Yap, Yap, Yap

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Oct 06, 2013

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Flag of Micronesia  , Yap,
Thursday, March 1, 2012

Another United Airways flight and another mechanical problem. Time wise, this 4 hour delay out of Palau was a vast improvement over the 21 hour delay into Palau, but given that the flight was scheduled to leave at 1:30 in the morning (and the benches in the Palau airport are based on a similar KGB design used to extract confessions from Capitalist sympathizers), it was one of the longest 4 hour delays ever.

Our biggest reason for visiting Yap was probably to confuse our geographically challenged friend, Deb P, who is convinced that the only country west of Hawaii is Japan; her paint-by-numbers atlas likely isn't going to help her find Yap (and to be fair Yap isn't really a country on it's own but is part of the Federated States of Micronesia- FSM- along with Pohnpei, Kosrae, and Chuuk (formerly Truk)- 607 islands in total). Yap is arguably the most well known of the islands because of spectacular dive sites and stone money but it is still largely ignored- Yap hosts less than 5,000 tourists a year (primarily divers) which is dwarfed by the 150,000 that visit the big brother island of Palau.

The second reason for visiting Yap was to pay tribute to a country that names itself Yap, a sound, when repeated quickly, I had previously associated only with heavy gossip sessions between DH and her girlfriends.

The third reason, of course, was to feed DH's insatiable diving appetite. Our first day in Colonia was a Sunday and there was either a tsunami warning we weren't aware of, or Sunday, as a day of rest, is taken very literally with no one moving much beyond the confines of their hammock. We wandered through this ghost town (in about 20 minutes) until DH spotted what she was looking for- a dive shop! We then met with Jan, the Yap Divers manager, and after DH subtlety mentioned that she was a nervous diver (about 15 times!!), Jan worked hard to set us up with a super-floatie boat, a BCD with attached water wings, and a dive master who had an enviable track record of limited fatalities on his watch.

Our waitress at breakfast had warned us that what we had experienced on Sunday was an anomaly and that the traffic on our dive day would be "crazy"- she was right- there must have been 10, maybe eleven vehicles jamming the streets of Colonia (if this poor girl ever finds herself on the streets of nearby Manila- a place that invented really crazy traffic- I suspect that her head might explode). After dodging the worlds smallest traffic jam, we met the dive team and headed out to the first site- a newly discovered Manta Ray cleaning station. This might have been the easiest, longest, and most spectacular scuba we've ever done.

This was really the first dive that DH or I had done where we really didn’t do much more than sink to the bottom and watch marine life pass us by. When I say marine life, I really mean Manta Rays- there were hundreds of them… or at least ten that kept circling around us and through the cleaning station area (there were a lot of very colourful fish trying to distract us- one even attacked DH with all the fury a puffed up goldfish type could muster but the Mantas were the stars of this show). These strange looking creatures with wingspans (does a fish have wings?) ranging from 8’ to 12’ seemed to glide effortlessly in and out of our sightlines- ghostly aliens might be a good description. And apparently when you just sink, sit, and stare you don’t burn much air so we put in a fairly impressive 71 minutes of Ray watching before our dive master started ringing his recess-is-over bell and we headed back up. I suggested earlier that this was one of our easier dives, and it really was, but DH surfaced with a number of self-diagnosed injuries including Manta Ray Neck (from looking up for so long), Regulator Jaw (from biting down so hard and long on her mouthpiece- presumably in case I tried to share air again), and Flipper Foot (although to be fair this ankle tendon injury really happened in Palau when swimming against the strong current). It’s a good thing her attack fish didn’t have teeth or she might not have gone down again.

And speaking of fish teeth, our next dive was shark overload. They were in front, behind, above, and below us- these rows of teeth with fin attachments were Grey Reef and Black Tip Sharks, not their more famous man-eating cousins, but too many viewings of the movie Jaws had me thinking that these bad boys were snarling at us as they circled trying to determine the weakest link. DH had already self-selected and was trying to stay in the centre of our small group- she panicked when I momentarily drifted out of sight- I thought it was out of concern but apparently I was supposed to be her buffer for any frontal attacks. She was convinced that it would just take one that wasn’t wired properly and the feeding frenzy would start. As we were carried by the current along the reef, this dive seemed like a surreal Sea World Aquarium viewing of bigger marine life except that we were inside the aquarium. Two of the best dives we’ve ever done and even DH recommends Yap as a must-do destination for dive fanatics.

The other claim to fame for Yap is their Stone Money and we spent our final day seeking out the Stone Money Banks that were scattered about the island. Apparently this ‘money’ is still used today to purchase property (all of Yap, even territorial waters is privately owned) and its not size that determines value of the stone but rather the difficulty related to bringing the stone back from the quarries in Palau (that worked great until some Euro named OKeef- likely the Martin W of his day- loaded up a Chinese Junk with stone wheels and cratered the currency market in Yap). It was also interesting to note that not all families trusted the Stone Money Banks and their money decorated their front yards like plastic flamingos in a trailer park. All of the traditional villages in Yap were connected by stone walkways that are centuries old so it was good fun to wander these paths thinking about the years gone by. One last stroll through the metropolis of Colonia and it was time to pack up once again.
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Ori on


Carol on

WOW, I couldn't just comment on one picture!! These are stunning, what an amazing dive that would have been. I have been diving (like you have) on the Great Barrier Reef and nothing I have ever seen compares to these photos for big sharks and manta rays! Deb I am hoping that you are now becoming a "not nervous" diver. Nothing should make you nervous after that!

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