The Island of Stone Money, WWII History & Traditional Culture – Yap

With fascinating history and rich culture and only selective western influence, the Island of Yap is a wonderfully unique setting found nowhere else in the world.


HistoryCultureStone Money

Yap is belived to have been settled by a seafaring people from the area today known as eastern Indonesia and the southern part of the Phillipines sometime around 1500 B.C. By 1525 A.D. the portugese explorer Diego da Rocha arrived in Yap.

By this time the Yapese are well known among the indigenous people all over Oceania as expert sailors and navigators.

During the 1870s both Spain and Germany lay claim to Yap. Papal intervention by Leo XIII decides the issue in Spains favor, but by 1899 they sell Yap to Germany.

In 1919 the Japanse take control of Yap. They are to remain until the end of WWII, when Yap is occupied by american forces.

Today Yap is part of the Federated States of Micronesia, which also contain Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. The FSM is a sovereign nation with a seat in the UN, but is closely allied with the US through a Compact of Free Association adopted in 1986. Under the agreement the FSM receives financial aid and various other benefits, such as the US Postal Service handling the mail. US Dollars are the official currency of the FSM.

English is widely spoken in Yap, even among the Yapese. There are no less than four major traditional languages: Yapese, Ulithian, Woleaian and Satawalese. Yapese is spoken on Yap proper, the others on the outer islands.

The Yapese have managed to maintain their unique culture while selectivly adopting desirable improvements from the west. Modern schools have created a very high level of literacy and good health care is readily available.

The people living on the northernmost of the four islands comprising Yap proper: Rumung, have chosen to avoid contact with western civilization as much as possible. They generally do not encourage visitors, and have even removed the old bridge that connected Rumung to Yap proper!

The Yapese have managed to maintain their ancient culture better than anywhere else in Micronesia. The heritage and traditions of the Yapese people are carefully nourished to preserve the Micronesian way of life.

Yapese culture centers around the village. Most Yapese still live in villages as their ancestors have for millenia. The contrast between old and new is sometimes staggering to the casual visitor, as well educated Yapese, fluent in english and with access to modern schooling and health care still prefer to lead their lives in the old fashioned way.

Village life is influenced by a caste system which is complex and full of subtle nuances a visitor can never hope to fully understand. Status and success in Yapese society can be gained in a variety of ways, but the aquisition of material wealth in the western fashion is not one of them.

A shy, but gentle and friendly people, the Yapese welcome visitors from abroad. On our cultural tours, you will have the opportunity to visit a village and experience village life and traditons for yourself.

The Yapese have a strong tradition of chants and dances, often of ancient origin. The chants and dances always tell a story, and teaching them to each new generation is an important part of preserving the Yapese heritage. Be sure to check out our video clips of some traditional Yapese dances.

Magic and ritual has a strong influence in Yapese society. “The magic is strong in Yap” is a commonly held opinion throughout most of the western Pacific, where the Yapese are held in great esteem as great sorcerers and navigators.

Yap is probably best known among non-divers as the Land of Stone Money. Up to 12 feet in diameter these massive stone discs rates without competition as the largest coins in the world.

The US dollar is the common currency in Yap, but the stone money is still used to this day for major transactions like payment of dowry or purchase of land.

One of the amazing facts about the stone money, or Rai as they are called in Yapese, is that these gigantic stone discs were not quarried on the island. Instead, the Yapese travelled by outrigger canoe more than 300 miles to the neighboring island nation of Palau. There, in a quarry on northern Babelthaob, the Rai were hewn out of the rock with primitive tools and brought back to Yap on a perilous journey in the canoes.

The value of an individual Rai piece is not determined by its size alone. Its shape, the quality and texture of the stone and most important: the difficulty of aquisition is equally important. The greater the effort involved in bringing it safely home, the storms encountered and all too often, the men lost in the process – contribute to increase the value.

The Rai are not carried about, for obvious reasons. Individual pieces are found all over Yap, but most are kept in “Stone Money Banks” in the villages.

When Rai shift hands as the result of a land transaction, a wedding or otherwise, the news spreads fast and it is soon common knowledge that a particular piece has a new owner. The Rai are seldom moved, but remain where they stand.

In the mid 19th century the Irish-American trader and adventurer David Dean O’Keefe started a successful business using his ship to carry stone money from the Palau quarries to Yap in exchange for copra and beche-de-mer.

The Yapese liked the idea, and even if the “O’Keefe-money” was valued much lower than the Rai brought by canoe, they offered a welcome possibility for the less well-off to own money and thus increase their status in the village. O’Keefe was well loved by the Yapese people who refused to trade with anyone else, and he maintained his monopoly for over 30 years.

Availability & Reservations

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 ๐Ÿ˜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 ๐Ÿฆˆ But also we saw eagle rays, turtles ๐Ÿข 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 ๐Ÿ‘๐ŸผWe also did a one-day land tour to explore the many beautiful places of this unique island. The beach is like in paradise๐Ÿ, 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 ๐Ÿ™๐ŸปโœŒ๐Ÿผread 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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