Yap is one of the four Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in the Pacific Ocean, and is located midway between Palau and Guam. Generally, Yap State has two main components - Yap Island (four main islands), and the Outer Islands. The other three states of the FSM are Pohnpei, Kosrae and Chuuk.
In terms of diving, Yap is best known for the large group of resident manta rays that frequent the cleaning stations in the channels.
According to the websites, the popular months for divers are around December to April because it's manta mating season. Nevertheless, Yap is diveable all year round. When we went in 'low season' (September), we saw our fair share of mantas (not mating though) along with a handful of other marine life. No choppy waters, maybe a little surge during one dive, and some currents during the manta dives because of the tides, but all in all, diving at Yap is very manageable for divers who have done less than 100 dives.
If you want to go to Yap specifically to see mantas, then of course it's probably ideal to go during the mating season. It would also be VERY USEFUL to check the tide charts because the mantas appear at the cleaning stations at specific times based on the tides. If you just want to do general diving and it doesn't make a difference if you see mantas or not, then just go at any time.
Weather-wise, rainfall is higher from May to August. When we went for 7 days in September, we experienced 5 days of scorching sun, 2 days of mildly overcast skies, and maybe a few hours of rain in the daytime and maybe a little more at night. I got a major tan. We also saw dolphins. Twice. (September is supposed to be a good month for dolphin-watching.)
For how long to stay, you are basically restricted by flight schedules. More details on this in the Getting There section.
Would I go again in low season? Yes.
There are quite a few resorts on Yap Island, such as Manta Ray Bay Hotel, Traders Ridge, O'Keefe's Waterfront Inn, The Pathways, and ESA Bay View Hotel. For our first visit to Yap, we stayed at the Manta Ray Bay Hotel and had a very pleasant experience there. The Yap pages in this website feature Manta Ray Bay Hotel and their dive centre Yap Divers. O'Keefe's was right next door to Manta Ray Bay and it looked very pleasant, like one of those charming English B&B's housed in an old English-style manor. We didn't see what the other resorts looked like though.
What we DID notice was that Yap Divers (based in Manta Ray Bay) had dive boats with the most cover from the sun! The other dive boats we saw had very little shade and we were grateful for the shade provided by Yap Divers' boats because the sun can be really quite powerful. So that's something you might want to consider when deciding where to stay and which dive operator to use.
The cost of a 7-night package was US$2,878 for two persons, and included the following:
- Manila-Yap-Manila airfare via ContinentalAirlines
- 7 nights at Manta Ray Bay Hotel (excluding meals)
- 3 dives a day x 5 days
- free Nitrox
If you're going to Yap from Singapore, you will also have to factor in the airfare for Singapore-Manila-Singapore, and one night at Manila (necessary because of the flight schedule from Manila to Yap). More details on flight schedules are in the Getting There section.
Currency: US Dollar
Language: The Yapese speak four local dialects and fluent (American) English.
Culture: The Yapese are very traditional and there are some basic rules that would be good to remember. When you're outside the resort, wear a long sarong or slacks because exposing your thighs is frowned upon. If you want to gallivant around at night, don't go gallivanting into a village without a torch. Everything belongs to the villages, so if you want to go somewhere, anywhere, you need to get permission from the respective village first. So it's best to do your touring with a local guide. And if you want to buy land to build a house, the transaction has to be done with stone money which weighs a ton and comes from Palau.
It is customary for the Yapese ladies to go topless and wear a sarong so don't be surprised if you see this when queuing up at the supermarket.
The Yapese have fascinating traditions and customs. If you can, do try to catch a traditional dance or a weaving-demonstration. After that, take some time to talk to them.
Before you start generalising and think that Yap is "untouched by Western civilisation", don't be naive. While watching a traditional dance, I noticed a middle-aged lady sitting on the grass chewing betel nut. She was wearing a traditional grass skirt and flower garland, and also modern sunglasses and holding a can of Coca Cola. And the young people speak fluent MTV.
The Yap State Flag
Yap = Spectacular sunsets with no interruptions from tall buildings
Yap = great weather and crystal clear water
Yap = Mantas
Yap = fresh seafood for dinner everyday. This is the Yap Fresh Tuna Incorporation.
Yap = being able to watch the moon rise
Yap = stone money
Traditional Yapese dance
Traditional Yapese attire