Yap Trip Report
Our group of travelers departed Detroit on November 12 and headed west»very west! Houston, Honolulu, Guam and then on to Yap, Federated States of Micronesia. We arrived in the evening on November 13 and checked into Manta Ray Bay Hotel, home of Yap Divers and Bill Acker, "Mr. MantaÓ. Bill Acker traveled to Yap many years ago as part of a Peace Corp project and after his tour of duty was completed, returned to the US to find "real workÓ. The family that had hosted his Peace Corp visit soon contacted him and asked him to return to Yap and help them in some business endeavors. While back in Yap, he met his lovely wife, Patricia, and the rest is history! He's been there ever since and has owned and operated Manta Ray Bay Hotel and Yap Divers for a number of years. You can learn more about the resort and dive operation by logging onto www.mantaray.com
The resort is located on a lovely bay and has rooms facing both the ocean and the gardens. They were "blessedÓ with a typhoon in April, 2004 and have since undertaken a major overhaul of the property. While we were there, we were the first group to christen the new dive center which has great lockers and gear drying racks; the new Photo Center was being finished but will feature individual camera stalls with lots of gear storage area and electricity for all those batteries & strobes!
Since the typhoon had moved their feature restaurant/bar, the "MnuwÓ, they had to set up the restaurant on the 3rd floor of the resort. The Mnuw had been moved back into its new permanent mooring just prior to our arrival and they re-opened the bar while we were there. They were in the process of permanently installing the new gas lines for cooking; the on-board restaurant has since been re-opened and I'm sure they're happy to get the rooms back into "hotelÓ circulation! Their new "infinity poolÓ is under construction and 6 new rooms over the dive center recently opened for business.
On to the diving»..Yap is known world-wide for their Pacific Mantas and the reputation is well-deserved. These gentle giants make their homes around the island and depending on the season, spend their days in the channels on either the west or east side of the island getting cleaned! Diving in the channels can be rewarding or frustrating depending on the whims of the mantas! There are often currents to deal with and also poorer than desired visibility because the best times to dive the channels are when the tides are turning, bringing nutrients and currents through the area, desirable conditions for manta sightings! We were able to dive the channels several days and managed to get five manta sightings in some of our dives, fewer on some of the dives and we also got "skunkedÓ a couple of times, but Mother Nature and diving don't come with guarantees, even if you're diving with Mr. Manta! When the mantas were present, we were in heaven».they are fabulous creatures and as long as you respect their distance and don't chase them, they go about their business while letting you admire them quite closely!.
Aside from the exciting manta dives, Yap offers fabulous caverns with beautiful vistas, streams of sunlight bouncing off the walls and lots and lots of schools of fish. They also offer great wall diving and one of their newer features is the discovery of some "muck divingÓ areas that are revealing lots and lots of those tiny critters we "muckÓ divers love to see and photograph. Lots of pipefish, nudibranchs, lionfish, clownfish in anemones, crabs, shrimp and other small creatures can be found if you look closely.
The latest "featureÓ dive offered by Yap Divers is a mandarinfish dive that features literally dozens of the tiny creatures scampering about the finger coral right at dusk trying to attract a mate! Once the mating dance has attracted the "rightÓ female, they rise into the water column above the coral to mate (takes only seconds, folks!) and then scamper back down into the coral to look for another mate! Of course, while the mandarinfish are mating, greedy cardinal fish are just lying in wait to scarf up the fertilized eggs so it's no wonder they often mate multiple times per night! All this activity takes place at "Rainbow ReefÓ which is a shallow reef right at the edge of a mangrove forest; your average depth for this lovely dive is less than 10'. Of all the mandarinfish dives I've done in various locales, this one is the best so far».shallow water, great coral for background shots and lots of bottom time with lots of subjects!
During our week of diving Yap we managed 18 dives in six days with lots of bottom time! Nitrox is available through Yap Divers and is highly recommended to help you extend your bottom time in the channels with the manta without going into decompression. There is an extra charge for the Nitrox, but it is well worth it.
All in all, a great time was had by the group, but it was time to move on to our next Micronesian adventure: Truk Lagoon!