As Micronesia’s westernmost state, and one of its foremost scuba diving treasures, Yap is a culturally rich, lushly vegetated island, widely known as the land of Stone Money. Located just nine degrees north of the Equator, and unlike many South Pacific islands, Yap is an uplifted portion of the Asian Continental Shelf that’s surrounded by a broad shallow lagoon and nearly 150 km (90 miles) of barrier reef. Yap has become well known within the diving community for its large population of resident manta rays, and hundreds of these gracefully serene creatures can be found living year round in the waters surrounding this charming tropical island. Although Yap is renowned for the consistency of its manta encounters, you can take advantage of even greater numbers in the Mi’l Channel from December through April, when the rays congregate for their annual mating season.
Local Land-Based Experts
Reached by air from either Guam or Palau, our partner in Yap is the Manta Ray Bay Hotel, operating in conjunction with Yap Divers. This company offers beautiful accommodation, as well as dive equipment rentals, scuba lessons, and transportation to and from all the nearby dive sites. This is an excellent way to experience diving in Yap, since there are no liveaboard vessels currently servicing the area. That being said, there is still much to experience while diving in Yap waters, which are widely known for their amazing clarity. Yap offers a range of scuba diving opportunities, with dozens of dive sites spaced evenly around the entire island, so those enjoying a diving vacation in Yap can easily encounter a variety of unique underwater experiences, regardless of which direction they’re headed.
Dive Sites in Every Direction
The coral wall off the very southern tip of Yap has been eroded over time, creating an incredible underwater cave network. Known as Yap Caverns, the site is open for endless exploration and divers can swim through chimneys and chutes in addition to the open caverns. This fascinating site is very easily navigable for the most part, and therefore lends itself to exploration by experienced and beginner divers alike. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the caverns are the only point of interest at this site, however, since there is plenty of marine life to be seen as well. You should keep an eye out for white-tipped reef sharks resting on the sandy bottom, as well as schools of parrotfish and even the occasional lionfish.
On the west coast of Yap, divers will find multiple sites that include Manta Ray Bay, where local dive operators guarantee manta ray sightings nearly year round. Swimming with the massive rays can be a truly exhilarating experience, even for the most seasoned diver, and similarly exciting encounters can be found at such sites as Manta Ridge, and the Valley of the Rays. On the other side of the island, Stonehenge is one of the steepest wall dives on Yap’s eastern shoreline and offers an easy drift diving opportunity as well. Featuring large, perpendicular crevices filled with star and table corals, divers at this site can expect to see morays, sharks and barracudas, as well as the occasional turtle asleep in a crack.
Steeped in Ancient Tradition
With a resident population of only about 12,000 people, Yap offers the rather unique opportunity for visitors to mingle with a culture that still observes many of its ancient customs and traditions. In addition to the loud and colourful story-telling dances that are an art form on Yap, visitors will find themselves exposed to a traditional way of life that still includes fishing, sailing and weaving. Unique attractions include handmade houses and the island’s famous ancient stone money disks, while local activities for your non-diving days can include hiking, mountain biking, and deep sea fishing.