Loved it and very happy to go back!!!!
Arriving in Yap:
We arrived at 3.30am at a chicken shed of a airport with very dim lighting and was already having fun despite the time and because of the chaos but they do seem to be building newer airport facilities.
The staff of Manta Bay Hotel has this part down pat. Our names on a list, a bus waiting for us, plenty of staff to take our bags in a separate truck. You are given your room number when you get on the bus and during the trip to the hotel you are given a run down on the hotel operation and can ask any questions you might have, including the dive schedule for that day. Once at the hotel you are shown your room and the bags are delivered.
We stayed at Manta Bay Hotel and dived with Yap Divers at Manta Bay Hotel http://www.mantaray.com
The room we had was fantastic! (room 214-ocean view). The best dive trip room we had in all our years of dive trips. Huge room with two queen sized beds. The beds are firm and comfortable and a quick look under the sheets shows me that the owners have spent money on these brand new furnishings. Brand new air conditioner is running but quickly turned off to enjoy the ocean breeze coming thru our balcony windows and the shower is huge and spotlessly clean, although can be a bit slippery but placing a hand towel on the shower floor stoped any near falls.
Each room is themed after a marine animal, we had Chromodoris but there is eagle ray, hammerhead shark etc. The room theme is complete with prints on the wall, matching bed covers and shower curtains all matching the theme.
Next morning we go downstairs with our dive gear and again you can see that the owners of this place aren’t skimping on anything. Outside the dive shop are 3 beautiful Bali huts with plenty of seating. Inside are camera tables with lockup storage and different table heights. We were also been issued each a storage area for our dive gear with both shelf and hanging areas complete with hangers.
They have 3 big tiled wash tubs set up with fresh water and underwater lighting and 2 camera rinse tubs plus 2 showers near the tubs to rinse yourself off.
Outside the dive shop is a huge whiteboard, the shop manager, already has you listed down for a boat and dive. There are double boat dives in the morning, followed by a 3rd dive in the afternoon if you are interested and then either a dusk/mandarin fish dive or a night dive. Shark feed dives are available but a minium of 10 people are needed.
If you need to hire gear they have an excellently organized setup for that also.
Nitrox Tanks are all at 32% nitrox and produced from a membrane system and air available, I would hate to count how many tanks they own and they have a fulltime staff member filling tanks all day.
The restaurant is a big 3 levelled Indonesian boat moored just 20mtrs from the hotel lobby.
The food is great! No need to go elsewhere, in fact the week we were there people ate elsewhere and were sick that night. The hotel has its own micro-brewery (Stone Money Brewery) with 2 types of beer on tap and a full bar.
During some down time check out the infinity pool with the manta tile mosaics. Drinks served to you while lazing on the comfy deck chairs is a nice way to spend your non diving day before your flight home.
The Diving and The Mantas!
There are about 7 dive boats, all but one are for no more than 10 divers (our boat never had more than 7 divers) and there is a bigger boat for about 20 divers, all roomy and comfortable.
High tide was about 7am for us so we were diving for Mantas between 7am-8am. The ride out to Milne Channel was about 10 or 15mins and there were 3 cleaning stations to try out.
The dive guides give you a brief and was very clear about the respect to be given to all the mantas I would hate to think what they would do to anyone that harassed a manta.
The dives were at a consistent 20mtrs+ depth so watch your air and deco. Make sure you discuss your air signals with the guide before you jump in as they are use to PSI and us Aussies use bar.
On our first dive we went to 2 of the cleaning stations and no mantas but at the 3rd we were blessed to see 2 of them swim past us within touching .
Viz was kinda a little bit crappy but thats what you get for the situation sometimes. The mantas are in the channel for the cleaning station and nutrients, it was high tide and full moon week but we were still getting 15-20mtr viz. The channel has a sandy coral rubble bottom with vertical coral walls.
The waiting is the boring part you kneeling there and watching and waiting” not much other fish life to be seen and then you see the outline of a manta. On our first dive we saw 2 of them and they flew right overhead.
You have about an hour surface interval during which you are handed a warm towel, ice water or hot tea and yummy yummy cake to nibble on.
The Diving and the Mandarin Fish
The dive site is about 3mins by boat away. I suggest at least 2 dives to see the mandarin fish.
One to figure out what the hell is happening and the second one to enjoy them, and more dives if you want to photograph the little buggers!
You need to be in the water at dusk so the first time we were sitting there; watching coral heads for movement and watching it get darker. Suddenly you start seeing movement and notice the mandarin fish swimming around the coral, so be patient is my only advise for Mandarin Fish.
The Diving in General
So after about 6 dives with the mantas you start wondering what else is there, down south is where you head for clearer water and much more fish life.
Yap Caverns, Lionfish Wall, Gilmaan Wall, and Magic Kingdom are all very nice dives so please check out http://www.mantaray.com for more info on their dive sites.
Things we didn’t know when we booked:
Time your trip with a full moon in Yap we were just lucky that we did but we had no idea at the time that this was the best thing to do for mantas!
If you haven’t got your nitrox cert, get it for this trip! During our trip nitrox was free, but we were the only 2 using it on our boat other than the guide, and as all the dives were at a consistent 20mtr depth it was greatly appreciated.
Yap Divers will do everything for you or as little as you like. Each morning we would get down to the shop early to set up but it seems most people preferred to have the guides collect their gear and set it up. In fact, we even saw some people ring the front desk so a porter would go to their room to carry their camera down to the boat!
Getting around Guam:
We had some time in Guam it was a fun town that we really enjoyed visiting, we played tourist and just had a look around.
Hop the shopping bus that looks like a San Francisco cable car and it does a nice loop of the town so you can see some of the sights and hit some shops. Grab a map and hook your trolley bus trip with a tour of some of the local sights like Lovers Point” much, much cheaper than a tour.
If you are going to travel the island hire a car and not a taxi. The taxis are incredibly overpriced so if you can drive on the right side of the do yourself a favour and hire a car for about $40US.