Last Thursday saw Popou full with another group of intrepid divers heading out with Bill to explore some wonderful dive sites in Yap. This trip out we headed to the south of the island to two of my favorite dive sites, namely Yap Caverns and Cabbage Patch.
The visibility was excellent at the Yap Caverns and we had very little current so the swim throughs were very easy. This dive produced some great marine life for us all to photograph. We had octopus, lion fish, three leaf fish and a very colorful mantis shrimp as well as a few passing white tips.
The surface interval offered a great opportunity to check out each other’s pictures whilst having some delicious banana bread washed down with a cup of tea. We spent a fun hour telling stories and having some really good banter back and forth.
The short journey up to Cabbage Patch gave us time to suit up for the next dive. Cabbage Patch is a large expanse of hard coral mainly pachyseris speciosa, which offers a chance to spot some lovely nudibranchs which we only ever find at this site called chelidonura inornata. This particular dive gave us an abundance of bump head parrot fish as well.
The guests on this trip out were Ron Lane, Birmingham, UK; Rob Reid, Birmingham UK; Julie Quickfall & David Williams, Somerset, UK; Brian Smith, California, USA; Peter Schmidt & Martina Sebastian, Schonerfeld, Germany; Kurt Fehr, Lenzburg, Switzerland Rudolf Argay, Basel, Switzerland. Also joining on the dive boat were Bill’s two daughters Numie and Valerie. Boat captain was Igy and Alex helped Bill out by being assistant dive guide.
Check out our blog next week for the next safari…
Peter Schneider, originally from Berlin, Germany is our new Manta Visions Video & Photo Pro. Peter is a true professional in his field having worked for 12 years in German television, before moving to French Polynesia to create his own company – Underwatercam. In the 9 years he lived and worked on the atoll of Rangiroa, Peter spent more than 4000 hours with his cameras submerged.
Many of the images he brought to the surface, were used for international TV productions such as National Geographic TV, Discovery Channel and different European channels. One of the highlights of his career came when award winning underwater cinematographer Christian Petron asked Peter to work with him. Christian was the leading cinematographer for Luc Besson on the films “ The Big Blue” and “Atlantis” as well as many other films you might have seen.
On the last project the two worked together in 2009/2010, Peter was also the topside high definition (HD) broadcast camera operator. You want more info on that project? Pssst, this is still top secret, … but here is a short sneak preview of it:
In 2004 Peter produced, together with Rachel Campergue, a 52 minute documentary about shark finning in French Polynesia. This award winning film “Sharks of Rangiroa, from Legend to Reality” and the activities it triggered played an important role in the process of introducing a law against commercial shark fishing in French Polynesia. The bill was finally passed the 12th of April 2006.
“I believe the biggest enemies of sharks are fear, misconception and a lack of information. We simply don’t protect what we are afraid of and what we don’t understand. In my films I try to capture the beauty of these amazing animals. Every diver who ever had the chance to observe sharks in the wild can tell about their aura. Every diver who tells or even can show his family and friends pictures of himself diving with sharks, becomes somehow an ambassador for those fabulous creatures. I am happy and feel privileged to have the chance to accompany you on your dive. Giving you, with the films I make, a tool to change fear into fascination and respect.”
“When did I discover my sympathy for sharks you asked? I was around 4 years old, when my parents and I spent our summer holidays at the shores of the Baltic sea. I had this oval, red rubber-framed diving mask that I was so proud of. I dared to kneel down and submerge the mask into the ankle-deep wild waters of the Baltic ocean ….sea …I mean. Wow, I was so impressed, … it was just unbelievable what I saw. Everyone on the beach has to know, I thought. I left the water in such an excitement, ran from one canopied beach chair to the next to announce my discovery: “ Sharks,… there are sharks in the water, …full of sharks, …the water is full of sharks.” I can’t remember how my parents reacted,, but they weren’t much concerned and let me go again for deeper studies. Sharks were obviously the first fish I knew by name, …not red snappers, …but the snappers have the color my back became that day. I learned: sharks are no (little) man eating monsters and snakes are not the only creatures changing their skin.”
Do you believe Peter when he says “mama” was not the first word he spoke, …it was actually manta ….?
Ok, this was just to get the twist to another amazing story Peter has to share. In October 2007 he and his camera were at the right time in the right place. Two manta rays performed a beautiful mating dance in front of his eyes. We have seen this you might say, …but have you actually witnessed also the copulation of manta rays? Very few people had the chance to observe such behavior in wildlife and until know nobody else has captured it on video yet.
Peter wrote an article on it ,which was published in the British “Diver” magazine and several German magazines as well. You can read these articles online, …but to see the sparkling in Peters eyes when telling the story, you actually have to drop by.
“Manta rays are definitively the most graceful animals traveling the worlds’ oceans. To meet them in their habitat is every divers’ dream. If you are open to it, you can see that each animal has its different character and even mood. To interact with them is really something magic. Come as a guest, … sensitive and respectful and you will experience one of the most enchanted moments of your life and as a photo- or videographer,.you will take home the evidence of those magical encounters. Magic is the keyword here, … the magic of the manta rays of Yap, …and the magic of the Island of Yap has brought me here. The preserved nature and culture of the Island and the versatile diving Yap has to offer. I feel honored to be part of the professional team of Yap Divers. It is giving me the perfect support and working environment I need for my creative work at Manta Vision.”
Peter is also a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor and PADI Specialty Underwater Videography Instructor.
He offers one day “Introductions into underwater videography” and three day PADI Underwater Videography Specialty Courses with certifications. Peter will be in Yap and ready to dive with you beginning in June.
The above was written by Peter to introduce himself to you. I have known Peter for years and am very excited to have him join our team at the Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers. Peter will add another dimension to what is already a top flight dive staff. His images will enhance our evenings as we project them on Mnuw’s big screen and his work will show up on our website very soon. When you are ready for the adventure of your life, please contact us, or your favorite travel professional, to book your trip. Myself, Jan, Peter and the staff all look forward to showing you the amazing island of Yap.
In the meantime, you can contact Peter at email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and you can visit his website at www.underwatercam.tv.
Each September the Manta Ray Bay hosts an exciting event called Manta Fest. This year will be our fourth year running and will run from Sept 4 – 14.
We host Manta Fest each year with one simple aim. That is for people who have a love of the sea and the life it supports to get together to share their knowledge, passion, pictures/films and stories.
Over the years we have been very fortunate to have some outstanding and well known SCUBA dive photographers/videographers take time out of their busy schedules and spend Manta Fest with us to share their knowledge and be on hand to teach and give tips on getting better footage and shots. We host seminars and training sessions in the hotel to help our guests improve their skills behind the camera and also educate on the marine habitat and environment. Of course there is also the bonus to go and dive with these professionals and chat on the dive boats. In the evening the Crows Nest bar on the S/V Mnuw plays host to story-telling time and a chance to watch films shot by our presenters with a glass or two of our tasty in-house beer.
This year we will be joined by three talented people namely Andy Sallmon, Tim Rock and Ray Bullion. They have all spent a lot of time in Yap and are great friends of the Manta Ray Bay and will make your vacation time with us just that little bit extra special.
So what are you waiting for book today!
We will be posting more information as the time draws closer.
On Thursday night, Patricia, Greg Wilson and I were treated to a very memorable, and rare, occasion. We were invited to dinner at the private home of Trader Jack Cooper, perhaps the most famous publican in the South Pacific.
We first met Jack at his restaurant and bar over coffee one morning and then visited his house one afternoon. During that afternoon visit, Jack took a liking to Patricia and decided that we were worthy private dinner companions so we were invited to his house where his wife Rosa cooked an amazing meal of steak, fresh salad, carmalized onions and potatoes.
Jack has been in Rarotonga for over 30 years and has established an impressive business empire including the famous Trader Jack’s Bar & Grill, a catering company and fish processing plant including a 10 ton per day ice machine. Jack Cooper is truly a captain of industry having started numerous other businesses over the years and now settling down to write his memoirs – “40 Years Behind Bars” detailing his history in the tourism business.
Obviously Patrica and I extended an invitation for Jack and Rosa to visit Yap and allow us to return the hospitality.
Bill Acker & his wife Patricia met up with several Canadian friends of Greg Wilson for dinner and drinks to celebrate St. Patrick’s day. Music was provided by Wally Duff and Ian Wheeldon on the guitar with Greg Wilson singing along. It was a greaqt time all around and oh by the way, it was also Patricia’s birthday.
The venue was spectacular in the late afternoon as the sun was setting and the waves were crashing on the beach as seen through the lush tropical garden setting of the Waterline Restaurant. Even after dark, with the group gathered around the guitar, the atmosphere was stricktly party mode all the way.
Wally, originally from Belfast, is the only true green Irishman in the country and we had him for the evening. The evening’s music ranged from Irish ballads to Elvis Pressley with at least two renditions of Happy Birthday for Patricia.
Patricia and I have arrived in the Cook Islands where we are staying with local legendary dive pioneer Greg Wilson, owner and manager of Cook Island Divers. Greg has been a close personal friend for a number of years and has been to Yap over a dozen times. Believe it or not, this is the first time for Patricia and I to visit the Cooks. Greg regularly reminds me that he has been working 20 years to get us to visit.
We have done the various tourist type things, round island drives, up to scenic points, visiting local watering holes and participating in Island Night at one of the local hotels for a traditional feast and dancing. All of it has been good but the highlight for us has been the diving.
We have been out on the dive boats with Greg for the past 4 days and have seen some very good fish life, clear water and some stunning underwater vistas. I have to say that I have been very pleasantly surprised by the dive quality but I suspect a lot of this has to do with Greg and the fact that he has been diving these waters since 1973. We regularly see other dive operators’ boats in locations that we don’t dive and go past them to what Greg says are much better dive sites. Seems that saving fuel is part of other operations plans while Greg and his staff go out of their way to put you on the day’s best diving. Greg obviously shares my views on giving customers more than they expect.
At Yap Divers, we stive to under promise and over deliver and Cook Island Divers seems to share this viewpoint. I urge anyone reading this to consider a stop in the Cooks for any planned New Zealand or Tahiti trip. Managed by a transplanted Englishman, Ian Wheeldon, Greg’s dive shop specializes in SCUBA Training from Discover Scuba through to Instructor with PADI, NAUI, SSI or CMAS. You will be in good hands as a new or experienced diver.
Next up, St. Patrick’s Day and Patricia’s Birthday and then more diving.