Travelling to Bikini Atoll is not for anyone who has problems with flying as it takes a total of four flights to get there. We travelled from Heathrow to San Francisco, had a 3 1/2 hour stop over then on to Honolulu all in one day. You can go straight on at this point, we decided to break to journey and had two days in Hololulu, this enabled us to visit Pearl Harbour and look at the sister sub to the USS Apagon which we were to dive, the USS Bowfin, helping with scale etc. Hololulu, as you would expect is great for shopping and eating out, there is lots to see and do, depending on your budget, it also helps to recharge your batteries before you fly on.
On the outward journey you are flying back through time, this includes crossing the date line on the next leg from Hololulu to Majuro in the Marshall Islands. There is a overnight stop here in quite basic accommodation. Make sure you have dollars as you need to pay for a taxi to the hotel. This is also a good place to leave anything you will not need for the onward journey to Bikini. We took and extra bag and left all surplus clothes etc not needed, the weight restriction is quite strict, one of our group was hit for an additional $65. The allowance on the next leg is only 18k, this needs to include all kit, if like me you video then it means taking almost nothing else. Be warned if you are on the small plane they will weight you and all of you luggage, so its no good hiding things in pockets etc... we tried.
I would also mention at this point that our bags had been opened and checked by US Customs on every leg of the trip, this was also true of the return trip. Make sure you have nothing in your hand luggage that could possibly be used as a weapon, on of our party nearly lost a stick torch battery this way. It does add to stress levels as you are continually having to explain equipment in hand luggage and prove how it works. The final leg is the shortest flight, it is broken on the way out at one of the US Military bases where the plane is searched.
All of this makes it seem like a real chore to get there, but boy is it worth it. Landing at Bikini is like something out of a film, its a small runway made out of coral, with a hut for the terminal. From here you travel by landing craft across the lagoon to Bikini Atoll itself. Then its a 10 minute trip by truck to the centre.
Accommodation is very basic, wooden huts with minimum furnishing, there are four room in a block, with a long veranda in front overlooking the lagoon which is about 20' away. Meals are taken in the canteen, all food is prepared fresh each day, everyone eats together at set times, including the dive guides. If you have any special dietary needs please let them know before hand as everything is shipped in. There is always a choice but please do not expect gourmet food, remember why you have gone there and that is to dive.
You go to the dive shop next to sort out cylinders, as you keep the same ones throughout your stay. They have twin 12l, twin 15l and single 15l, bands are moved at this time so the kit fits you. Take any spares you may need as they have a very limited number, don't depend on them.
First dive is that afternoon on the flight deck of the USS Saratogo, what a way to start. Visibility when we went in April was about 25m and dropping with the algae. You dive from a landing craft, which makes things very easy, kiting up as you go out. All cylinders are filled with air, diving ranges from 45m - 55m. You are divided into two groups and taken on guided dives enabling you to see everything.
Before each dive there is an in-depth briefing to orientate you to which wreck you will be diving and the key things to look for. They prefer you to have a mixed gas computer, if you don't then you will be encouraged to hire one, this enables them to build in safety factors as getting you to a recompression chamber is not really an option.
You dive two dives a day, diving the best wrecks in the world, it doesn't matter how seasoned a wreck diver you are, your breath will still be taken away out here, its a combination of the visibility and the sheer size of of them. There is masses of live ordinance here, guns of all shapes and sizes to keep everyone happy. Some of the dives do involve penetration, but it is very controlled. There are also lots of sharks, including some very large ones, who are used to divers and not in the least intimidated by them, which makes for great footage.
The most memorable dives for me were HIJMS Nagato, USS Saratogo and USS Lamson, although it is very difficult to pick a favourite as they are all spectacular. The whole operation is very professionally run and the three guides very knowledgeable. They are always on hand to answer questions. In the evening there is a small cinema which they have built, where you can watch DVD's, there are plenty of books for research and log book details, or you can go for a walk around the atoll and watch the sharks coming in very close to the edge of the lagoon feeding!
Seven days goes by very quickly.
Travelling back we again broke our journey in Honolulu for 2 days, taking a sea plane fight around the Island, a great way to see everything. This also enabled us to recharge after a weeks quite strenuous diving, and to enjoy beautiful Hololulu. I would really recommend Bikini to anyone who loves wrecks as you can't beat it, it has to be the number one wreck diving destination in the world. I will definitely be going back.
By Sue Wiltshire trip in 2004 travel arranged by Scuba Safaris