There was some rain last week, …but there is nothing wrong about that, unless your plan is to play tennis or golf. Fortunately we are diving here in Yap Island and the umbrella of the ocean’s surface protects us from the cool showers.
While waiting for the Manta Rays to arrive at the cleaning station in Goofnuw Channel, I spotted my first Crocodile fish. Actually if I would have been the first diver to ever see a crocodile fish, I would have named it differently. The first thing that came to mind when I saw this amazing animal, was a duck. When I moved around him, he remained motionless, only the eyes followed my movements. This gave him some personality, …kind of a special character. My next thought came with a big laugh and I almost spit out my regulator. “Donald” I thought, …Donald (Duck) Croc , …Hi Donald, it is nice meeting you …”.
But before my fantasy could drag me deeper into Peter’s Wonderland, … a big female manta ray showed up on the horizon and glided into the cleaning station. Opening her gill slits to let the cleaning crew in, …she was hovering above the coral heads, but today only express cleaning was scheduled as she left after a couple of minutes. So did we, …moving to the second station. I swam a bit in front of our group, when a second manta appeared, …swimming towards us. I had no time to signal to the other divers and just laid down on the bottom and stopped breathing. The big ray didn’t show any signs of hesitation and continued its travels. This has happened to me so often in my three weeks in Yap but I always get a rush of euphoria. Yes, I got in the mood.
Some minutes later the silhouette of another ray appeared above us. This time it was an eagle ray. Like a kite he was hovering motionless in the current. Then turning and sailing a bit downstream, …turning again and sailing upstream . With every circle he came a little closer, …closer and closer until his wing almost touched my camera.
Yes, these are the magical moments in diving, …. when you are just feeling like staying submerged forever. But as this is not possible we only can comfort ourselves by looking forward to the next dive, …the next exciting encounter here in Yap island. I hope to see you soon (again)!
And those, who unfortunately had to stay in the Hotel, ….they also enjoyed life, … despite the rain. Of course they needed the umbrellas to protect their beers from being diluted.
Cheers and happy bubbles,
While my wife Patricia and I were driving to town this morning on our way to pick up our youngest granddaughter who is scheduled to spend the weekend with us, I suddenly realized something special. The day is glorious, sun is shining, breeze is blowing, everything is green from the summer rains and then it dawned on me. Exactly 17 years ago, to the day, I was making this same drive as the brand new owner of the Manta Ray Bay Hotel, Yap Divers and Wave Crest Travel Agency. Sure, I started each of these businesses and ran them from the day they opened but August 1, 1973 was the first day that my family and I actually OWNED them.
What a time it was. The oldest and youngest kids had turned 12 & 4 years old less than 30 days earlier while the middle two were 8 & 6 respectively. Today, Numie the oldest one, has just turned 29 with a degree in Hotel Management from the University in Canberra, Australia is married and has a 14 month old daughter – Mary Patricia. Numie is now the Human Resource Manager for the Resort after having spent her life working at just about every job we have here. Next in line is Nathan a 24 year old Lance Corporal in the US Marine Corps who spent a year in Engineering School at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and 2 years at the University of Hawaii before finding his calling in the military. Nathan also spent 2 years as our chef between the time he was in Hawaii and the time he joined the Corps.
Valerie is next in line and she is back home working as a dive guide for Yap Divers after spending two years in the Business program at Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth where she was double majoring in Accounting and Entrepreneurial Studies. Val is now married and has an 19 month old son – Thaddaeus. Last, but certainly not least, is Oliver Patrick “OP” Acker who has just celebrated his 21st birthday and is set to graduate from the College of Micronesia in Pohnpei with an AA degree in Computer Information Systems. OP is looking forward to enrolling in the University of Hawaii at Manoa in January (the same school I attended for Graduate School).
I have been married for more than 25 years to Patricia Mangthin, who is sitting beside me this morning as we head for town. She is happy to finally be a grandmother and realizes how lucky we are that they are all living close to us in Yap. Patricia has a wonderful family spread between Yap, Saipan and the United States, my family are all still in Texas and doing well. The kids are healthy, there are two grandkids in Yap, the business is better than it’s ever been so, as Joe Walsh would sing . . . “Life’s Been Good to Me So Far.”
Okay, we all know that Greece put the Euro into trouble, but who would have thought that our stone money makes it to the Azores in the mid-Atlantic. If you take a closer look you see that this disc is only a poor copy of our handicraft originals… At least it is located in front of a house – the way it should be – in Madalena, Pico Island.
Okay, wir wissen ja alle, dass Griechenland den Euro in die Krise gestürzt hat, aber wer hätte gedacht, dass ausgerechnet unser Steingeld den Weg in den Mittelatlantik zu den Azoren findet. Beim genaueren Hinsehen enttarnt sich das gute Stück aber nur als schlechte Kopie unser handgertigten Originale… Immerhin steht es im Vorgarten eines Hauses – so wie es sich gehört – in Madalena auf der Insel Pico.
Today saw the first day’s training in the kitchen on board the Mnuw, our 100 year old floating restaurant moored by the Manta Ray Bay Resort. The reason for the training you might ask? Well, we are in the process of totally overhauling our menu and putting into place something that is exciting, fresh, tantalizing and unique for the island of Yap. Not only will we be offering the best diving in Yap, but also the best dining.
In the kitchen today Bill held two training sessions for all the staff on how to make the perfect fish taco. I was there to sample one…well ok two or three and they tasted damn good. I’m sure it was down to all the years of his legendary Texas BBQs! The aim of changing the menu is to get good tasty food to our guests fast and to satisfy hungers that diving the great sites of Yap can only give you.
The sort of dishes you can expect to see on the new menu are, gourmet sandwiches, wide range of tacos, fish dishes, including catch of the day, our great appetizers (which we are keeping). We will be offering good sized burgers, all made from 100% Angus beef, with a tasty selection of toppings. We will of course have our pizza menu. We have increased our selection of desserts too, so there will be something to please those with a sweet tooth!
Keep checking our blog for notification of the final menu and launch date. So now there is another reason to come visit us here in Micronesia.
Here I am, at the Manta Ray Bay Resort on the island of Yap in the Pacific region known as Micronesia. After a long journey from French Polynesia, my video equipment and I have arrived safely. I had just enough time to set up my diving and video equipment, when Yap Divers announced a Shark Dive. Yessss, I thought …that is the right way to start my new job as a photo/video pro at Manta Visions. I was very excited to meet up with the local shark population for the first time and was wondering how many sharks we will see and how close I can get to them. You know, …I have done more than a thousand shark dives before and honestly I thought it will be hard to impress me.
So how was it, you ask?
As a warm-up Bill Acker, owner/operator of the resort, brought down a basket of fish carcasses and placed it in a crevice in the coral at a depth of 10 meters (30+ feet). The sharks, mostly grey reef sharks with a few blacktip reef sharks in the midst, smelled the bait but couldn’t get it. They stayed really cool and the divers, …among them several photographers, had time to find a good place for taking their desired pictures. The less experienced divers got time to get used to the presence of the sharks. I started to love them from the first minute. It was really easy to get close and they almost posed for us. My camera was rolling and rolling, …didn’t dare switch it off so I would not miss a scene. It was just beautiful, the light was perfect and the water extremely clear.
After 10 minutes or so Bill, with the help of a couple of the Yap Diver’s dive guides, brought down a large ball of frozen chum attached to a line and float so that the “chumcicle” stayed in mid-water. This time the sharks got a bit more excited as they could actually get to the food source. Still, the entire feed was very controlled and the sharks were just interested in the chum and ignored the divers. Ok, ok, …some sharks were a little more interested in cameras and strobes but isn’t that what we were looking for? “Come a little closer baby …..c’mon gimme a smile …” and they did!
To get the feeling you have to be here of course, …even the best pictures cannot make up for the real thing. So I hope to see you in Yap soon so I can introduce you to my new friends.
We were fortunate to have our good friend, Mr. Ken Kurtis from Hollywood, California back in Yap recently. This was Ken’s 6th visit and he brought several of his best customers with him. Here is an excerpt from his latest newsletter:
We had a great week (ten days actually with all the travel time) diving in Yap. Warm water, great weather (the only rain we saw – except for the final day there when we weren’t diving – was always between midnight and 6AM), wonderful animal encounters, fantastic friends at Manta Ray Bay Hotel (still my favorite diving resort in the whole world), and a good time was had by all.
Here’s an easy way of thinking about how special Yap is by looking at these four images from our dives on Thursday:
Dive 1 – Valley of the Rays @ 10:11AM:
Dive 2 – Vertigo shark feed @ 11:46AM:
Dive 3 – Gilman Wall @ 2:18PM
Dive 4 – O’Keefe Island @ 7:50PM
This is a collection of animals that most divers would be happy to see over the course of an entire week. We saw them in a space of less than nine hours on a single day. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You’ve got to go to Yap.
I’ll be working on the trip report and the pictures (and maybe a video too) and will send those to you separately, hopefully towards the end of the week. In the meantime, here are a dozen more images from our wonderful week in Yap: This Week (in pictures) at Reef Seekers.