Western & Central Pacific
Season: Year-round diving
Water Temperature: 28-30°C/82-86°F
Diving: Manta Rays, walls, coral gardens, swim-throughs, caves, critter diving
Willing to share option
Can be combined with Truk and Palau
A scattering of tiny islands spread across the immensity of the western Pacific, Micronesia is at the same time one of the most obscure corners of the globe and one of the world’s greatest diving destinations, a veritable Mecca that attracts underwater pilgrims from far and wide.
About 300 miles northeast of Palau lies Yap, an island where stone money, carved from the rock islands of Palau and transported across the open ocean by canoe, is still in use today. Yap is a wonderful mixture of past, present and future where ancient culture still exists alongside the 20th century. English is the official language and the US$ is the official currency. It is said that of all the thousands of islands in Micronesia, Yap today is the way the rest of Micronesia used to be with its culture, traditions and language still intact and freely observable.
Yap’s rise to world class fame as a diving locality began in the late 1980s when it was discovered that large numbers of Manta Rays could be observed here at very close range. However, there is more to Yap than Manta Rays – the outer drop-offs offer diving in remarkable visibility (30-50 metres is routine, with up to 65 metres at times!). Vertical walls, wonderfully healthy reefs, schools of Spotted Eagle Rays and grottos with swim-throughs full of tropical fish are just some of the diving highlights that can be found in Yap. Over 30 dive sites have been discovered and charted so far.
Manta Ridge is where Manta Rays are encountered almost daily. The combination of plankton, tide and current sets the stage for a truly wondrous undersea phenomenon. The site is a natural coral bridge that crosses one of Yap’s deep water channels. Through this channel come the mantas, some with ‘wingspans’ of up to 5 metres and weighing as much as one ton! Gliding in battle-style formation, these giants of the ocean line up in single file and hover about a metre above the coral awaiting their turn as the Cleaner Wrasse pop out of their coral homes and get to work picking off their parasites.
M’il Channel is a drift dive in the same channel as Manta Ridge. A slow drift at about 20 metres along the south wall with the incoming tide gives divers time to explore the vertical sides and bottom of the channel as they ride the current. Some big creatures are usually found here, including schools of Bigeye Trevally, White-tip Reef Sharks that rest on the bottom during the day and Manta Rays. Numerous reef fish and often turtles and eagle rays pass before you as you glide along.
Lionfish Wall is an exciting wall site starting at about 5 metres and plummeting to over 50 metres. Because of the staggering visibility here (up to 65 metres at times), this dive has been likened to sky-diving! A large community of lacy-finned lionfish live in the cracks, crevices and small caves and during their beautiful and graceful veil-like dancing movements they waft and wave their long, slim spines.
Yap Caverns provides a unique combination of a wall dive and swim-throughs. This site is marked by a sandy coral shelf cut into the reef, making a natural amphitheatre. Although the shelf is at a depth of 10 metres, the tall, vertical coral growths surrounding it rise through the water to within 3 metres of the surface. A series of caverns, passageways and caves tunnel into the reef from the north side of the amphitheatre.
Just five minutes from the resort is O’Keefe’s Island, named after an Irish entrepreneur who allegedly made a lot of conventional money transporting ‘stone money’ from Palau to Yap! Here the fantastic little Mandarinfish can be watched carrying out its territorial display at dusk, the males sometimes tussling with each other. These colourful, beautifully patterned fish are a joy to watch as they emerge from their hiding places in the coral rubble. At this site they are unusually fearless, making photography much easier than usual.
COMBINATIONS: If you are going all the way to Yap, why not take in Palau’s strange and beautiful ‘Rock Islands’ with their amazing diving or Truk and its remarkable wrecks? You will have paid for most of the airfare already! Alternatively, you could stop off to dive in the Philippines. Talk to us about the possibilities.
FLIGHTS: Example price from about $1335 return from Los Angeles to Yap. It is only possible to fly all the way through to Yap, via Guam, on certain days of the week.