Part of the Federated States of Micronesia, the state of Yap is situated in the Western Carolines, between Guam and Palau. It is off the main tourist route and is made up of four main islands - Yap Proper, Tomil-Gagil, Map, and Rumung, plus ten small islands, all within the boundaries of a beautiful coral reef.
Colonia is the main town and administrative centre, located on the island of Yap proper. Yap has 130 outer islands stretching nearly 600 miles east of Yap Island. Most of the outer islands are coral atolls and are sparsely populated. Yap is one of the most intriguing & traditional islands in Micronesia, just over an hour's flight from Guam or Palau, but worlds away in terms of culture.
It is a land steeped in ancient traditions, fascinating legends, and peopled by one of the most distinctive cultures in the Pacific. Attractions range from crafted seaside men's houses, cultural village tours, huge, ancient stone money discs, stone money banks, traditional dancing, handcraft making to the diverse tropical marine life.
However, for most visitors, Yap's major attraction is the Manta Ray activity. Yap is the world's foremost destination for experiencing these magnificent creatures up close and personal. There are very few other places on earth where they can be seen on such a consistent basis all year round. Below the waterline, Yap is also famous for its clear waters where schools of tuna, dolphins and reef fish are found in abundance along with the pristine coral reefs.
Culture and History
Because of its remote geographical position, Yap was minimally affected when the Spanish colonized Micronesia in the 1500s, and again during German occupation from the end of the 1800s to the end of World War I. The same occurred during the Japanese occupation, so by Micronesian standards, Yap remains relatively unaffected by modern society.
Yap is generally considered to be the most traditional of Micronesian islands. This traditional life carries into the villages where fishing, sailing and weaving are still important parts of everyday life. Grass skirts for the women and "thu'us", a type of loincloth for the men, are the basic form of dress in the small towns that sit in tranquil settings around the island.
Although Yap is 200 miles from Palau, Yapese warriors sailed there hundreds of years ago, despite great danger and hardship, to quarry the giant Yapese stone money. These large circular stones, carved symmetrically and holed in the centre for transportation, can be greater in diameter than a man's height. Most of the stone money is stored in a canal known as the money bank, though some still rest outside the men's thatched family huts to denote wealth and status.
The stone money of Yap, though not legal tender in the international currency market, is still used as legal tender on the island. The value of these limestone, donut-shaped coins varies, though not according to size. Today the money is still owned but not moved, even though ownership may change.
For the active person, there's plenty to do on land and in the ocean. Visitors can expect to go mountain biking, hike on an ancient stone path or try some deep sea fishing, or, just take a nap under a coconut tree on one of Yap's many unspoilt beaches. The people of Yap are shy but warm. They don't mind visitors who are respectful and appreciative of their lifestyle.