Yap is in the west of the Federated States of Micronesia. The many islands and atolls that make up Yap State stretch hundreds of kilometres across the open Pacific. Unlike many South Pacific islands, Yap is an uplifted portion of the Asian Continental Shelf. Yap is surrounded by a broad, shallow lagoon and nearly 145 kilometres of barrier reef. The coastal areas are mostly mangrove forests, with occasional coral beaches and vibrant reefs, the interior consists of rolling hills and thick jungle-like vegetation.
The people of Yap are warm, shy and proud of their culture, ancient traditions and fascinating legends. Yap is known as the ‘Land of Stone Money’, due to the ancient currency of massive disks of stone. These large coins, some over 12 feet (3.5 meters) in diameter, are still used today in local and traditional customs. Dance is an art form on Yap through which legends are passed down through this form of entertainment. The town of Colonia on Yap Proper is the capital and is slightly more urbanised than the village areas.
Yap’s climate is subtropical and is warm and wet year-round, with average temperatures around 30°C during the day and 27°C in the evenings.
Hundreds of manta rays call the waters around Yap home. During the mating season between December and late April, mantas congregate in even more significant numbers. Processions of as many as 12 manta rays at a time cruise back and forth in the channel. A favourite hangout for Yap’s mantas is Goofnew channel, also known as Valley of the Rays. Each summer morning big beautiful rays up to 4m wide cruise in this protected area of ocean, spending time swooping around a cleaning station. The perfect spot to watch these magnificent ocean giants.
However, there’s more to diving in Yap than just the manta rays. From drop-offs to gentle slopes, from channel drifts to the protected confines of the harbour, Yap offers a whole range of diving experiences and is a paradise for the underwater photographer or videographer. Most dive sites in Yap are less than 30 minutes from Colonia Harbour. Yap is almost entirely encircled by a fringing reef providing a backdrop for some of the most colourful and diverse marine and coral life found in Micronesia, including Mandarin Fish diving.
The average water temperature is 28°C, 3mm wetsuit or rashie
Diving is good year-round, with the north-east trade winds blowing from November to May resulting in less rain and lower humidity during these months. During the trade wind months, manta dives take place in Mi’il Channel, and the reef and wall dives are conducted at the southern end and western side of the island. Boat rides for the reefs can be rough at times, but the dive sites are calm and safe. In the summer months, June through October, manta dives can be done in both Mi’il and Goofnuw Channels for the mantas, and all of the reefs around Yap are accessible as the winds cease and the ocean is usually calm.
A network of caverns and canyons notched out of the coral wall adorned with rich, soft corals. Large hard coral outcroppings in the shallower sections are honeycombed with narrow chasms and chimneys large enough for divers to explore. Whitetip reef sharks rest in the sandy bowls while schools of 10 - 20 Grey reef sharks and 50 or more huge Parrothead Humpbackfish have been seen. Visibility often exceeds 30 metres. Depth: 3 - 18 metres.
The centre section of the wall contains the steepest and deepest drop-off on the west coast of Yap, down to 100 metres. The shallower sections have a very colourful mix of both hard and soft corals, and black coral can be found below 24 metres. Schooling barracuda are sometimes sighted here. Sightings of turtles, mantas and eagle rays are also possible. Vertigo Reef is also the site of Yap's shark feed dive where you can watch mostly Grey, and Black Tip reef sharks come in for the bait.
A slow drift dives past steeply descending slopes highlighted by a series of vertical walls, each approximately 50 metres in length from 18 - 25 metres. Delicate, white pulse corals which look like Spanish lace grow in the alcoves, crevices and undercuts. An abundance of pink and purple lace coral grows amongst the soft corals. Search for pelagics and larger reef fish in the blue below 9 metres. Sharks visit the deeper sections of the wall.
Much of Yap's reefs and manta experiences can be enjoyed on a snorkel, making it perfect for those travelling with non-diving ocean lovers.
Go deep-sea fishing for yellowfin and skipjack tuna, wahoo, mahi-mahi, rainbow runner, barracuda, red snapper, grouper and trevally.
Kayak in the shallow lagoon, through the mangrove forest or through a narrow canal excavated in the early 1900's. Take a ride on a traditional sailing canoe. Go mountain biking or hiking along ancient stone paths.
Experience Yap's ancient Pacific culture and traditional ways of life on a cultural or island sightseeing tour. Yap has one of the last remaining Micronesian cultures, and no visit to Yap is complete without experiencing the old ways up close and personal.
Snorkel or dive with giant manta rays. Go deep-sea fishing for yellowfin and skipjack tuna, wahoo, mahi-mahi, rainbow runner, barracuda, red snapper, grouper and trevally. Kayak in the shallow lagoon, through the mangrove forest or through a narrow canal excavated in the early 1900's. Take a ride on a traditional sailing canoe. Go mountain biking or hiking along ancient stone paths. Shop for Yapese arts and souvenirs. Experience Yap's ancient Pacific culture and traditional ways of life on a cultural or island sightseeing tour. Yap has one of the last remaining Micronesian cultures, and no visit to Yap is complete without experiencing the old ways up close and personal.
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