Yap Island is a lush tropical island located just 9 degrees north of the equator. Unlike many South Pacific islands, Yap is an uplifted portion of the Asian Continental Shelf. It is surrounded by a broad shallow lagoon and nearly 90 miles of barrier reef. Long before Yap became famous in the diving community for it’s Manta Rays, it was known as the Land of Stone Money. The huge disks of stone, some over 12 feet (3.5 meters) in diameter are still used today in major transactions. Our land tours will show you banks of stone money, villages, and Men’s Houses, faluw, constructed in the traditional style.
The dances of Yap tell stories and relate the history of the island. By learning the dances, children learn about the ancient heritage of their people. Dances are performed every week, and Manta Ray Bay Hotel can arrange a tour for you to witness them and see a bit of village life.
Yapese traditions are still taught to all children. The islanders are determined to ensure that their culture does not succumb to westernization. While the island has modern facilities, many Yapese still live an idyllic traditional lifestyle. Every village has a Men’s House constructed of large logs, bamboo, and thatch where visitors from other villages who have strayed too far to reach home before dark can spend the night.
The men meet in the evening to tell stories and educate the village boys in the arts of fishing, sailing and crafts. Yap is world famous for it’s large population of resident manta rays.
On Yap a manta dive does not mean diving hoping for a manta encounter, it means diving to see the mantas. There’s much more to diving in Yap than just Manta Rays, however. Yap’s outer reefs abound with species of tropical reef fishes, invertebrates and corals. When coupled with the abundance of larger species like mantas, sharks, and turtles, Yap is a paradise for the underwater photographer or videographer. More than 200 species of hard and soft
corals form the reefs of Yap.
Yap Caverns, at the southern tip of the island offers a truly spectacular dive with an array of caverns, swim throughs and pinnacles populated by Lionfish and sleeping whitetip reef sharks. Large schools of Huge Bumphead Parrotfish are often seen here. A unique feature of Yap Caverns is that the dive not restricted to advanced divers, beginners have no trouble negotiating the swim throughs, and are able to share an experience of magical beauty otherwise reserved for more experienced divers.
The reefs on the East side of the island (windward side) feature gently sloping terraces with one of the most diverse selections of hard corals in Micronesia. The west side of the island (lee side) is composed of a series of vertical walls starting in 15 feet of water and plunging straight down hundreds of feet. The visibility on the reefs usually exceeds 100 feet and frequently is over 150 ft.
Many species of marine creatures that are rare in some parts of the world are plentiful in Yap. Dive sites such as Lionfish Wall offer a chance to experience the beauty of a pristine coral reef. One perpetual favorite of divers is the colorful clownfish. Five species can be seen in Yap. Some of the anemones they live in are over four feet across and host dozens of clowns.
Travelling to Yap is an adventure in itself. Even for a small island in the western Pacific, we’re more than usually off the beaten track. But things have changed quite a bit since the days when a journey here had to be undertaken by boat and would take a couple of weeks at least. There are now regular flights by Continental Airlines in aromantic yap, micronesian, vacation, honeymoon, destination wedding, getaway, holiday, scuba divingnd out of Yap several times a week.
Many visitors from the US make a stop over in Yap for a couple of days on their way to or from Palau. This is not a bad idea if you are planning to visit Palau anyway, since stop overs on Yap generally are free of extra flight charges (depending on the type of ticket you are holding).
A slightly different travel plan might be worth considering, though. Many of our visitors have told us that they would rather have done it the other way around – a couple of days on Palau and a longer stay on Yap – to get a chance to really discover the variety of Yap’s undisturbed life above and below the water. Maybe even get a chance to dive unknown reefs never before seen by man.