Posted by Ken Kurtis on May 23, 2003 at 19:37:21:
Yes, I'm really sitting in the lobby of the Manta Ray Bay Hotel in Yap. We're six days in to our two-week Yap/Palau trip.
Normally when you arrive in Yap, you are given a small wreath of flowers for your head. So when we got off the plane on Wednesday and were instead handed umbrellas, we knew something was amiss. (Actually, the pilot aborting the first landing attempt due to crosswinds was our first clue.)
It has rained here (actually . . . make that POURED) since we got here. But it's really weird because there's a downpour, and then five minutes later it stops. But then it's followed by another downpour half an hour later. And on Thursday, it pretty much rained ALL day. Today (Saturday morning) is the first sunny day we've had. Fortunately, it hasn't deterred us from diving. But this is all due to an early-season typhoon that started in Truk on Monday and is now NE of Guam. But it's dumped a bucketful of rain on Yap. (Or as Freddy, the Swiss dive shop manager put it, "This is weather suitable for ducks.")
However, it's all been worthwhile as we had a truly magical manta encounter yesterday morning at the Valley of the Rays. We'd briefly seen a ray there on Thursday but yesterday our patience paid off as we spent close to an hour at the cleaning station (about 60' deep) and after 40 minutes of waiting (there's plenty of stuff to see all around it) we were rewarded by the sight of a 12-foot manta glding in to be cleaned. She would pause over the cleaning station while the smaller cleaners did their job, then would lazily circle our group, glide back into cleaning position, and the whole cycle would start again.
Best of all, certainly from a persdonal standpoint, was when she took dead aim at me (of course, I was out of film at this point) and, at the last posible second, rose slightly and buzzed over my head, her belly less than a foot from my up-turned, unbelieving eyes. Pretty cool.
The Yap reefs are in pretty good shape. No soft corals here but a good profusion of hard corals and probably more lettuce coral than you're going to see in any one spot in the world. There's the usual array of reef fish - not too many big ones - and we've also had some good turtle encounters, observed nudibranchs laying eggs, discovered Emperor shirmp buried in a sea cucumber, and generally had a good time. Visibility's been anywhere from 20' (in the channels) to 100' (out on the reefs).
Perhaps one of the more unusual things happened to Charlie Dargan and I on Thursday. We were doing the afternoon dive and, since we've both got cameras, had fallen behind the main group. We were cruising about 50-60' deep when we both stopped and gave each other a puzzled look because we heard this . . . sound . . . and we just couldn't place it. Then, as we loooked up to the surface, we relized that what we were hearing was actualy the RAIN hitting the surface of the water. It was coming down that hard.
We also did the Mandarinfish dive at O'Keefe Island Thursday at dusk to observe these shy creatures munching and mating in their nightly ritual. The vis was prettty low due to run-off from the rain, but just about everybody (well, actually EVERYBODY . . . except me) managed to spot a couple of them. They cetrainly weren't as robust and plentiful as when we did this same dive last August but everyone (except me) had a good dive. (Sigh . . . and something tells me I'm not going to get any sympathy on this.)
We've now got today to explore Yap (part of the group is doing a kayak tour of the mangroves as we speak) and we'll go check out some of the famous Stone Money a little later on. Tonight we fly to Palau and then have most of the day in Koror tomorrow (Sunday) and get on the Aggressor in the late afternoon. Hopefully the typhoon-generated weather will be over then and we'll find in Palau the sun and clam seas that have eluded us in Yap.
That's it from Micronesia. Have a great week and a nice holiday. See you when we get back!!!
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