Red letter day for mantas

So we got up this morning and had the buffet breakfast on the bottom floor of the Mnuw.  Unfortunately, somewhere in the midst of our breakfast, the server opened up the door, and in flooded the flies.  We beat a hasty retreat after that - nothing like a swarm of those buggers to make you want to give up your plate of food.  It was time to get on the boat anyway!  We had all three tanks for our dives on board with us, and were ready for the day.  

I thought that our first dive was going to be at Mi’il Channel, which used to be the pre-eminant site for spotting manta rays.  I have had significant hit or miss luck with Mi’il Channel in the past, spotting a manta on only one of four dives there.  But, instead, we were headed to a relative new dive site, Stammtisch, discovered about five years ago, and written up in Tim Rock’s most recent book on Palau and Yap.  And the manta luck with Jodi just kept rolling!  We descended to a fifteen foot average dive, but managed to get down to 20 feet to be safe logging the dive.  We saw possibly 3-4 mantas, at the 11, 19, 25, 29, 50, 52, and 58-66 minute intervals.  The last two stayed with us for quite a while.  I had two overhead flights as mantas left the cleaning station.  In between, the parrotfish, as well as others, proved to be quite amusing.  We will have to identify the mantas via the board at Manta Ray Bay Hotel.  The dive computer said we would be able to stay down for close to 4 hours (!) at our consumption rate, but there was more to see today.

Our second dive was at Vertigo, where the center section of wall contains the steepest and deepest drop-off on the west coast of Yap. The south end of the wall gives way to a more gently sloping portion of the reef.  The first time we dived here together, I managed to forget my weights on the dive boat, so Wayne and I split his weights, and had a good dive, but were kicking upside down on our safety stop.  That would not be a problem today!  Vertigo is now the site where they chum the waters for the shark feed, so the sharks like to come close.  The guides threw some food in the water to attract the sharks, and we were surrounded by grey reef and black tips when we descended.  We stayed there for about 20 minutes and another group came in, so I asked Mike if we could continue along the wall and finish out the dive.  He seemed surprised, but we went.  And it was worth going.  Another shark, two turtles, a baby manta, and other creatures abounded.  I still love vertigo as a dive site, even if the guides don’t want to move along the wall.

We had the option of staying outside the lagoon for our third dive, or returning in to Macro.  We went back in to do Macro II. So Macro II is essentially Macro I in reverse.  We spent nearly an hour near the buoy, seeing the nudis again, along with the mantis shrimp, and two crocodile fish (Nico grabbed my attention when he found one, and Mike found another).  Then it was just tooling down the reef (after finally figuring out the macro setting on the miserable rental camera) taking pictures of macro items.  This rental camera chews through battery life, so the camera was pretty much useless on this dive, I had to turn it off and wait several minutes, and then take a single picture, and continue this way the whole two hours of this dive.  Nevertheless, it was a wonderful dive, although Jodi’s dive computer was still registering that she was at 15 feet when we returned to the boat.  At two hours and six minutes, this is my longest ever recorded dive (as well as Wayne’s), but Jodi’s computer is logging that it is going on much, much longer than 126 minutes!  We were definitely grateful to be allowed to spend that time under water, and we knew our time was up when Mike banged on his tank near the boat.

It was a quick turn around for dinner, and we were not bombarded by bugs at the table.  Thank goodness the breeze was back.  It’s always sad when the diving on the trip ends and you have to get ready to go home, but I’m ready to see my critters and to sleep in my waterbed for the first time in two weeks.  We will be coming back to Yap once again.  And this time it won’t take another 10 years.

Sunset from the private pool