From the minute I first laid eyes on Kosrae, I was entranced. Emerald green mountains shooting out of turquoise waters and a barrier reef encompassing the whole island looked more like something from a Pixar movie than a real place. White beaches falling into the reef that drops off into deep blue are like a dream. Walking down the road feels like the jungle is hugging you the whole way, leaves from banana trees and palm trees create a tunnel guiding you around the island.
I fell deeply in love with the beauty of Kosrae, but it took me quite a while to adjust to the culture. Coming off of half a year living in Ecuador and the Galapagos, where people are outgoing and have an insatiable sense of adventure, the social scene (or lack there of) in Kosrae felt dead. Everyone on island is incredibly kind—I was always greeted with smiling faces and warm welcomes, but in regards to the hiking and diving scene, there isn’t a whole lot happening amongst locals.
For some, this is a turn off, but for me it was a dream come true. Every dive I went on in Kosrae, it was like I had the whole Pacific Ocean to myself. I think the biggest group I ever went out with was 8 or 10 divers total. Only once throughout my whole year did we run into another dive boat.
Kosrae is a quiet island—“the island of the sleeping lady” as the locals call her, with the central mountain range creating a silhouette of a sleeping lady overlooking Lelu Harbor. On land, it is generally pretty mellow around the whole island, it really does suit its nickname; underwater, the energy is much of the same. For me, coming into Kosrae as a relatively new diver who was hungry to log a bunch of dives and improve my skills, this was perfect.
With only a handful of other divers in the water, it gave me tons of hours to work on my skills basically one on one with the dive master who I became close with over the course of the year. It also gave me the opportunity to really get to know the underwater environment—I got to know each dive site intimately and soon, underneath the waves felt more like home than anywhere else in the Pacific. I was diving with Pacific Treelodge Resort almost every weekend. Mark, the owner of the resort with his wife, Maria, knew that I was hoping to become a Dive Master one day, so he had me training all year in preparation for taking on that role.
Underwater in Kosrae is just as beautiful as being on land—if not more so. The hard coral populations are unlike anywhere else in the world. They are home to all colors of the rainbow and teeming with fish. At my favorite dive site, there is a shark nursery that is home to anywhere between 5-25 baby black tip reef sharks that are there to greet you on almost every dive! Again, coming from Galapagos, where on a normal dive, you’re surrounded by schools of 40+ sharks, this seems like a small number, but to me it felt more intimate, and let me really come into my own under the sea.
As a young female diver in who was excited and hungry to improve my diving and log as many hours underwater as possible, Kosrae was the perfect place for me. In other aspects of life, Kosrae was not the ideal for an outgoing 22-year-old female. I found myself itching to push the limits on gender boundaries in Kosraen culture—a lot. Gender roles are pretty strict in Kosraen culture, and as tourists moving through the Pacific Islands, specifically throughout the FSM, the roles of women as home keepers might be a common theme. However, as tourists coming in for diving or surfing, cultural roles can be easily observed from island to island, but there isn’t really any pressure on tourists to conform.
As someone looking for an intimate diving community to improve dive skills and really get to know the ocean, Kosrae was was a dream come true. For anyone looking for pristine coral reefs and an ocean to yourself, get off the beaten path and check out the Kosrae.