THE KINGDOM OF THE MANTAS:
A GUIDE TO YAP’S RECREATIONAL MARINE LIFE
Imagine yourself nestled in a patch of sand on a coral ridge thirty feet beneath the surface of a deep water channel, just a quarter mile from the open sea. A school of two hundred Bigeye Trevally gacks), alarmed by your presence, steam quickly by Iike silent sentinels guarding the palace gate of a fantastic underwater empire. Then, from the west come a half dozed giant manta rays – undisputed rulers of a magical Yapese kingdom under the sea. Twisting and turning in great formations, they move their massive wings to the beat on an ancient rhythm. Unafraid of their human guests, the mantas pass you almost dose enough to touch, and stare curiously. Then, with a final passing nod, the majestic mantas soar back out into the deep of the channel, disappearing as mysteriously as they first arrived.
Perhaps it sounds like a dream, but for those who travel from around the world to dive in Yap, it’s more often than not an unforgettably real experience. Since 1989 when Yap Divers opened the island’s first fall service professional dive operation, Yap has quickly emerged as one of the premier dive destinations in the Pacific, famed for its giant mantas and miles upon miles of virgin unspoiled reefs. one of the true wonders of die sea, the man-tas may weigh upwards of a ton and stretch more than twelve feet from tip to tip. Despite their massive frames, the mantas glide effortlessly through the sea. To the delight of divers from around the world, the mantas have found a natural cleaning stations in Yap’s channels, and come to the passageways in large schools almost daily as the tides turn. While M’il Channel is Yap’s most legendary dive, equally spectacular dive spots abound. No stay in Yap will be fully satisfying to the diving enthusiast without experiencing the full panorama of the underwater paradise.
The Yap Caverns dive offers a view of a natural amphitheater honeycombed with sandy bottomed caves. Gilman Wall features a breathtaking sheer vertical face covered with a rieh array of hard and soft coral and gorgonian fans. Magic Kingdom, with its otherworldly coral foundations and thousands of tiny, colorful tropical fish, has an almost fairyland appearance. The Southern Tip of Yap is also the site of Lionfish Wall – a sheer vertical wall fall of young soft coral and home to several species of lionfish. Eagle’s Nest is an easy drift dive along the barrier reef that boasts great views of schooling eagle rays. For those craving more excitement, Yap offers Sharks Canyons, a sand bottom drift dive with sharks, turtles, sting rays and other pelagics. Cherry Blossom Wall on Yap’s Western side is an exhilarating vertical wall dive beginning at 10 feet and plunging to 300 feet, covered with black corals and large sea fans. And no trip would be complete without viewing the huge gorgonian fans and the World War II relics (spent shells, machine guns and downed aircraft) found at the Fan Diver site.
The list could go an and on, for there are dozens of charted dives offering a memorable glirnpses of Yap’s treasures of the deep. Perhaps the single greatest fast about Yap as a dive spot is the reality that the vast majority of reefs and lagoons of Yap’s 134 islands remain almost unexplored. Thousands of miles of virgin, unspoiled reef and waters are still waiting to be discovered by underwater pioneers from the World War II wrecks preserved in a veritable underwater museum in the lagoons of Ulithi, to the miles of untouched reefs surrounding the island of Ngulu.
Internationally known Skin Diver Magazine calls Yap the “most intriguing island in Micronesia.” For the dedicated enthusiast, or adventurous amateur, a visit to the Kingdom of the Mantas will be an experience to be cherished for a lifetime.
FISHING AND OTHER WATER SPORTS
In addition to diving Yap offers a host of other activities for the avid water enthusiast. Micronesia has What many consider the most fertile fishing waters in the North Pacific, and the waters outside Yap are an anglers dream.. Mahimahi, tuna, wahoo, billfish and blue marlin are some of the most common big fish in Yap’s waters. A trolling trip with one of Yap’s local fishing guides is sure to be a great expe-rience. Yap has professional sportfishing charter operators.
They are locally owned and staffed offering full service expeditions on a regular basis. Rugged individualists can also work out arrangements with hotels for fishingtours with local guides in small boats or write or e-mail the Yap Visitors Bureau in advance of arrival to have arrangements mute.
Equipment is available for rental on island, but the selection is probably not as broad as you might find in more developed locations. The serious fisherman or woman may warn to bring his or her own gear, or at least a few favorite tures. Fishing within the reef is a bit more complicated to arrange, since all the waters inside the reef are privately owned. With a litde luck and advance notice, it is possible to arrange a day or nightfishing expedition with a local guide.
Yap’s reefs are still dotted with giant stone fishing traps first built centuries ago (they look like giant arrows from the air) and the adventurous piscator who heads out to the traps with a local speargun in hand is sure to bring back a long string of parrotfish, rabbitfish or snapper for a delicious island dinner.
For those guests interested in a more passive marine experience, island boat tours are easily arranged. Yap proper is actually cornposed of four volcanic islands and your boat tour guide will rake you through the many beautiful mangrove lined channels and inlets that connect the islands. Tide permitting, late afternoon tours oller especially exhilarating sunsets and post card perfect photo opportunities. If you do decide to take an island water tour be forewarned about the two S’s – Spray and Sun. Wear something you dodt rnind getting wet and put on a liberal coat of sunblock before going out.
There are also a host of great snorkeling sites around the island accessible from the land or in a small boat. Again, it’s important to note that all the water inside the reef is privately owned, so it is necessary to obtain permission from the appropriate parties before going out to explore the mysteries of Yap’s shallow waters.
There are several great private beached open to snorkelers for nominal fees and you can pick up directions to these places from the Yap Visitors Bureau.
Kayaking is fast becoming popular in Yap. Kayakers can choose between the peaceful mangroves honeycombed with channels. Rich with fauna, birds and fruit bats a mangrove tour is a memorable experience. For the more adventurous sea kayaks are available to take you around the island, inside the fringing reef, stopping on white sand beaches. Kayaks are available from many of the local hotels and each has its own special tours through various natural and historical sites around Yap.