Sitting Out the Corona Crisis on Yap – Bill’s Update #2

You will notice that we are in the 2nd week of updates on how we’re dealing with the corona virus (COVID-19) outbreak. In reality we’re in week #8 as the lock-down basically started on the 1st of February. We were hoping that it will be over soon, however instead of getting back to normal, the world around us has started to become more and more affected, resulting in this unreal situation.

Things have been tough and will be getting tougher, but as I mentioned last week, we are determined to come out of this crisis stronger and better. We also understand that you are hesitant to book your next trip to our beautiful island, but soon we are going to give you the opportunity to “lock down” a future credit and we’ll give you the list of 10 reasons “Not to come to Yap”.  We will also release our plans to reward those healthcare employees who are now fighting for others on the front line.  When this is over, we want to do our part to show them our appreciation for helping us survive this crisis.

During last year’s MantaFest (www.mantafest.com) program, we experimented with our first Blackwater dives and had excellent results.  As a result of these dives, I decided to try and make Blackwater diving a regular staple of Yap Divers’ dive offerings.  The people I spoke with all told me that the person to seek out was Mike Bartick of Crystal Blue Resort in Anilao, Philippines.  As luck would have it, Patricia and I have a condo not far from Anilao. So, in October of 2019, while my brother Pat was visiting, I reached out to Mike and he graciously invited us to visit him at his resort.

Mike was, and is, a real gem.  He not only took his time to explain everything about his Blackwater diving and what equipment he uses and where he gets his equipment, he also introduced me to Bonfire diving.  Bonfire diving is Blackwater diving but inside the reef and stationery as opposed to outside the reef and drifting.  Mike showed me the lights he uses in the Philippines and introduced me to Doug at Kraken Sports who was very helpful in getting the right lights, batteries and general information to us.  I must say, these lights are the BEST.

Equipped with 4 very powerful Kraken lights, we made custom aluminum holders which can be pushed into the sandy bottom and began searching for the best place to conduct Bonfire dives.  For us, as those of you have been here know, we have two seasons – Trade winds when the winds blow from the Northeast almost continually for 6 months and Non-Trade winds when there is little to no wind.  Being on the East side of the island means that the waters closest to the Manta Ray Bay Resort are rough for half the year.  The rough water precludes us from conducting Blackwater dives in the deep ocean outside the reef for half the year.  Thus, my fascination with Bonfire diving, which can be done inside the reef, and which should attract all kinds of interesting and weird creatures.

My son OP, our Dive Operations Manager, along with dive guides John, Mike, Charles and Ferr all joined me as we began conducting Bonfire Dives and taking guests along as volunteers.  To date, we have made seven dives in different places trying to find the perfect dive site.  We have seen lots of interesting creatures on each dive. These first seven dives have been in various locations close to Slow and Easy.  Our next two dives are scheduled for the Circus Wreck – Laura Marie.  COVID-19 has put that on hold as we are closed, boats on land in storage and employees fending for themselves.  As soon as the world gets back to normal, we will be full speed ahead in trying to find the perfect Bonfire dive site.

One of the few divers we still had in February was a very nice Dutchman Mr. Wijnand Vlierhuis  who shot some awesome images during one of the test dives. Here is a sample.

 

Picture taken during one of the Bonfire test dives a few minutes boat ride from Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers
Juvenile lobster taken by Wijnand Vlierhuis during one of the Bonfire dives

We are looking forward to finding the best Bonfire site as well as to the start of the Blackwater season.  We are ordering more lights, camera arms and rope from Doug in anticipation of the Trade winds ending in early June.  At that time, we will be heading towards the Yap Trench and conducting Blackwater dives in thousands of feet of water.  We invite anyone reading this to join us in helping to discover the best Bonfire dive sites and/or join us for the Blackwater 2020 season.

In closing, I want to let everyone know that we have just released a new dive site video produced by our good friend Andy Schumacher of  Schumacher films.  This can be viewed on our YouTube Channel

If you enjoy this video, please be sure to subscribe to our channel which will provide you with an alert every time we release a new video.

Looking forward to your reactions to this post and I promise to personally reply to all comments on FB. Please share the FB post with all your dive buddies, friends, colleagues and family. Please understand that I have given you my promise to personally reply, but bear in mind I still have my Stone Money Brewery routine of Drink, Pee, Repeat so there could be slight delays.

 

Three generations of the Acker family
Stay Safe!! – the Acker Family

 


Sitting Out the Corona Crisis on Yap – Bill’s Update

“What a difference a day makes”………….Most of us know Dinah Washington’s hit from the 50’s, but for the Manta Ray Bay Family, that day was definitely January 31 of this year. While travelling back with Patricia from a very successful BOOT show in Germany, the news reached us that the FSM – to my knowledge the first country – instituted a travel ban basically locking down the entire country. Not only visitors residing in countries with confirmed cases of the Corona virus, but also those residing in countries with no cases but traveling via Narita, Manila, Taipei or Seoul would be stopped in Guam for a 14 day quarantine.  Technically Patricia and I were not allowed to return home but United Airlines only asked if we had been in China within the past 14 days which we were able to answer with a “no” so we were allowed to board the plane for Yap.

After two years of investing in our own flight reservation system and a partnership with Caroline Islands Air, we finally saw opportunities to get more divers to our beautiful island.  The 31st of January and President Panuelo’s travel ban meant we had to brace for impact.

With occupancy in February down more than 70% due to last minute cancellations and March and April being empty and perhaps even beyond those months, means no guests at all during our normal high season.  Needless to say, the worst is still to come.

We managed, up until 3 weeks ago, to keep the majority of our staff on the payroll and although with limited hours our biggest assets – our employees – still had some income. Unfortunately, all, but a few have been laid off by now. We do what we can trying to help them. Go fishing and distribute the fish among our employees, hand out food vouchers that can be used to buy supplies at the stores, give food from our hydroponics farm and other local sources in our family as well as letting them cash their vacation days. We’ll survive and although Yap State and FSM Government have pledged to support the local businesses, the financial aid has not come.

Enough self-pity. At the end of the day we’re still a Corona-free island, have our waters to fish in and our land to produce from. We are determined to come out of this crisis stronger and as soon as the funds are available we’ll try to get our staff back to work on projects that improve our facilities, services and dive options.

My family and I, together with our staff, just wanted to let you know that we’re going through tough times, but we’re all healthy. We’ll get updates on what’s happening on your favorite dive destination during this crisis through this blog on a regular basis. Stay tuned as my next blog will be about the exciting test dives that I did with OP, John and Mike for our soon to launch “Bonfire” dives.

All the best,

Bill, Patricia, family and staff

Bill & Patricia Acker at the pool
We’re holding the fort for you till you can come and visit us again


Bill’s Favorite Dive Site: Caverns

My favorite Yap Dive Site, by Bill Acker.

With over 17,000 dives in Yap and having found & named most of our dive sites, it’s really hard for me to single just one out. There are any number of wonderful dives here in Yap and on any given day, all can be spectacular with unbelievable wildlife happenings but if forced to pick only one, it would be Yap Caverns. The Caverns, over the years, have featured everything for schools of more than 100 Bumphead Wrasse to over 500 Rainbow Runners to Whale Sharks, Pilot Whales, Dolphins, mating Octopus, Marlin & Sailfish not to mention the Leaf Fishes, Coral Hermit Crabs and Ornate Ghost Pipefishes and almost all of this in very clear waters. Not only the unpredictability but the fact that there are two world class wall dives on each exit, makes this a stunning dive where you truly never know what to expect.

One of my favorite things to do at the Caverns, besides the swim through caves and tunnels, is to visit the Grey Reef Shark cleaning station at about 100 to 120 feet. When they are getting cleaned, the sharks are almost vertical in the water with their gills wide open and you can almost see the smile of joy on their face as the cleaner wrasses do their job. It’s also down here that you find large Stone Fish and are perched on the edge of the drop-off so any large pelagics swimming by are right there in front of you.

Then there are the anemones with their anemone fish who lay eggs seasonally and if you go there every day for a week, you can watch the eggs develop and hatch before your eyes. The anemones also host shrimp and porcelain crabs. Finally the schools on Anthias at the tops of the reef and the coral bommies guarding the caverns from the open water are an excellent photo opportunity and fun to watch as they move in and out of their hiding places in the coral.

Yes, if forced to pick only one of our more than 50 buoyed dive sites, I would choose Yap Caverns. I hope to dive with you there some day soon. Until then, safe travels and happy diving.

Dive Site: Yap Caverns >


Staff Spotlight: Lee

For those of you who have stayed/dived with us, Lee is the first Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers team member you’ll meet after having cleared Immigration and Customs. She is always in the “Welcome to Yap”-mode and her friendly smile let’s you forget it’s 2:30 in the morning when you arrive.

Lee, or Jenesha L. Tun, was born on November 26th, 1994 on Yap and grew up in the village of Wanyan, part of the Gagil municipality. With an older brother and sister, she’s the youngest among her siblings.

When Lee graduated 8th grade, she went to North Carolina for a better education. She lived with her uncle and aunt for four years. After finishing high school, Lee attended Fayetteville Technical Community College, studying criminal justice latent evidence.

Being a real island girl, she missed her native Yap so much that she decided to stop her studies after just 1 year and returned to Yap. Once back on island, she became very active in the local Youth Council and has become a very vocal advocate for higher learning for Yap’s youth.

Besides welcoming our guests at the airport, you’ll see her in the Concierge department being a tour guide for the various tours that we offer. Time allowing, she will also join our divers on the boat as she is a certified diver. When following our FB-page you might have noticed that Lee is also a contributor for our postings about all the adventures, tours, culture and history youcann experience in Yap.

When not working, Lee enjoys cooking and eating, swimming, snorkeling as well as writing. Becoming a novelist is her big dream.

What does she like about her job? Obviously meeting new people, telling everyone about her beautiful and unique island while working in an environment that stimulates her to grow.

Knowing that her dad is the associate chief justice of Yap State, it’s not a surprise that she initially studied criminal justice, but the fact that her mom used to work as a marketing manager for the Yap tourist office helps explain why she loves her job so much as well as why her favorite motto is, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work day in your life” (Confucius).

For those that haven’t visited/dived with us yet, it’s about time. Lee is waiting for you at the airport.


David Fleetham Blackwater Photos

Blackwater dive photo

Blackwater diving is underway in Yap. Thank you David Fleetham for contributing these takes and being on our first blackwater explorations.

These initial expedition dives were conducted off of Yap’s East coast several miles offshore in thousands of feet of water.

Yap is unique in that it sits on the rim of the Marianas Trench, within 100 miles of Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the ocean.

Pelagic squid were encountered and photographed on almost every dive.

This year’s image contest Best of Show champion won with a blackwater photo of squid behavior of predation, cannibalism to be exact.

Blackwater dive photo

Blackwater dive photo


NEW Manta Ray IDs

Manta Ray Research cont… the Yap manta ray ID database just grew by two.

These photos help unveil the lives of these mysterious animals and have guided local conservation and protective regulation development with Yap’s manta ray and shark sanctuary laws.

Marine animal ID database records the location, time and a status report of the animal, such as; pregnant, scarred, bit, missing a tail, injured, matured and it’s behavior when it was seen.

These small encounters add up over time and tell us a lot about our Yap manta rays. Manta ray conservation in Yap is as simple as photo ID’s with the dive site and date.

dive with manta rays

An email came through to manta-id@mantaray.com with belly shots of manta rays encountered this August during our annual Photo School event.

This encounter was in Goofnuw channel during a new moon incoming tide which brings the clearest water to Yap’s channels.

Two rays were identified as new additions to our resident manta ID database.

dive with manta rays dive with manta rays

dive with manta rays

A known resident female had a young male in train that turned out to be a first photo ID. Another ID was confirmed with a belly shot of a young female.

Both of these animals were checked in our manta ray ID database first, then sent to manta-id@mantaray.com as a possible new ID.

Check your belly shots

diving with manta rays

iIf you submit a manta belly shot of a new animal, you get to name it! That could be you… and a name of your choice for these two new Yap mantas.


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Michael Wüthrich
Michael Wüthrich
09:27 24 Jun 20
Awesom dive experience. we dived for a week with Yap divers and every dive was varied and very beautiful. We benefited from the pre-corona time in March which meant that there were very few tourists on Yap. (3...)read more
R. Frobhboese
R. Frobhboese
06:21 13 May 20
We have been twice at Manta Ray Bay. The staff was exzellent dive guides as well as people on the Mnuw, not to mention the Amber👌 The sharks at Vertigo and the Mantas at Stammtisch are a must for every diver. We hope to be back!read more
Fariborz Zak
Fariborz Zak
07:03 12 May 20
Wonderful lovely place worth to try it again
Keenan Woodmansee
Keenan Woodmansee
07:09 04 Jan 20
This is "The" place to stay. Friendly staff and great hotel and restaurant.
Sandie Chung
Sandie Chung
13:30 11 Dec 19
My fourth time to Manta Ray Bay Resort in Yap since 1995. Hotel still very well kept, spacious room, good services and dive centre, very well run. Enjoy my dives very much with crystal clear water, mantas, sharks and even some macros. Wish they have better flight schedules to make it easier for visitors. Love to be back again.read more
Tait Brimacombe
Tait Brimacombe
04:31 18 Oct 19
Stayed at Manta Ray Bay as part of work travel to Yap. Excellent rooms and very friendly and helpful staff who were happy to go out of their way to assist guests and ensure they had a pleasant stay. Would highly recommend and look forward to staying again in the future.read more
John Yosh
John Yosh
11:27 18 Sep 19
My experience at the Manta RayBay Resort was once in a life time. We did not dive because we were in Yap for military purposes but if I had to choose a location in which to dive it would be in Yap and I would stay at the Manta Ray Bay Resort again. Bill and his family are just wonderful and made our experience on Yap such a memorable one. I hope to come back to Yap again and if I am so privileged I would visit with my adopted family and stay at the Manta Ray Bay Resort again.read more
Yann Faure
Yann Faure
11:08 15 Jul 19
All the staff from Manta bay resort will treat you like family and make you feel at home The room was very spacious and decorated with taste The dives were very nice , especially Vertigo obviously ! Do not hesitate , just book your trip to Yap and Manta bay resort will do the rest and there will not be any bad surprise I highly recommend a stay with Bill's Acker great resort !read more
Bruce Tanner
Bruce Tanner
16:13 27 Jun 19
Completed my 7th trip to Yap this past April and it is still one of the best dive destinations and operations around. Have led groups there for those 7 years and had several repeat customers go back with me. Great staff, dive operation and beautiful hotel. And the diving is diverse and just awesome. Many of the staff have become friends and it always a treat to be greeted by name upon arrival and around the hotel. Since diving is the premier attraction the island is a paradise of relaxation and laid back attitude. If you haven't been to this area of the world you should really consider it. Bill Acker, owner and all around good guy, can help you make travel plans for visiting Yap and other great destinations in Micronesia.read more
Jendrik Schroeder
Jendrik Schroeder
15:18 15 Jun 19
It´s an excellent diving and a wonderfull cultural experience to visit Yap. The Manta Ray Bay resort provides you with friendly and skilled staff both in diving and in the hotel department. The underwater world is extremely beautifull and the island culture very interesting to explore! I enjoyed both the diving and the cultural experience to the maximum !!!!!read more
Chris Mars
Chris Mars
18:28 26 Mar 19
This is my home island.. Iam just giving it 5 star review cuz i miss home.. Feels like forever since I Last visitedread more
stacey blake
stacey blake
16:26 20 Mar 19
Beautiful resort and location, small and quaint with very attentive service from wonderful staff who were extremely friendly and helpful, and knew everyone's name (travelled with a group of 20 people) within the first day. Yap Divers staff were amazing, we were even offered hot tea during our surface intervals with some delicious snacks, and they ensured we had the best possible dive experience on each dive. I would return to this gorgeous island and absolutely stay at Manta Bay Resort again, it's well worth the trip!read more
Shaun Suliol
Shaun Suliol
11:48 12 Mar 19
The staff made sure our every needs were met! They were accommodating to my groups weird requests. We felt spoiled. They even remember our names. No where else but in Yap at the Manta Ray!read more
Doreen Korbl
Doreen Korbl
19:09 10 Mar 19
incredible service, special thanks to Ruud the resort manager
Michael Fusco
Michael Fusco
04:49 22 Jan 19
MantaRayBay Resort, is THE dive resort. It is so obvious that this place was designed for divers, BY divers. The concept that all of the guests are part of the resort family seems to be the cornerstone of MRB Resort. The dive service is top notch; the wait staff spot-on, the resort staff super friendly and attentive. The dive sites are great, especially the southern walls, and of course the cleaning stations visited so often by the Manta Rays. I have gone scuba diving all over western Asia and the Caribbean, and MRB Resort is at the top!read more
Deb Roy-Stothart
Deb Roy-Stothart
13:55 06 Dec 18
The highest level of dive service ever experienced! Fabulous dive operation from crew, boats, snacks, hot tea and water, warm towels etc. etc. and of course the Manta Rays!! Thank you for making my 100th dive so memorable. Accommodations 5 star! Food was fabulous! Can't say enough about this beautiful Island and it's people. Loved Yap! Deb & Glenn, London, Ontarioread more
Jan Toman
Jan Toman
22:14 02 Nov 18
Great! GREAT! GREAT! Lovely place, lovely staff, great location for divers!
Ms. Malinda
Ms. Malinda
13:52 14 Oct 18
Great place to stay while visiting the island. Lots of activities to do with places to see & people to meet.read more
Rene Sten
Rene Sten
04:06 12 Oct 18
Bill and his family run a great dive resort, rooms are spacious and comfortable. Restaurant and bar provide good range of food and drink. Bill and his dive guides know the reef intimately and the diving is spectacular. Bill and his family make for a very friendly and rewarding experience in Yap.read more
Jonathan Gapith
Jonathan Gapith
10:31 19 Sep 18
Best dive resort around, amazingly friendly staff and great food on the mnuw
Daniel Granzer
Daniel Granzer
11:40 23 Aug 18
We were from 11.08 to 18.08 at the Manta Ray Bay resort and had unforgettable days there 😍In total we made 12 dives with wonderful encounters. Highlights were, of course, the manta rays in the Goofnuw Channel and many white tip reef sharks in the Shark City 🦈 But also we saw eagle rays, turtles 🐢 and buffalo head parrotfish. The hotel is beautiful and the whole team does a great job there. The food on the ship Mnuw, as well as the home-brewed beer are excellent. Thank you again to the whole team of Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers 👏🏼We also did a one-day land tour to explore the many beautiful places of this unique island. The beach is like in paradise🏝, stone money and relics from the second world war very worth to see! You find there also culturally typical houses with different meaning and use! It would be nice if more visitors would come to this great island and appreciate the great work that is done there! Anyway, we really enjoyed it and would come back anytime 🙏🏻✌🏼read more
Emily Caquelin
Emily Caquelin
04:10 02 Aug 18
Manta Ray Bay Resort is a great dive resort with extremely hospitable staff.
William Myers
William Myers
21:01 21 Jul 18
Great hotel. Have stayed twice.
Jim Reilly
Jim Reilly
11:27 21 Mar 18
We stayed at the hotel and dove with Manta Ray divers in early December 2017. The hotel is very comfortable, well run and staffed with wonderful employees. During our visit my wife came down with an illness and the consideration and support from the hotel and dive staff could not have been better.read more
Sandy Stinson
Sandy Stinson
16:03 03 Mar 18
The staff couldn't be more friendly and accommodating. Food is good, (worth upgrading to include all meals). Diving is good too.read more
Alex Divinsky
Alex Divinsky
17:24 01 Jan 18
The best place to stay in Yap. The resort is really nice and clean, the scuba diving is great, and the docked ship that houses the bar, restaurant, and movie screen is very cool. I really enjoyed my stay here.read more
ASALI
ASALI
10:44 01 Jan 18
Offers one of the best accommodation service. It also has a uniquely designed restaurant.
Yi-Hsin Lin
Yi-Hsin Lin
00:53 21 Feb 17
The whole place centers around the scuba diving operation. Probably better to find somewhere else if you're not a diver. The dive operation was generally good, but a little too laid back - schedules weren't always clear, and sometimes would change without any notice. Sometimes it was hard to tell if this was really because of changing tides/weather or because of the island pace of life. Pizza is a surprisingly good option at the restaurant.read more
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