Getting Up Close And Personal With Residents Of The Reef
If Paradise exists on Earth, it must be nestled right here in Yap in
the South Pacific, under these endless skies, magnificent cliffs... and
let's not forget the crystal blue waters of the reef.
This is where
thousands of manta rays, sharks and other big fish swim alongside
barracuda, mandarinfish, tuna and turtles. And of course, dolphins and
whales do make an appearance ever so often.
Hands down, Yap is definitely one of the best diving destinations in the world.
Located about 2,000 kilometres east of the Philippines, Yap is one of
the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia, with about 145
islets. Here, the main islands have been developed for tourism. (Well,
sort of ‒ on this 56 sq km2 conglomerate, there are just a little more
than a hundred hotel rooms altogether.
Away from the 3,000-strong town of Colonia and the well-developed
coastal roads, there are only a few isolated villages connected by
centuries-old stone paths in the jungle. More than eighty percent of
Yap's coast comprise dense mangrove forest, so exploring by kayak is a
“must”(don't forget an experienced local guide is advisable).
Worldwide, the population of manta rays and sharks are plummeting. Yet,
the opposite is true in Yap. Five years ago, Yap was declared a manta
ray sanctuary, spanning 1,100 kilometres from east to west, and 350
kilometres from north to south. This declaration has benefitted not
only manta rays, but the other marine animals that live in these
Encounters with the residents of the reef are more likely here than in
most other places.
As long as there are no violent westerly winds,
sharks can be found at all times. In the spring, there are regular
sightings of offshore and deepwater species such as silky sharks and
silvertip sharks. And, at the outer reefs and Vertigo dive site, gray
reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks and blacktip sharks are standard fare.
Between early November and mid-May, encounters with Yap's curious manta
rays are virtually guaranteed.
In fact, the popular Manta Ray Bay
Resort provides a special dive package based on the promise that if
divers do not see manta rays during their dive, they would receive a
refund on their trip.
To get to Yap, divers can take a United Airlines flight from Guam (on
Tuesdays and Saturdays) and from Palau (on Saturdays).
For the benefit
of his guests, Bill Acker, owner of Manta Ray Bay Resort, has
collaborated with the airline to offer them cheaper tickets. “If
someone is interested in a trip to Yap or air tickets for short-haul
needs, I am happy to help. Just contact me.” he said.