Dive Micronesia first. I still recommend to new divers or those that have NOT traveled much to go to either Palau, Yap, or Chuuk Lagoon. (Chuuk is ships with reefs on them) first. HOWEVER, as your diving experiences expand you'll soon realize that there is an amazing variety of marine life that cannot be found in Micronesia anywhere.
Philippines Second: In addition to the diving in Micronesia there are destinations that might seem off the beaten path (Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia) BUT they offer some truly incredible diving and traveling experiences. The Philippines is close, easy to get to, and VERY inexpensive compared to anywhere in Micronesia.
Everywhere else third. Although Micronesia and the Philippines are great diving there are other areas in the western pacific that offer some very specialized (and equally spectacular) diving. Bali and Lembeh Straits in Indonesia, Layang Layang and Sipidan in Malaysia and New Guinea.
I guess what I'm saying is that if you're out here for a while please recognize that you are in the middle of the "arena" of countries and islands that everyone else in the world drools over. Go there it if you can cause' you'll never forget it.
OK...If Guam is so good why should you go anywhere else while you are here?
REASON #1: I have previously said Guam is about 80% better than most places. But, and this is huge, quite a few of the very top dive destinations in the world are within easy reach of Guam. We are very spoiled here and have very easy air connections to all of these areas.
-In less than three hours you can be at Palau, Yap, Chuuk . In less than 4 hours you can be in the Philippines.
-In less than 6 hours you can be in Australia, Pohnpei, Kosrae and Malaysia.
REASON #2: You're special and in the <1% club. You're a diver or snorkeler or you wouldn't be looking at this. This means you already have tried something (scuba) that 99.875% of the world wouldn't think of trying. Why not experience the best diving and snorkeling you'll probably ever do? It's all in our backyard.
REASON #3: It's really inexpensive (ok..it's cheap) when compared to what others pay to travel to these same areas. Palau, Yap, Chuuk and the Philippines can be visited for 3 days of diving, hotels and some meals included, for less than $700. I haven't included air because you can use miles or take advantage of airline packages through ITSA Gateways travel. United and Philippine airlines both have them.
My evaluations: Here's a quick breakdown of each area. I've tried to skip a lot of hype and give you some overall pros and cons of each place. Remember, any of these destinations offer much better diving than we have here. You can click on the links to see instant play videos of each area to give you an idea of what's there.
FIRST TIME TRAVELER TIP: Dive Palau, Chuuk, or Yap first. Everybody loves big animal and pretty reefs. Then dive the Philippines. If you're a wreck/reef diver go to Chuuk. Read on.
PALAU: Pros: Big animals right in front of you, very good reefs, lot's of diversity in diving. Free dives at the dock. Walls, caverns, tunnels and the stunning rock islands. This is the most popular destination from Guam and it should be. Many land tours and kayaking for kids and your non diving significant other.
Cons: Don't go if you have less than 5 dives after your dive class. Yes, you can still go and dive, but you'll enjoy it much more if you have a little more experience. Make a few drift dives before you go. Sometimes way too many dive boats at the same locations. Avoid late November through April because it's high and peak rate season and tons of divers. Palau is getting more and more expensive and the impact on the reef from so many divers is obvious. The government fees and permits alone are between $125-180 per person. This is the equivalent of a full day of diving at most places, and a full day of divng and your resort room in the Philippines.
YAP: Pros: World famous for manta diving, particularly during the mating season from Feb-May. All dives are very easy to do there. Good to excellent reefs, lots of sharks, and the culture is unique to Micronesia. The shark dive is the BEST in Micronesia .The Mnuw schooner / restaurant / bar...one of a kind. Very shallow diving and now even snorkeling with the Mantas. Southern reefs comparable with many other destinations. Many land tours and kayaking for kids and your non diving significant other.
Cons: Flight are very limited there, lower vis on the manta dives most of the time. Yap can be a pricey but there are some very good packages available. Make sure and time your visitfor the morning high tides. They bring in clear water.
CHUUK (TRUK) LAGOON Pros: The #1 dive destination in the world for wreck divers. Most of the wrecks also have an enormous amount of coral and marine life on them. Easy dives, most are between 25-90ft. WW2 history. No currents.
The myth about Truk is that it's deep and mysterious. Pure nonsense. You don't have to be wreck certified. They now have a couple of good reefs inside the lagoon that have an abundance of sharks, and you can even snorkel with them.
Cons: Don't dive the outer walls. There's better places to do this. no night life whatsoever except at the hotels. Don't walk around town after dark.
PHILIPPINES This statement is absolutely true: After you've been to another destination in Micronesia, the Philippines will show you what you missed!
Pros: There are so many dive areas here that it would take the rest of the page to list them. Easy to get to, flights every day, no visa required. Prices are very low compared to other areas for the same # of days diving, etc. , more bang for your buck. Abundant marine life, many more species not found in Micronesia, superb reefs, great macro and little critter photography, different cultures and people. Go here after you've been to Palau or Yap. Whale sharks at Dumaguete are always there and an incredible experience.
Cons: Few big animals (except Malapascua, Tubataha, and the Oslob (Dumaguete) Whale Sharks) Different currency, airport taxes are irritating but not expensive.
AUSTRALIA Pros: Good diving for those relatively new to diving that haven't been to other destinations in Micronesia or Philippines. A great variety of fun land tours. Aussies are great.
Cons: No matter what the hype (and it's very good) you hear about the barrier reef, diving can be disappointing for experienced divers. There are better places to go if you're just going for the diving. Long boat trips. Expensive diving.
POHNPEI Pros: Relatively few people dive here but they can experience some very good diving. Mantas, big animals, Nan Modal village, Pohnpei culture, waterfalls. Beautiful island to explore. A great get away alternative for a quiet vacation.
KOSRAE Pros: Very, very few divers go there. Superb hard coral reefs. Easy diving. Mangrove kayaking, waterfalls, culture. Beautiful island to explore. Great for a family trip.
Cons: Don't do more than 2 days of diving, the reefs tend to look the same. Two flights to get there. Bring a raincoat. It rains almost every day. Plan not to dive on Sundays.