forest and at the top there suddenly appear the constructions.

Four huge 15cm naval guns and cannons are placed there, designed to shoot ships and planes. It’s a creepy feeling on that place up there, silent, just some birds and then these cannons with barracks that were used for ammunition. As were the tanks, also these guns were all in a very good condition. Astonishing!

UNESCO complex Nan Madol, I'm coming

Down to Nan Madol now which is located at the shore. There is no entrance sign and no counters, where something needs to be paid. But instead out of nothing suddenly there appearing people on the road and asking to pay the usual “passing-through-their-backyard-fee”, which is always three dollar.

Hello. Please three dollar, its the "passing-through-backyard-fee"

Map of Temwen, where Nan Madol is located
So finally the total of fees to be paid to visit Nan Madol is 1$ parking, 3$ walking-through-their-backyard-fee, and 3$ walking-around-Nan-Madol-fee, which is in total 7$. I knew about this beforehand and it was OK. Not knowing that before, would leave me trying to bargain or trying to avoid paying the fees. But I'm glad I knew beforehand to avoid entrance-fee discussions with these friendly locals. I call it luck that one of my fees to be paid even came with a complimentary 30-second introduction speech to Nan Madol, which assured me that I'm really in Nan Madol.

Many find Nan Madol one of the most fascinating and the worlds most mysterious ancient jungle complex. It's a huge complex and includes many small islands, temples and pools with eels and turtles. Well, I don't know how to respond when someone asks me how I liked it. Probably I would say:

Look, it's nice its special its cool. But... yes.. it's nice you know?!

Surely, making photos from this area with a drone would be much more spectacular. But Im glad locals don't allow drones here.

I run out of time. It was already 3pm and was not yet halfway through the island. The places I wanted to visit took me more time than I expected, also because driving requires a lot of attention through the narrow curvy streets with speed limit of 30-40kmph. The roads bend from left to right and back all the time and it's not possible to see very far, as there is thick jungle everywhere.

No more time - I had to leave behind some important things

To visit all the waterfalls I planned to, didn’t work.

But at least a second waterfall in the south-west of Pohnpei, called the Sahwartik Waterfalls (or the Twin waterfalls). It's difficult to know where to turn right as there are no signs but a lot of trees. GPS gives some direction but is not really accurate. The best information I got from locals walking on the street.

To find the Sahwartik Waterfalls I asked three people and they told me they can show me as they live right next to the waterfall. I offered them to drive them to their village all the way up the hill if they can guide me to the best place to see the falls.

It was about a 10-minute ride up a very steep hill and I'm sure they were happy as well not needed to walk up there :) that’s win-win while traveling :)!

On the way back to Kolonia is the Palikir. All people however told me its nothing special to see there.

May 10 - Where is the friggin constitution day celebration?

Had a few more hours to use the rental car. To extend the use of it I went up ridiculously early - but who cares. Used the small Toyota Yaris to ride up mighty Sokehs Mountain, the main thing to see in Pohnpei.

This huge hill is perhaps the first and most lasting image of Pohnpei one sees when landing at the airport.

Maybe it's on Sokehs Mountain?

Sokehs ridge (or hill/or mountain) holds a strong place in Pohnpeian history and has seen occupancy by the Japenese in World War II. There is a good road running up from the Village, however, it doesn’t matter how good the road condition is, the humidity and heat in direct sunlight make it an uncomfortable hike and a very pleasant ride with an air-conditioned Toyota Yaris :). At the end of the track, however, its too steep to drive with a 2wd and a mild hike up an old and rather steep war trail goes to the top of the plateau.

Once arriving up there, big coastal defense guns and Japanese anti-aircraft gun was a nice reward to look at. Difficult to describe, but former War Zones always leave some kind of an intensely creepy atmosphere.

Unfortunately, also these guns and cannons are disarmed and I was not able to practice my Anti-aircraft gun aiming skills :(.

Constitution day, Constitution day, Constitution day....

Today was also a public holiday in FSM, as it was CONSTITUTION DAY.... yeah! I don't know what exactly this means here, as I wasn’t able to find out what it is. I asked a few people where the celebration and traditional shows were happening in town, but everybody looked strange and asked me with a weird look:

“Constitution day? What is constitution day?”

Well after a few more persons, I finally gave it up and accepted that there is no celebration and no opportunities to make photos of traditional pacific fiestas.


May 11 - Scuba diving @ Manta Road. (wow!)

Dive Spots around Pohnpei Micronesia
Some days ago I already tried to arrange for diving while being in FSM. However, no operator could confirm for sure as it depends a lot on the quickly changing weather and also the minimum amount of divers participating is not given by default. So I was lucky having “Pohnpei Surf Club” taking me out for diving. I asked them if its possible to do the dive spot Manta Road, as this is the best place to see Mantas in FSM and the Manta season this year is still ongoing.

Its USD 160$ for two tank dive with equipment, which is a fair price.

The Manta Road in the northeast of Pohnpei and its famous for its manta ray cleaning station. As the water movement increases, feeding and cruising become a priority for mantas. And when they see food, they go crazy!

It's not the first time I'm on perfect timing for diving with a special fish, like in South Africa with the Tiger Sharks, Belize with the Whale Sharks or Mozambique with Whale Sharks. However, there is NO guarantee to see those creatures, even when being there at the best time of the year!

Black and white Mantas! 

They picked me up at 7am and soon after collecting equipment, we were on the 30 minutes boat ride towards “Manta Point”. In total we were three divers and one guide.

The boat ride was a real scenery watching tour, the unrealistic calm surface of the water this morning and the low tide made this such a pleasant boat ride along Pohnpei. The water was so calm, there was not one wave and then arriving 30 minutes later at the diving spot, the water became so clear, it was possible to see and count the Mantas beneath the water in 15 meters depth.

Time to prepare, mask on, regulator on - let's go diving!

Quick briefing and not much later after descent the first mantas appeared at the manta cleaning station. A few white mantas and a few black mantas circling and looping their way inside the cleaning station for minutes, and then disappeared in the blue. Wow!

The two dives were perfect. With such calm water at the coral reef, the view towards the surface was like a mirror reflecting the corals in it. A bit a confusing and unusual but what a nice view this was from down there up to corals and to the clouds!

Time is up, no more air - time to go surface now :(

Nice corals can be found underwater

Perfect diving in Pohnpei

May 12 - Prepare for Nauru, Nauru I come - hopefully!

Tomorrow, or better said, in the early morning I fly to Nauru. At least I hope I will and that there will be no delay again. The Air Nauru plane will stop in Marshall Island, then stop in Kiribati and finally Nauru. Nauru, the country which became rich with selling dried bird shit (no joke)! Excited to go there as I wanted to go there since many years.

Went on a last stroll through Kolonia and came across some interesting artifacts :). For example this tower, the German Bell tower.
As the name says the Germans built this tower

Or this tank. Perfect to make some large grocery shopping. Unfortunately, it doesn't have wings and so I need a plane to reach Nauru.
Perfect for doing shopping tours


  1. Really enjoyed reading through your adventure here. I have considered traveling here myself but I keep putting it off. I was reading another on of your travel posts when I spotted this one, I just had to read it. Not only have you reawakened my traveler spirit, but I am already looking into costs and when I can plan off from work to go here!

    1. From the US its not so far away, United Airlines is flying a few times per week. But I guess it only will become more expensive every year.

  2. Thanks for the great report and great photos! I am planning a diving trip to Pohnpei. What underwater camera and light setup did you use?

    1. Hi Albert. Thanks for the feedback, appreciate! The camera was a Sony RX100 IV in a Ikelite housing. When you go there don't forget to share your link with photos afterwards.