Yap – Manta ray paradise

Yap – Manta ray paradise

Manta up close“The tides and visibility are not very good at the moment for watching mantas.. So no guarantees.” is what Dave, the owner of the Beyond The Reef dive shop, told us when we came to him to sign up for some diving. Of course, we thought, we’re gonna be the only divers to come all the way to Yap and not see any mantas. With low expectations we descended into the murky waters of the Mill Channel on our first dive. In the very first 20 seconds into that dive, while we were still descending, we saw two mantas passing by. Because of the excitement Miek almost landed on top of a sleeping white tip reef shark she hadn’t seen resting on the channel floor just below her… Luckily it woke up and moved away before it got hit…

Manta rays are some of the most magnificent creatures to swim in the oceans. Their sheer size and the elegance of their movements are simply breathtaking. They come to the reefs to feed and get cleaned at so called ‘cleaning stations’; usually just a group of coral heads where cleaner fish live that feed on the parasites that bigger fish carry with them. Mantas hover over these cleaning stations for a while and open their big mouths and gills to let them in, and get a good cleaning.. This is typically the place where you wanna be when you want to see them up close. So that’s where we went. And we saw some mantas. We saw a lot of mantas and we saw them up close. If you simply sit down and wait, and with a little luck, they come. And they usually come in groups. We’ve had groups of 7 swim and hover right over our heads. They came so close I was afraid I might hit them with the camera. Making pictures of these creatures is very difficult; either they’re too far away (not enough light) or too close so you need a super wide angle lense to make them fit… The largest one we spotted must have been 14 feet (4m) wide. When that thing hovers less than 3 feet above your head, you feel awfully small.

We also visited a few dive sites outside of the reef with beautiful walls and coral gardens which had much better visibility. There we saw lots of reef sharks but also, something nobody would ever expect to see just like that, a huge blue marlin.

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