Of the 2,500 Western Pacific islands, Yap may be the perfect crossroads, where tourism infrastructure and intact traditional culture meet. It's a place you can reach in an hour and fifteen minutes aboard a Continental Micronesia flight from Guam and be greeted by topless women in grass skirts (don't be alarmed their thighs are modestly covered, as dictated by Yapese culture). Here you can ensconce yourself in first-world comforts at the intimate Trader's Ridge Resort and be reminded when setting out for a walk between villages to carry a leafy branch in your hand as a sign of respect and peaceful intent.
There's enough to satiate even the most curious world traveler, but if you're a diver, expect sensory overload to breed a lifelong addiction. Aside from the year-round mantas in Mil Channel and the critter hunts that are turning up exquisite species at a dizzying pace, Yap is blessed with a full slate of wall dives made even more delicious by the viz that regularly exceeds 150 feet in water that is a constant 81°F.
The expert staff at Diving Centers Werner Lau, a PADI Gold Palm resort and the new on-site dive operator at Trader's Ridge, will ensure that you hit the little-known walls as well as the most famous ones. If you're a comfortable intermediate diver, you'll certainly experience the sheer drop of Lionfish Wall, a corner where the eastern and southwestern reefs converge at the southern tip of Yap's outer barrier reef. A banner of pink and yellow anthias flutters at the reef top, and the soft coral and anemone-covered wall is pocked with holes and cracks that are home to thousands of fish, including bigeyes, leaffish and lionfish. In the blue, bumphead parrotfish may swim by along with gray reef sharks, whitetips and even an occasional spinner dolphin. Since currents can be strong, with updrafts and downdrafts, this drift dive is often an exhilarating experience.
The site called Spanish Wall is a series of mini-walls and surge channels with abundant reef fish, unique coral formations, overhangs and a tapestry of purple and red lace corals and crinoids. Turtles also like this spot, and it's not unusual to see a school of barracuda come in from the blue to check out divers.
You can't breathe air from tanks all the time, but there's plenty of cultural sightseeing to do on the island. Back at Trader's Ridge you can watch and talk with the active guild of artisans at the Ethnic Art Institute of Micronesia, where a pebay (men's meeting house), a cookhouse and a men's carving hut have been faithfully reconstructed. The Institute recreates masks and other historical items that recall the lost art of the islands. The living arts are kept ablaze, too, with weekly performances of dance and music in the on-site amphitheater.
Related Links from Sport Diver: