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Travel to Marshall Islands, April 2008  
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For a lone wheelchair user, planning to travel to the Marshall Islands is a grand undertaking; especially if the goal is to scuba dive. At first glance through the scuba lens, it seems that Kwajalein is the place to go. Upon closer examination though, the complications grew. Kwajalein may be a great dive destination for recreational wreck divers like me, but getting permission is necessary. Maybe this is easier than it sounds but that is only the first obstacle. Being that this place is not a tourist destination, when I investigated accommodations I did not find wheelchair access to be among the services offered at any of the local lodgings. I still wanted to go to the Marshalls though, so the next step was for me to look at where I could find wheelchair accessible accommodations. It seemed to me that the capitol of the Marshalls should have something. What is the capital? Majuro. Sure enough, a few of the hotels there did have web pages. Even better, people in Majuro monitoring the hotel web traffic responded quite promptly to my e-mails.


The next task was to decide which of my options would be most accessible. Again the people at the hotels were quite accommodating in responding to my requests. When I asked (via e-mail) if the bathroom doors were at least twenty eight inches wide, they actually took time to go measure and respond. When I asked about ramps, they took time to go look and respond. I was certainly pleased with them doting on my requests for information; they actually cared about me because I was a potential customer. When I asked about if I would be able to get my wheelchair into the various restaurants, each of the two remaining hotels I was in contact with took time to actually investigate my detailed queries and formulate a comprehensible response. Next came the dive operators. Could the hotel recommend any dive shops? Each of the two remaining hotels soon put me in touch with their dive operators. I was then in direct e-mail contact with two dive operators. One turned out to be leaving for a special trip during the time I wanted to be there, but his first mate would still be running the boat. The other operator was also his own boat Captain. When I asked each of these two operators if their boat could accommodate wheelchair divers, they each assured me that they would make every effort to accommodate me. Being skeptical, I wanted more specific information, so I asked about swim steps. A good thing too because one operator responded that he did have “swim steps” on his boat- he even enclosed digital photos. Unfortunately we were not communicating as well as I’d hoped. The “swim steps” he was referring to were the ladders that able bodied divers climb up, into his boat on. Being an American Handi-Diver, what I meant in my question was the diving platform on the fantail that is an accessory some boats have as an extra accessory. As my Japanese language skills are non-existent as of yet, I take my part of this miscommunication as my responsibility. Since I didn’t feel able to crawl up the ladders shown in the photos, that left me with only one known dive operator but that line of communication fell silent for reasons unknown to me. I wasn’t going to quit though. I kept faith that God would get me there and if I was to dive, so be it. If not, that’s ok too because there are plenty of worse places to be than in the middle of the Pacific on a tropical island. I was still unsure as to how to actually get there though; reading airline schedules seemed like deciphering the encrypted Morse code transmissions of the French Revolution. I was resolute not to be deterred.


This was a trip of a lifetime. I had been looking forward to it for a few years. One day I finally sat down on a sunny afternoon at the table in my backyard to plan out the details. It didn’t take long before I had a schedule drawn up. I soon discovered I would have to use Honolulu as a way-point in this journey. I eventually had to revise the schedule several times to take the International Date Line into account. I kept getting confused about when I arrived with relation to when I departed but I did finally see how to properly arrange my activities. As luck would have it, I became pretty sick the day before I was to begin this magical trip. I decided to go anyway. It was a good decision because, while I could not scuba dive on the first part of the trip,  at least I traveled to Majuro and saw the place my father had written about when he told of his time with the United States Navy at sea in World War Two.


The only way to get to Majuro from the Continental United States is through Honolulu. Honolulu is a six hour flight from Phoenix and Majuro is a five hour flight from Honolulu. While Honolulu is three hours behind Phoenix on the clock, Majuro is two hours behind Honolulu but one day ahead- I guess that makes it nineteen hours ahead of Phoenix and twenty two hours ahead of Honolulu. (Have I confused you yet? Throw phone-call schedules to New York into the picture and it adds a new level of bewilderment.) Majuro is the capitol of the Marshall Islands and is situated just north of the equator and slightly across the International Date Line from Honolulu. Though only two time zones apart on the clock, Sunday in Honolulu is Monday in Majuro. Being that it is such a remote location, the date line doesn’t interfere with too much business, comparatively speaking.


My flights were all great; the people were all very helpful and polite. Even the hotel was adequate. This is despite their struggle to provide us with tap water. This Tropical Island was in a severe water shortage and only could provide tap water between the hours of six and nine in the mornings and evenings. While somewhat disturbing at first, I did get used to it during my short stay. I did meet several very nice people while I was there. I was very glad I got to meet with a young Japanese couple that had just renovated and opened up a hotel and dive shop on the island. They were just so nice that I must go back to dive there to dive with them. I’m sure the diving is well worth the trip to such a tropical place.


Unfortunately my health really wasn’t very good while I was there so I decided to only stay for one night before returning to Honolulu. This was a hard but good decision because once back in Honolulu I did get well enough to get some scuba diving in.


Dives number 83 and 84 in Oahu were to the Corsair and the nearby Angler’s Reef. I had wanted to dive the Corsair since before the first time I’d traveled to Hawaii and was very glad to finally get the chance. See my Oahu dive log for details.


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