Yap - Stone money islands
Yap lays northeast of Palau and is a quite a different place. The capital Colonia is really a village and not a big one either, with only one resort/hotel that can offer a complete accommodation, meal, diving and spa experience. This is the Manta Ray Bay Resort. I found it out by staying at another resort that couldn't deliver a complete package for me. Colonia is a sleepy, chilled-out and calm place with not more to offer than diving.
Yap is one of four states in the Federate States of Micronesia, the other three are Chuuk (that I will be visiting shortly), Pohnpei and Kosrae. The different islands I have visited in the Philippines and Micronesia so far, have all been different from the others. And I'm not surprised considering the great distances between these islands. Yap is more traditional and perhaps conservative than all the rest in Micronesia. My first two photos are from 1 January, showing two traditional Yapese houses above and stone money below.
The stone money, also called Rai, is typically found in Yap. And while the monetary system of Yap appears to use these giant stones as tokens, it relies on an oral history of ownership. Being too large to move, buying an item with these stones is as easy as saying it no longer belongs to you. As long as the transaction is recorded in the oral history, it will be owned by the person you passed it on to, no physical movement of the stone is required. These Rai stones were quarried on several islands in Micronesia and transported to Yap.
On 2 January I had my first dive in Yap, captured in my photo above. This photo is from a dive site called Vertigo, a huge drop-off into deeper waters and incredible visibility that goes beyond 50 meters. Its easy to spot the approaching sharks with visibility as good as this, and there are three of them in my photo, but there were more than that present. The main difference between diving in Yap and Palau, is you don't have as many dive boats and divers as in Palau, resulting in a more relaxed and personal dive experience.
Another benefit is that accommodation is less pricey in Yap then neighbouring Palau, and the diving is at the same high level. My photo above is from 2 Janauary and pictures the unspoiled coral reef at Vertigo, with a black tip shark cruising the reef. I and my divemaster were the only two divers in the water at Vertigo when this photo was taken. It was really as relaxed and pleasant as the picture is. All in all, I saw three different spieces of sharks on this dive, Grey Reef Sharks, Black-tips and also a White-tip, and a lot of other fishes.
Yap offers equally spectacular diving as Palau, and without the crowds and also cheaper accommodation, about half of it in fact! You got the sharks, mantas, reefs with soft and hard corals, multitude of fishes to watch once you stick your head below the surface. Yap is as mentioned a sleepy place and the only this one can do here is dive, dive and dive some more. I also believe Manta Ray Bay is the best resort in Colonia, giving you most value for money.
- I'm currently in Saipan trying to organise some scuba and freediving.