The week after we had two more fantastic encounters with these 4 animals. Being smart as they are, they seem to become more familiar with the boat and these strange humans in rubber suits watching them from every angle possible. Everytime the encounters took place between the South-East part and the South tip of the island. Sometimes we would meet 3 of them as one of the adults was off hunting or doing whatever it felt necessary to do.
In addition to the Orcas, we had this pod of roughly 100 spinner dolphins again showing up between Manta Ray Bay Resort and the south tip of the island. While this species of dolphin is not really inquisitive, I had a few chances to photograph them.
Orca Update #2:
The Orcas (and the spinners) are still around, and despite of the rough sea we had another great meeting with these gentle giants. Actually this was the fifth day with Orcas. Judging from what fishermen told us, they are already here for almost six weeks now. New citizens of Yap? Conditions seem to become harsh, but on the other hand the four whales became really playful. Actually they were coming so close to the boat that we all got wet from the splashing of their black & white fins. More than once. I guess a certain small group from Switzerland was quite happy that day! Unfortunately, under the surface we were embraced by lack of contrast due to the cloudy weather and the waves swallowing the last beams of light. That truly was a drag because the whales would even come our way, swam upside down and showed a natural behavior that clearly underlined they did not feel uncomfortable at all. Maybe it should have been us who should have felt uncomfortable sharing the water with predators that outgrow a great white shark?! Anyway, I still hope they stay around until conditions improve. And as much as Yap is not your average whale destination – we DO have a resident group of pilot whales though – it is not the first time we had Orcas. If we could only speak Whale!
Wednesday was a day that not only I myself will remember for the rest of my life: After a nice dive in Goofnuw channel with two mantas and a grey shark joining, our second boat brought the news: ORCAS !!! Confirmed by Captain John’s video frames.
We headed down south and eventually say 4 huge dorsal fins sticking out of the water. At the sixth attempt in the water one of the females approached us an swam past just feets below our own feet.
Crystal clear blue water and Orcas – that is something BBC film crews are begging for!
From then on we would see them a few times. Only our approach got… let’s say more professional: Jumping into the water and going after the whales at full fin power obviously did not do the job. You could fin forever (as some red faces indicated), but the animals always were faster even if they did not seem to move at all. We found out that they were in a much better position when we stopped the boat 60 feet in front of the whales and got into the water, hoping that they would not change their direction. Quite often we would see them passing us at 30 feet distance, which they kept as the bull and the cow had a semi-adult and even a calf (approx. 5 feet) with them. Seeking shelter obviously also was their reason for coming to Yap as Orcas normally tend to stay and feed in cooler water.
Does it get any better? Yes, indeed it does!
Following the Orcas on board of the „Silvertip“ the other day, it took us a long while before we realized that one of the fins did not belong to the whales. Once in the water it turned out to be a massive sunfish, the Orca toy of the minute!
Some of us, among them our new whale afficianados “Orca Boy“ Russell and Cecile, followed the whales, others kept track of the sunfish. Unlike the whales, that strange deep sea fish stayed with us for more than 20 minutes so everybody had a chance to shoot pictures.
When our dive center manager Jan tried to lure us into some shark action for the afternoon we all did not even consider going. Too much! WHAT A DAY!!!
Needless to say what became the attraction for the nocturnal slide show on Mnuw. “Can you show me the Orcas?“, was one of the things you would hear most often, with the casual “Now I hate you even more!“
In order to save some dignity for that sunfish off Yap Caverns: How could anybody expect it to stay while we were circling it like blueprints for predators? Well, it stayed and I’d say that’s not too bad for an animal with a brain of the size of a walnut!
Could you think about accomodation and diving for free in paradise, as a part of your profession? Well, product management for dive travel agencies means hard work at home for sure, but still I bet that Nicole (Pacific Travel House), Christine (Tropical Seas), Yvonne (Sun+Fun), Anna-Lena (Sub Aqua), Ziad (Key Largo) and Sylvain (Ultramarina) had a blast at our Manta Ray Bay Resort just like Meike from the German office of Yap Visitors Bureau.
In the five days of their stay they not only enjoyed the mandarin mating at Rainbow Reef and spotted some mantas and sharks in Goofnuw channel but even witnessed manta lady Valerie doing horizontal spins. Apart from some nice après-diving action such as kayaking, an island trip, the occasional brewery delight or even the infamous “peanut feed“ off the drop-off of our Infinity pool.
It was a pleasure, Ladys and Gents, and we are happy you are now all familiar with our resort. See you in Paris for the “Salon de Plonger“ and at Düsseldorf’s “boot“ show in January!
Today is Monday which normally most people refer to as “Blue Monday” but not here at the Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers.
Manta Fest is entering its second week and we certainly started with a bang. A pod of 4 Orcas was spotted off the east coast and away we went (Jan, Andrew, Patricia, our driver Mathias and myself). Sure enough, a bull, cow and 2 calves stayed with us for quite some time. In fact, they stayed with our boat long enough for the Manta Fest boat to join us and I am hoping that Andy Sallmon and Daniel Brinckmann come back this afternoon with some nice underwater shots to supplement what Jan and I got with our point and shoot cameras.
Tonight will be the first big outdoor presentation of last week’s best shots. The crew have some fantastic Mandarin Fish shots from probably one of the best Mandarin Fish evenings we have ever seen. According to Andy, there were pairs of fish up and down the entire reef. Hundreds of individuals for our intrepid camera folks to shoot.”
After a short visit, Patricia and I said our goodbyes and drove to Fallbrook where we stayed for two nights in the wonderful home of our good friends Mike and Vikki Musto. Wonderful people, great house and all in all a perfect beginning to the odyssey. As much as we enjoyed the afternoon and evening with our friends, we were quite anxious for the 30th to arrive as that would be our first glimpse of our oldest son Nathan which was the entire purpose of this journey. The 30th was “Family Day” at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California and what a day it was. We were joined by Pat & June, Mike and Vikki plus more cousins – Galie, Moran and Bigeg. We were all excited for our day with Nathan and our first glimpse, during his 5 mile Motivation Run didn’t disappoint. Fit and looking sharp, “our” Marine was in front of his platoon. We later learned that this meant he had been meritoriously promoted to PFC during boot camp! The day just got better and better from there as after Liberty Formation, we got to spend the day with Nate.
On the 11th, Patricia and I fired up the old hybrid and began a leisurely drive back to California. We haven’t been alone like that for quite some time, if ever, and it was a very nice trip. First night was spent in Amarillo, Texas where we were the last customer of the day at a wonderful little Mom and Pop barbecue place where we entertained the proprietors with tails of scuba diving with sharks and life on a Pacific Island. Sure would like to help them move their business out to Yap as the barbecue was really good.
We spend the 13th traveling from Green River to Las Vegas using I70 and I15 and stopping every couple of miles to take more scenic pictures. Our option was this drive or the Grand Canyon and since Patricia had been to the Grand Canyon but not to Vegas, we took this and I tell you, the scenery was breathtaking, until you get into Nevada where it is desert and no thought of a rest area on the freeway.
We spent several hours in downtown Vegas enjoying the Freemont Experience light show. This year it is dedicated to the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and for a guy who was a sophomore in high school during that time, I was very much taken back to my rock and roll roots. Really good, loud Jimi Hendrix band brought back memories and caused Patricia to do a couple of dances. A ride along the strip to take pictures of the neon lights followed and then it was dinner at 1 AM.
July 31st – Graduation Day. Patricia and I were joined for breakfast by good friends Roger and Doris Robohm from Colorado and my other “brother” Ron Martin from the LA area as well as my real brother Pat from Rockwall, Texas and his wife June. After breakfast, we attended the color ceremony where we heard from the base commander, a lady General, who was an excellent public speaker. The thing I remember most about her speech was a question she asked of all the new Marine mothers in the audience. She wanted to know what they thought of their new Marine when they first saw them yesterday as all had dropped a minimum of 20 to 30 pounds and replaced this fat with solid muscle. She then asked the Moms “Did you notice their pants?” “I did in 12 weeks what you couldn’t do in 18 years”. Sure enough everyone’s pants were actually at their waste.
We then moved to the parade deck where we were joined by the Yapese family – Laamar, Galie, Moran, Bigeg, as well as our friends Elon Place as well as Ray and Diana Bullion. A very moving ceremony with all the new Marines in their dress blues and marching sharply was followed by a day of Mexican food and beer at a place in Old Town San Diego aptly named The Alamo. The entire gang joined us and we also go to welcome our good fishing friend Mr. Jason Niiya. They say a picture tells a 1000 stories so you can make your own opinion.
By now, we had a very unexpected surprise as we learned that Nathan would have on-base leave the following day at Camp Pendleton and that the cousins were all in town and waiting to see him. So, we got up early (crack of dawn at 9 AM) and drove like crazy to join the celebration. Nate didn’t know we were coming and when we drove on base (both Galie and Laamar are E4 Navy ladies), he received quite a shock to see that big, white, mustache sitting in the rear of the car. He didn’t recognize his Mom but that’s OK as she didn’t recognize him standing in his camis by his buddy’s pick-up truck. We not only spent Saturday the 15th with him but he also had part of the day on Sunday so we went back and stayed with him until his liberty was over at 1600 (see how I have picked-up on the language). It was bittersweet for all three of us to say goodbye this time as we all knew it would be for an unspecified period. Nate graduates from infantry school on the 8th of September and reports immediately to Ft. Lee, Virginia for 2 months of MOS school. The future, past that, is up in the air so we have no idea when we will be together again.