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Get off the beaten track – Pohnpei

THE ISLAND

Most of our dive clients travelling to Micronesia look straight to the well-known Palau and Truk Lagoon, little do they know that they small island of Pohnpei is a diving gem off the beaten track, waiting to be discovered. It is the ideal destination for the nature lover, the explorer and the hiker. The untapped potential of both the land and underwater secrets that Pohnpei holds are incredible and are perfect for the ‘off the beaten path’ traveller.

So what is there to do in Pohnpei? There are a number of non-diving activities to participate in, and with the growth of tourism, the opportunities are also expanding. Trek through jungle to awe-inspiring waterfalls, hike Sokehs ridge to find a panoramic view over the island, find WWII era Japanese guns, visit the mysterious Nan Madol ruins, photograph the Spanish Wall, an old Spanish fort that remains standing to this day, try your hand at surfing, kayak through mangrove forests and shop at the local markets where you will find a myriad of local handicrafts including wooden carvings, woven baskets and wall hangings.

Flights to Pohnpei leave ex Australia to Pohnei via Port Moresby and fly with Air Niugini. It is a fantastic destination option for those travelling to Truk Lagoon that are wanting to add a little more to their trip, include something for the non divers or simply experience something off the beaten track.

Pohnpei

THE NAN MADOL

The Nan Madol is a city of ruins that is located off the shore of Pohnpei. It was the capital of the Saudeleur dynasty until around AD 1500. The city is constructed in a lagoon consisting of around 100 small artificial islands linked by canals (similar to those in Venice!). The name Nan Madol means ‘spaces between’ which refers to the canals that run through the ruins.

The construction of the buildings themselves continue to baffle scientific explanation as each of the stones can weigh anywhere from 5 to 50 tonnes. To have them moved and structurally placed where they needed to be would have required a incredible amount of effort and expertise. During the making of a documentary about Nan Madol for the Discovery Channel in 1995, all attempts to transport panels weighing over one tonne failed. According to local legend, the stones used during construction were placed using black magic.

Nan Madol RuinsRuins of Nan Madol

 

THE DIVING

As for the diving, the surrounding coral reefs and enchanting drop-offs offer brightly colour anemones, soft corals, large gorgonian fans and tropical fish life that cover the walls. Sharks, turtles, manta rays and other passing pelagics can be found at a number of Pohnpei’s dive sites. The lagoons and reefs have crystal clear waters, with visibility in excess of 30 metres. Of course, as with most dive sites, with heavy rains come poorer visibility, however in the case of Pohnpei, it often floods the barrier reef with nutrients meaning greater marine life!

Jump on a boat and you will find pristine neighbouring atolls including And (Ant) and Pakin that remain largely unexplored. Find out more below.

Pohnpei Diving

NORTH SIDE DIVE SITES

Manta Road

Manta Road is easily Pohnpei’s most famous dive spot due to its resident community of manta rays (including the all-black Black Morph variety) that cruise back and forth through the narrow channel as they filter-feed. The site is located between the fringing reef at the north end of Mwahnd Peidak (island) and a long strip of reef running northwest-southeast (2.75 km southeast of Kepidauen Mwahnd). The mantas mate between January and April, which is a good time of year to visit. Aim for the last hour of the out-going tide a few days on either side of the full moon. The channel has very strong currents — up to 7 knots — (which the mantas love), but which make diving and snorkelling tricky. You’ll want to avoid the spot on flood tides. The water can be crystal clear, but usually there are more mantas around when the visibility isn’t very good. Huge schools of fusiliers and jacks, as well as black-tip and white-tip reef sharks are common in the area. Small turtles are occasionally spotted.
Depth: 3-24 meters.
Best to dive: at about 16 meters.
Diver experience: Advanced.

Pohnpei Manta Rays

Tubastrea Gardens

This spot is located at a bridge about 17 meters down in the lagoon and about halfway between Parem and Mwahnd Peidak islands. The area is known for brightly coloured tubastrea (tube coralor sun coral) on the south side of the bridge. There are also a great many fish, though visibility is sometimes lacking.
Depth: 15-20 meters
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Novice

Mwahnd Peidak

This spot off the northeast side of Mwahnd Peidak’s fringing reef is notable for huge schools of parrotfish — a family of fish that is becoming relatively scarce in general.
Depth: 3-18 meters
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Novice

Mwahnd Wall

This drift-dive on the inner edge of the barrier reef south of Kepidauen Mwahnd is notable for the health and variety of corals and for reef sharks. The attractions go all the way down to 36 meters, which is where you’re most likely to find the sharks.
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Mwahnd Pass

This drift-dive on the west side of Mwahnd Pass (Kepidauen Mwahnd) is known for its whip coral, gorgonian fans (below 30 meters), tree coral, and macro life. It’s also a good place for eagle rays, reef sharks, crinoids, feather stars, and napoleon wrasse. The wreck of a catamaran lies at the edge of the channel.
Depth: 3-30 meters
Best to dive: at 12-15 meters on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Mwahnd Cove

This drift-dive is on the southeast side of Mwahnd Pass (Kepidauen Mwahnd), beginning along the outer barrier reef wall and following the contour of the reef inside to a little coral bay dubbed “The Cove.” Attractions sometimes seen here include multitudes of mating eagle rays, moray eels, schools of barracuda (24 meters), whip coral, shrimp, and loads of white-tip reef sharks resting on the sandy bottom at about 30 meters. You might even be lucky enough to spot resident leopard sharks.
Depth: 15-30 meters
Best to dive: at 24-30 meters on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Inner Mwahnd

This spot is on the inside edge of the barrier reef south and east of Kepidauen Mwahnd (pass). The coral is abundant on the wall. Reef sharks, barracuda, and plenty of reef fish are also found in the area.
Depth: 3-20 meters
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Intermediate

North Point

Located at a sharp bend on the outside of the barrier reef, this wall dive is about sharks and large schools of pelagic fish. It’s quite a ways from any of the passes and the wind-exposed nature of the location means that the spot is only accessible during the summer.
Depth: Down to 36 meters
Diver Experience: Advanced

Lighthouse

Sharks, pelagics, and more. This is a standard Pohnpei drift-dive that starts along the northern barrier reef wall and curves south into Kepidauen Pweitik (“Old Main Pass”).
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver Experience: Advanced

Lenger

The areas north, south, and east of the Japanese seaplane ramp offer plenty for beginning divers. A variety of small reef fish, including gobies, angels, and parrots, octopi, sting rays, and lots of soft coral are found in the shallow coral grottoes. Visibility can range from terrible to very good.
Best to dive: on a late in-coming tide
Diver Experience: Novice

Parem

This area on the fringing reef off the northwest end of Parem (island) offers more of the same kinds of attractions seen at Lenger. Visibility fluctuates greatly.
Best to dive: on a late in-coming tide
Diver experience: Novice

Middle Pass (Kepidauen Kiepw)

This spot is on the eastern corner of a narrow channel, called Kepidauen Kiepw, between Peinmen and Kepidauen Pweitik. The drift-dive starts on the outer edge of the reef wall and follows the reef south and east. This is a good place to see reef sharks.
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Intermediate

Main Pass (Peinmen)

This drift-dive begins along the northern edge of the barrier reef wall and follows the reef into Peinmen (Passage). Attractions include schools of black-tip and gray reef sharks (below 24 meters), occasional lemon sharks, schools of dog-tooth tuna, and sweetlips on the reef shelf at 24-30 meters.
Depth: 5-30 meters
Best to dive: below 20 meters on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Sokehs Side Pass

This little known spot in the narrow channel next to Peinmen is worth mentioning for the schools of large remoras that frequent the area.
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver Experience: Intermediate

Sandy Bottoms

This blue hole on the inside edge of the barrier reef between “Main Pass” (Peinmen) and Palikir Pass (Kepidauen Palikir) is a great place for beginners to explore.
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Novice

Palikir Bridge

This is a deep dive that follows the reef bridge across the mouth of Kepidauen Palikir. It’s most famous for its schools of large pelagics, like tuna and wahoo, gorgonian fans, jacks, barracuda, bumphead parrotfish, and huge schools of gray reef sharks. It’s also one of the places you might get a glimpse of Pohnpei’s little-seen tiger sharks. Currents can be strong.
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide at 30-36 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

Palikir Wall

This dive along the outer barrier reef wall west of Kepidauen Palikir is characterized by giant clams, triton’s trumpets, white-tip reef sharks, triggerfish, soft coral, and anemones.
Depth: 9-37 meters
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide below 20 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

EAST SIDE DIVE SITES

Pohnpei Diving

Straight Wall

This dive is on the outer edge of the long, straight fringing reef east of Nahnningi (Joy) Island. It’s a good place to see schools of tuna and barracuda hanging out beyond the wall. It’s also one of the few places you might spot sea turtles. This side of the island is very exposed to winds, so summer is the best bet for good conditions.
Depth: 1-37 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

Joy / Nahnningi

This spot is known by most people as “Joy,” which used to be the name of the island nearby (the local name of the island is Nahnningi). The dive is actually in the small bay-like channel south of Nahnningi on the outer edge of the barrier reef. One informant reported seeing huge mantas here, larger than any at “Manta Road” or “Ros”. Other sightings include schools of barracuda and the occasional sea turtle.
Depth: 1-37 meters
Diver experience: Intermediate

Nan Madol (Kahnimweiso)

This is spot, east of the ruins of Nan Madol (not far beyond Kerian islet), garnered fame when divers apparently discovered a line of pillars on the bottom that they believed were related to the story of Kahnimweiso — a fabled stone city that is said to have pre-dated Nan Madol. The pillars were later proved to be natural coral formations, but the site is still intriguing. Anemones, pipefish, hydroids, and a whole lot of other reef fish can be found in the area.
Depth: 3-21 meters
Best to dive: at 18-21 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

Pahn Nahkapw

This dive begins in front of the boulder break-wall off Nahkapw‘s western shore and follows the steep reef wall as it curves around to the east toward Kepidauen Nahkapw. Water clarity at this spot can be absolutely incredible and the reef is alive with fish of many types. Shark sightings are a strong possibility in this incredibly deep blue hole — especially below 18 meters.
Depth: 2-30 meters
Best to dive: Any tide
Diver Experience: Novice

Na

This wall dive is located east of Na on the outer slope of the reef. Staghorn and elkhorn coral, sting rays, sharks, manta rays, and the usual gamut of reef fish are what to look for. The water can be very rough in this area as it’s directly exposed to the north easterlies, so winter diving is out of the question.
Depth: 2-29 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

Nanwap Corner

This wall dive in the Nanwap Marine Protected Area is located on the north side of Kepidauen Deleur, on the opposite side of the pass from Nahpali. This is a great place for sharks and rays, but it’s also one of the healthiest spawning sites for reef fish in Pohnpei. However, the pass (and the general area) has a reputation for rough water, and the currents can be intense. Mid-summer diving, when winds are minimal, is the safest.
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

There’s also good diving and snorkeling around the blue holes in the inner reef, where you’re more protected from waves and current. The coral is nice here and there are usually plenty of fish around.
Best to dive: at slack-tide=
Diver experience: Intermediate

Areu North / South (Kepidauen Alohkapw)

Drift-dives can be done on either the north or south edges of Alohkapw Pass (Kepidauen Alohkapw), beginning along the outer barrier reef walls and moving in to the inner reef. There have been reports of large of schools of reef sharks below 30 meters.
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Areu Wall

Located along the wall of one of the inner reefs west of Kepidauen Alohkapw, this site is about the little creatures — invertebrates, small reef fish, sponges, tunicates, anemones, and soft coral. You can also find sea fans (18-24 meters), sea whips, white-tip reef sharks, and barracuda here.
Depth: 2-34 meters.
Currents: can be strong at times
Best to dive: at 6-18 meters on an in-coming tide|
Diver experience: Novice-Intermediate

Areu Avenue

This is another inner lagoon wall-dive similar to “Areu Wall” but in a different location nearer to Kepidauen Alohkapw. Many of the same sights can be found, including sea fans at depth.
Depth: 2-30 meters
Currents: can be strong at times
Best to dive: at 6-18 meters on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Intermediate

SOUTH SIDE DIVE SITES

Pohnpei Diving

Nahlap

This dive curves around the corner of the reef east of Nahlap (island). It’s best known for sponges and schools of mackerel, jacks, and rainbow runners. Reef sharks and turtles are also occasionally seen.
Depth: 9-40 meters
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Intermediate

Laiap Bridge

This dive follows the bridge across the entrance to Kepidauen Laiap southeast of Laiap (island) and offer opportunity to see plenty of pelagicssharks, and sometimes turtles.
Depth: 2-34 meters
Best to dive: at 15-25 meters on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Intermediate

Nahtik Bridge

This dive follows another bridge across the entrance to Kepidauen Nahtik southeast of tiny Nahtik (island) with similar sights as “Laiap Bridge.”
Depth: 2-34 meters
Best to dive: at 15-25 meters on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Intermediate

Ros

The prime attraction in this narrow pass east of Ros (island) is the manta rays, which can congregate in unbelievable numbers (as many as 40). The main reason the site isn’t as frequently visited as “Manta Road” is that it’s so far from Kolonia. Schools of jacks, snappers, and barracuda are also common and occasionally green turtles.
Depth: 5-40 meters
Best to dive: at 18-24 meters around the full moon
Diver experience: Intermediate

Penieu Corner

This dive begins on the outer reef wall east of Kepidauen Ne opposite Penieu (island) and then follows the reef west and south, through the pass, and into the lagoon.
Depth: 3-40 meters
Best to dive: at 18-35 meters on an in-coming tide
Currents: are often strong here
Diver experience: Advanced

Lohd Bridge (also known as Lohd Harbor)

This dive follows a bridge across the entrance to a small barrier reef passage east of Kepidauen Ne (pass). There are lots of sharks here.
Depth: 2-35 meters
Best to dive: at 18-35 meters on an in-coming tide
Currents: can be intense
Diver experience: Advanced

WEST SIDE DIVE SITES

Pohnpei Coral Reef

Dauahk Wall

This drift-dive follows the outer barrier reef wall north of Kepidauen Dauahk. Things to see here include eagle rays, napoleon wrasse, gray reef sharks, and schools of dog-tooth tuna.
Depth: 10-40 meters
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Dauahk Bridge

This is one of the best dive spots on Pohnpei, following the reef bridge across the mouth of Kepidauen Dauahk. It offers the same things as the “Palikir Pass Bridge”, but at less depth. Large congregations of gray reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, and massive schools of black snappers, red snappers, and barracuda are regularly encountered. The snappers mate in late summer and early fall.
Depth: Down to 36 meters
Best to dive: at 18-24 meters on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Pehleng Wall

This drift dive-along the outer wall north of Kepidauen Pehleng is notable for gray reef sharks and the less-common silver-tip sharks, huge napoleon wrasse, schools of jacks, lionfish, and an abundance of soft coral.
Depth: 10-40 meters
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Pehleng Corner

This spot is located at the prominent southern corner of Kepidauen Pehleng. Commonly seen are sweetlips, lionfish, and huge schools of both black and red snappers, jacks, and sometimes tuna. The reef wall is encrusted with nudibranchs and anemones.
Depth: 6-40 meters
Best to dive: on an out-going tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Kehpara Wall

This is a drift-dive along the outer reef wall north of Dauen Kehpara within the boundaries of the Kehpara Marine Protected Area (MPA). Sights include wrasse, jacks, groupers, barracudas, silver-tip sharks, and both black-tip and white-tip reef sharks. Lobsters, giant clams (tridacna), conchs, sea fans, and sponges are also prevalent. The island to the south, nicknamed “Black Coral,” gets its name from a variety of purplish, branching coral found in the area. This is one of the primary spawning grounds for local groupers.
Depth: 6-37 meters
Best to dive: on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Intermediate

AND (ANT) ATOLL DIVING

Pohnpei Diving

And has steep outer reef walls that drop off into very deep conditions, especially on the west side. Currents can be swift anywhere outside the lagoon and in Dauenai (Pass), but particularly on the east wall. Visibility can reach 50 meters (164 feet). You’ll need a boat to get to all of the dive sites except “Turtle Canyons,” which you can access from the beach at Pahn Mwek (island). The channel between Pohnpei and And is notoriously rough during the winter. Diving at And is possible from May through October, but the best conditions are usually September-October.

Bird Island

This drift begins on the outer reef corner north of Olouna (nicknamed “Bird Island” for its huge seabird rookery) and goes south. Sharks, tuna, barracuda, turtles, and other large pelagic species may be seen.
Best to dive: at 18-40 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

West Wall

This drift runs either way along the western outer reef wall and features lots of hard and soft coral variety, caves, tunnels, holes, reef fish, and sharks.
Best to dive: at 18-40 meters.
Diver experience: Advanced.

Turtle Canyons

This spot in the lagoon north of Pahn Mwek (island) features shallow coral grottoes, lots of reef fish, and a strong likelihood of sea turtle sightings.
Best to dive: at 10-23 meters on a late in-coming tide
Diver experience: Novice

Triggerfish Cove

This is a spot on the outer reef wall south of Sakarawi (Island) known for triggerfish.
Best to dive: at 18-40 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

Orange Wall / West Dauenai

This drift begins outside and to the west of Dauenai (passage) and then follows the west wall of the passage north into the lagoon. The spot gets its nickname from the large orange elephant ear sponges that are prevalent along the wall, but this is a great place to see And’s gray reef sharks, a lot of beautiful hard and soft corals, and macro-life.
Best to dive: at 18-40 meters on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Dauenai Pass (East)

This drift begins outside and to the east of Dauenai (passage) and then follows the eastern passage wall north into the lagoon, featuring huge groupers, wrasse, turtles, rays, congregations of gray reef sharks, white tip and black tip reef sharks, large schools of barracuda, jacks, and occasionally billfish or dolphins around the mouth.
Best to dive: at 18-40 meters on an in-coming tide
Diver experience: Advanced

Itol Rock

This is a spot on the outer eastern reef wall between Pasa (island) and Nikahlap (island), which is sometimes considered part of the next drift-dive on this list. Soft coral, rays, and lots of pelagics are to be seen here. Currents can be intense.
Best to dive: at 18-40 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

Nikahlap Wall

This is a drift-dive starting at “Itol Rock” and running south along the contour of the reef wall. See Itol Rock for features. Currents can be very strong.
Best to dive: at 18-40 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

Pasa North

This is a drift-dive running in either direction along the outer reef wall north of Pasa (island) and featuring the usual And Atoll gamut of large pelagics, turtles, and sharks as well as blossoming coral on the wall.
Currents: There are often strong currents here.
Best to dive: at 18-40 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

PAKIN ATOLL DIVING

Pohnpei Diving

Pakin Atoll Diving
Pakin has similar features and conditions as And, except that the atoll has no true passage into the lagoon — which is limiting. Divers will mostly want to stay outside the lagoon. Small boats can enter only at high tide at one of two locations along the west side of the barrier reef. Both of these spots are sketchy with very narrow areas to maneuver, extremely shallow conditions, and dangerous currents and surge. Local residents have been killed attempting to enter when the conditions were less than ideal. The reefs on the west side drop off extremely deep — straight down. Hard coral and excellent visibility (often exceeding 60 meters) can be found all around the outside and in the lagoon as well. Most of the sites offer the same sorts of attractions, including large pelagic species, barracuda, jacks, tuna, white tip and black tip reef sharks, and sea turtles. Diving at Pakin is possible from May through October, but the best conditions are usually September-October.

Turtle Gardens

The many small islets around Painpwel, Sapangin, and Kehrot are nesting sites for sea turtles. Consequently, the outer reef wall northwest of Painpwel is famous for turtle sightings.
Best to dive: at 10-35 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

Barracuda Cove

As the name suggests, this spot on the edge of the reef wall southwest of Nikahlap (Island) is a good place to see large schools of barracudas (among other things).
Best to dive: at 10-30 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

Shark Bay

This drift follows the reef wall north of Nikahlap (island) and is known for large congregations of reef sharks and occasional oceanic species.
Best to dive: at 18-40 meters
Diver experience: Advanced

MARINE PROTECTED AREAS:

Pohnpei Diving

Sapwtik MPA

Sapwtik Marine Protected Area is a 0.83 km2 (0.32 mi2) area encompassing Sapwtik (island), portions of its fringing reef, and sections of the lagoon southwest and northeast of the island.

Dekehos (Mwahnd) MPA

Dekehos Marine Protected Area is a 4.60 km2 (1.78 mi2) area encompassing Mwahnd Passage(Kepidauen Mwahnd) and portions of the barrier reef north of the pass and to the south as far as the fringing reef of Mwahnd Peidak (island).

Dehpehk MPA

Dehpehk Marine Protected Area is a 2.12 km2 (0.82 mi2) area encompassing the eastern and northern coasts of Dehpehk (island) and adjacent fringing reefs.

Nanwap MPA

Nanwap Marine Protected Area is a 3.05 km2 (1.18 mi2) section of the barrier reef and adjacent lagoon areas north of the Madolenihmw Bay passage (Kepidauen Deleur).

Senipehn Mangrove Forest Reserve

Senipehn Mangrove Forest Reserve is a 1.30 km2 (0.5 mi2) area of mangrove forest surroundingDauen Sapwalap in Madolenihmw.

Namwen Na Stingray Sanctuary

Namwen Na Stingray Sanctuary is a 0.71 km2 (0.27 mi2) area encompassing both shallow reef and deep water areas located north of Na (island) and south of Nahpali (island).

Namwen Nahnningi Stingray Sanctuary

Namwen Nahnningi Stingray Sanctuary is a 0.34 km2 (0.13 mi2) area encompassing four large reef pools and the adjacent reefs northwest of Nahnningi (island).

Nahtik MPA

Nahtik Marine Protected Area is a 0.75 km2 (0.29 mi2) area encompassing Nahtik (island) and all fringing reefs.

Enipein Marine Park

Enipein Marine Park is a 9.55 km2 (3.69 mi2) area of mangrove forest located in Enipein, Kitti.

Kehpara MPA

Kehpara Marine Protected Area is a 1.89 km2 (0.73 mi2) area encompassing the three Namwmwour barrier reef islands (including Kehpara) and large sections of the barrier reef both north, south, and east of the islands. This area is completely closed to diving and snorkeling fromJanuary 1 to June 30 every year.

Pwudoi Mangrove Sanctuary

Pwudoi Mangrove Sanctuary is a 1.39 km2 (0.52 mi2) area encompassing large sections of mangrove forest in Pwudoi, Kitti, as well as adjacent fringing reefs and portions of the lagoon.

Wahulap MPA

Wahulap Marine Protected Area on Pakin Atoll encompasses Nikahlap Island and all surrounding reefs.

Painpwel MPA

Painpwel Marine Protected Area on Pakin Atoll encompasses Painpwel Island, a number of tiny islands off the north coast where sea turtles nest, and all surrounding reefs.

Sapangin MPA

Sapangin Marine Protected Area on Pakin Atoll encompasses Sapangin Island, several tiny islets to the north where sea turtles nest, and all surrounding reefs.

Kehrot MPA

Kehrot Marine Protected Area on Pakin Atoll encompasses Kehrot Island, many tiny islets to the northeast where sea turtles nest, and all surrounding reefs.

Mwahnid MPA

Mwahnid Marine Protected Area on Pakin Atoll encompasses Mwahnid Island and all surrounding reefs.

Dive site information source: http://www.pohnpei-adventure.com

Written by Mike VitiJohn Ranahan, and Karino Olpet

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